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RPI Beaten in Offensive Duel

Goaltending the Problem in Postseason Opener

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 5, 2005

PROVIDENCE - For two teams struggling to find their scoring punch, Friday's first-round ECAC Hockey League playoff opener between Brown and RPI turned out to be a heavyweight fight.

And when the final bell sounded, it was Brown still standing after an unlikely 7-4 victory that put RPI's season in sudden-death mode going into tonight's second game of the best-of-3 series.

The sixth-seeded Bears (15-12-3 overall) scored twice within 1:13 in the third period against beleaguered RPI goaltender Andrew Martin to break open a 4-4 game and beat the Engineers for the first time this season at the most important time.

"I thought we outplayed them tonight and should have come away with the victory," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, whose team had allowed five goals in two previous meetings with Brown this season and outshot the Bears 30-25. "At this time of the season, goaltending is critical, and Andrew didn't have his best game."

Eleventh-seeded RPI (14-21-2) must win two games to advance to the next round.

RPI tied the game at 2 on its second of three power-play goals at 7:12 of the second period when defenseman Alexander Valentin's shot from the left circle caromed in off goalie Adam D'Alba, but the game seesawed the rest of the period, with Brown taking a 4-3 advantage.

"It seemed like every time we got a little momentum, they kind of took it right back," said Kevin Croxton, who had a goal and an assist for RPI. "It's frustrating. We have to go out there (today) and try not to play like the season's on the line."

Sean Hurley sent a routine shot from the left circle that got through Martin's legs at 10:25 of the second, but the Engineers responded when Kurk MacDonald's shot from the left circle went in off teammate Jake Luthi at 14:51. Brown regained the lead less than a minute later on Chris Poli's second career goal and second of the game in front.

The Engineers battled back to tie it on Croxton's goal at 11:17 of the third, but Brian McNary got loose for a breakaway when RPI's Valentin fell in a collision, then Mike Meech iced it on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

"It was somewhat bizarre," Brown coach Roger Grillo said. "Obviously the puck bounced for us a couple of times for us, and that was the difference in the game."