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Marsters Saved the Day Until RPI Could Score

By Mike Kane

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 15, 2002

LAKE PLACID - At the end, when there was no wiggle room to be had, the RPI hockey team finally got it right. On two counts.

Facing a season-ending defeat, RPI mustered a couple of timely, near-miraculous goals - hey, this is Lake Placid - to beat Dartmouth, 2-1, in their ECAC tournament play-in game Thursday.

And when the celebration had run its course, the Engineers made sure they recognized the guy who played the biggest role in the victory, sophomore goaltender Nathan Marsters.

Without Marsters' strong performance, stopping 34 shots, the Engineers would be back home in Troy today, moaning about wasted opportunities and a frustrating end to a pretty solid season.

For a while, as the RPI offense - or attempts at an offense - sputtered along, the 6-foot-4 Marsters prevented the Big Green from turning the game into a rout.

"I thought Nate gave us a real good opportunity to get back into the game," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "He came up with some real key saves for us."

Dartmouth outshot the Engineers, 23-9, in the first two periods and had nothing to show for its work but, one would suppose, a feeling of satisfaction.

After handling 17 shots in the first period, Marsters was pretty happy, too.

"When you get a lot of shots early and you don't get scored on, you feel good," he said. "You feel like you get into a groove. We kept everything to the outside. Our 'D' played real well."

True. While Marsters was good, he wasn't perfect.

"I was giving up rebounds, and our defense was tying guys up or covering the puck," he said.

Meanwhile, RPI's high-powered offense was having trouble completing more than two passes in a row. Dartmouth's defensive scheme prevented the Engineers from getting any second chances on goaltender Darren Gastrock. For much of the first 50 minutes, RPI was fortunate just to get one decent shot at the Dartmouth goaltender.

"I give a lot of credit to Dartmouth," Fridgen said. "They played us very, very tough. I think a lot of why we were inefficient at times had a lot to do with what they did against us.

"There wasn't anything fancy about it. There wasn't a lot of trick plays going on out there. It was just hard-nosed hockey."

Marsters kept the game scoreless until the middle of the third period, when Chris Baldwin scored off a scramble in front of the RPI net. It was Dartmouth's 31st shot of the game.

"I've been at this institution a while," Fridgen said, "and in playoff hockey, there are times when goaltenders really have to be the backbone and allow your offense to generate some goals. That's what I thought he did."

Remarkably, the Engineers managed to find some cohesiveness after the Baldwin goal. They tied the game on Matt Murley's power-play goal, RPI's only man-advantage of the game, and came up with the game-winner with 1:08 remaining.

"Overall, I know we can play much better than that," Fridgen said. "I've got to give these guys a lot of credit. Nobody ever packed it in. As difficult as it was at times, they kept working real hard. Everybody on the bench was positive, as far as encouraging each other."

With his team trailing and time ticking away, Marsters tried to stay positive. He wouldn't allow himself to think his team was about to lose.

"We hadn't been getting many chances up to that point," he said. "The thing is, we're explosive. Our team's been like that all year. We like to score goals, like two in a row.

"I just thought, 'OK, I can't let them get another one.' ".

And he didn't.