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RPI Able to Rely on Backup Goalie

When Starter Marsters Falters, Kurk is Capable

By Tim Wilkin

Albany Times Union, October 20, 2001

TROY - In the season opener last Saturday night, RPI was going nowhere against Boston University. The Engineers trailed the Terriers 6-1 in the third period and RPI coach Dan Fridgen had seen enough of starting goalie Nathan Marsters.

It was Kevin Kurk's turn.

Anyone who follows the Engineers closely knows Kurk's freshman season was a nightmare on ice. In two of his last three starts, Fridgen yanked Kurk before those games were five minutes old because he allowed soft goals.

Kurk lasted three minutes and 13 seconds in a Jan. 12 home start against Clarkson and stopped three shots and allowed two goals. Against Dartmouth on Feb. 2, also at home, he played 4:53 and gave up two goals in the four shots he faced.

That would be his last start of the season.

When Kurk was needed at Walter Brown Rink Saturday night, he might have had thoughts of his misfortunes of a year ago.

But in the final 16:17, Kurk stopped all 13 shots he faced and RPI nearly came all the way back, losing 6-5. For Kurk, it was a jump-start he sorely needed.

"Playing like that was huge for me," Kurk said before the Engineers practiced Thursday afternoon.

Fridgen said there was no pre-meditated plan to pull Marsters, who was RPI's Most Valuable Player as a freshman.

And he also did not have any hesitation putting Kurk in.

"I didn't warn him it was coming and I don't think I had to," Fridgen said. "If you are the backup goalie, you have to be ready to step in. Whoever starts the game, I expect them to be ready and if they are not playing that night, they have to be ready as well. I do think that the way he played at BU will do a lot for his confidence."

Confidence was something Kurk did not have a lot of last year. When he failed on the ice, he took those frustrations home with him.

However, it's not as though Kurk did nothing right last winter. In the 10 games he appeared in (nine as a starter), he had a 3-2-1 record with a 3.26 goals-against average. He made a season-high 36 saves in a 4-0 loss at Bowling Green.

When he went home to Orchard Park for the summer, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Kurk said he did a lot of thinking about what transpired and vowed things would change. He knew he had some talent, but he dwelled too much on his mistakes.

"You never like to get pulled, and, yeah, it can play with your head a little bit," Kurk said. "I knew I had to focus better. Last year, if I let a bad goal in, I would still be thinking about it two periods down the road."

Fridgen said Kurk's focus has vastly improved and was pleased with Kurk's game at BU. This doesn't mean Kurk has overtaken Marsters on the depth chart. Although Fridgen won't say, it's likely Marsters will be in net when RPI opens the home season tonight against New Hampshire.

"Kevin is more mature mentally," Fridgen said. "I don't think his confidence was shot last year, but he was probably disappointed with some of his outings. The way he played at BU was promising. Only time will tell what will happen."