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Table Turns on Engineers

RPI, with Three Comeback Wins, Feels Sting of Merrimack's Rally

By Buzz Gray

Albany Times Union, October 30, 2005

TROY - RPI's hockey team was involved in yet another late rally. Only this time the Engineers were not the ones staging the comeback.

After three consecutive games featuring dramatic turnarounds, RPI found itself on the wrong end of one Saturday night when Merrimack stormed back with three unanswered goals in the third period to post a 5-3 victory at in a non-league game at Houston Field House.

"It caught up to us tonight," RPI captain Kevin Croxton said about the disappointing loss which snapped a four-game winning streak. "You can't play one of three periods and keep expecting to win."

The Engineers, who came back from a 4-0 deficit Friday night against Northeastern, saw their 3-2 lead vanish in a hurry on Saturday when the Warriors were the ones who saved the best for last.

Merrimack (3-3-0) scored at 6:49 of the third to tie it and then tallied the winner at 11:00 before Rob Ricci recorded an empty-net goal in the final minute.

"Before the game, I thought we were prepared. I guess we weren't," RPI defenseman Brad Farynuk said.

Again, the Engineers put themselves in a hole with a flat effort in the first period, a disturbing trend recently.

"We didn't dictate play like we wanted to then," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said.

Merrimack outshot the Engineers 20-6 in the first period, thanks in big part to five power plays. Ultimately, the special teams' play proved the difference in the contest. Eight times the Warriors had man-advantages and they converted three times. RPI, on the other hand, was one-of-10 on the power play.

"They outplayed us on the power plays," said Croxton who remained red hot with a goal and assist, giving him nine goals and 11 assists in his past 11 games dating back to last season. "They won the special teams battle."

Merrimack's Matt Johnson was the main weapon. He scored all three of the Warriors' power-play goals. Bryan Schmidt assisted on all three as Merrimack moved the puck around smartly in the Engineers' end.

"They applied real good pressure on us," Croxton said.

The same couldn't be said when RPI (4-3-0) had the man advantage.

"I thought we were telegraphing a lot of our plays," Fridgen said. "They (Warriors) did a good job of taking Croxie (Croxton) and Brad (Farynuk) away from our power play. We're going to have to make adjustments when a team does that."

"If we don't come out with more hop in our next game (against Clarkson on Friday), we'll be in the same kind of trouble again," Croxton said.