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RPI Season Skates to Halt

Newcomer Leaves Engineers Cold

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 5, 2006

TROY - A sullen locker room filled with teary hockey players sharing good-bye hugs was all that was left of RPI's hockey season Saturday night.

What began so hopefully in October with expectations of their own brand of March Madness ended much sooner than any of the seven seniors and their teammates had imagined after 10th-seeded Quinnipiac beat the seventh-seeded Engineers 4-2 for a sweep of their best-of-three ECAC Hockey League playoff series.

Quinnipiac, a team that had no history in the ECACHL, scored three unanswered goals in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit and advance to next weekend's quarterfinal round in their first season since departing Atlantic Hockey.

"It's a team we've never beaten in our history," said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, whose team faces an opponent to be determined on the road next weekend. "I'm really proud of our effort. I was very impressed with RPI's intensity with their backs against the wall. They had that early goal. We responded well with the two power-play goals and then Jamie (Bates) scored the third one."

RPI (14-17-6) appeared to reverse Friday's costly start when Oren Eizenman banged home a loose puck in front on a power play only 41 seconds into the game, but Quinnipiac came storming back and scored three times on only eight shots. The Bobcats scored on their first shot of the game for the second night in a row when Ben Nelson beat Mathias Lange from the left circle at 4:50 on a power play. Later, it was defenseman Reid Cashman scoring on a low screen shot from just inside the blue line on a 5-on-3 Bobcats' power play at 13:55.

Jamie Bates made it 3-1 at 18:05 on a high drive from the left circle after freshman defenseman Reid Kipp lost the puck to Bryan Leitch in the Quinnipiac attacking zone, and he sent it over to Bates for his second of the series. Leitch assisted on all three goals in the period.

The Engineers finally cut a two-goal deficit from the first period in half at 15:23 when Kevin Broad, playing for the first time in 14 games, sent home a long drive through defenseman Matt Sorteberg's legs from the right circle that went in over goalie Bud Fisher's glove.

However, Quinnipiac's John Kelly's stole the puck from Kipp and blasted home a drive from the right circle at 16:51 to return the two-goal margin.

RPI came out with plenty of fire in the third period, but couldn't get the first goal that might have regained some momentum and given coach Dan Fridgen more options in the end.

"It's always a difficult season when a season ends," said Fridgen, whose team was swept in the first round for the second consecutive season. "I thought we put it all out on the line. It seemed like when we made a mistake, we paid for that mistake. They capitalized on our breakdowns."

The loss was especially bitter for senior Kevin Croxton, who led the Engineers in scoring for three of his four seasons and finished with 39 points (14-25) but was unable to get a goal despite six shots and several good scoring chances against Quinnipiac (19-16-1).

"I couldn't buy one," said the emotional captain, who finished with 143 points (57-86) in 147 career games for the Engineers. "Sometimes, that's how it goes. There were a lot of ups and downs this year, but this is the biggest valley."

This was also the final game for Troy native Mark Yurkewecz, who finished with 16 points (4-12) in 96 career games.

"This was a dream come true," he said, barely audible and fighting back tears. "There's a lot of character in this room."