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No. 10 Seed Leaves RPI Behind 8-ball

Upset-minded Quinnipiac Takes Opener of Best-of-3 Playoff Series

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 4, 2006

TROY - For a team making its first-ever appearance in an ECAC Hockey League playoff game, Quinnipiac looked a lot more at home than the home team Friday night.

Scoring two goals 1:15 apart early in the game, the 10th-seeded Bobcats stunned seventh-seeded RPI 2-1 in the first game of their best-of-3 playoff series before only 2,101 fans at Houston Field House.

Sophomore Jamie Bates scored on a turnaround wrister off a turnover from between the baseline and left circle at 3:09 that beat goalie Mathias Lange on the far side. Then, with RPI captain Kevin Croxton in the penalty box for interference, Quinnipiac used only 7 seconds before David Marshall added to his national freshman-best 22 goals off the ensuing face-off on defenseman Reid Cashman's 34th assist of the season.

Marshall's shot came from nearly the same spot as Bates', clanked in off the far post, and that was essentially all the offense Quinnipiac needed.

"The first goal was huge," said coach Rand Pecknold of Quinnipiac, last year's Atlantic Hockey champions before replacing Vermont in the ECACHL. "The first game's even bigger. You always want to get that first game under your belt."

The belt tightened significantly on the favored Engineers (14-16-6), who will have to duplicate their 1999 feat of losing the first game to Harvard and coming back to win the first-round series.

"We really shot ourselves in the foot coming out like we did," said forward Oren Eizenman, who scored RPI's only goal at 2:58 of the third period on a neat backhander in front. "I don't know what we were thinking to start the series off. We tried to rectify it in the second and third periods."

It was too little, too late. Quinnipiac (18-16-1), which dominated the Engineers in a listless first period, got 24 saves in the last 40 minutes from goaltender Bud Fisher to save the game.

"I thought (Fisher) was one of our keys to the game," said Pecknold. "RPI had that caged animal thing going after the first period."

game winner was the sixth power-play goal for Quinnipiac in three games against the Engineers this season.

"Comeback hockey is very tough this time of year," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "I didn't think we came out moving our feet; they did. The first one (goal) we kind of gave it to them. You could tell we just weren't focused. I hope that was a good wake-up call for them (his players). There's no excuse for that."

If they aren't able to wake up tonight, they'll face the same fate they did last year at Brown in losing two straight in the opening round.

"I think it was a big wake-up call for us," said captain Brad Farynuk, one of seven seniors hoping for one last chance to make it to Pepsi Arena for the first time for the semifinals. "Unfortunately, we had to learn it this way."

Notes: Lange is one game shy of Nathan Marsters' RPI record for 35 starts in goal, most ever in a single season. ... F Tyler Eaves of Queensbury was back in the lineup for RPI, centering the team's fourth line.