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Niagara Stymies Engineers, 5-3

By Jayson Moy

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 25, 2006

TROY - The one title the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors wanted most has eluded them again.

The Engineers dropped a 5-3 decision to Niagara in the opening round of the 56th edition of the Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Hockey Tournament Friday at Houston Field House, denying the seniors the experience of winning their own tournament.

The Engineers last won the championship game of the tournament in 2001, and last played in the championship game two years ago.

"The seniors wanted to get to the championship game, they've never won, and there's some frustration with that," said RPI head coach Seth Appert.

Niagara took just 1:12 to get on the board, as Matt Caruana swiped at a loose puck and surprised Jordan Alford over his shoulder. But RPI got it back quickly with a Kirk MacDonald power-play goal. Off of a misplay behind the net, Paul Kerins sent a puck out front, and MacDonald surprised slid the puck under Niagara goaltender Allen Barton.

Niagara scored the next goal on the power play as Ted Cook intercepted a clear by Peter Merth, and fed it to Les Reaney, who put a shot past Alford. But the Engineers answered right back on the power play. Matt Angers-Goulet blasted one that trickled through the pads of Barton.

The period ended with Niagara scoring again as Cook blasted a shot over the shoulder of Alford to give the Purple Eagles a 3-2 lead.

The Engineers' Jake Morissette would tie the game in the second when he scored on his own rebound, but Niagara retook the lead just 29 seconds later when Sean Bentivoglio scored on the power play.

The Engineers had a golden opportunity to knot the game at 4-4 when they were given a five-on-three late in the second period, but Niagara turned the tables as the power play expired. Bentivoglio snuck one under Alford as he tried to kill the rest of the power play, the Purple Eagles took the 5-3 lead and never allowed the Engineers back into the game.

"The five-on-three kill was amazing," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. "That changed everything, even the rink itself. It got a little quiet, and that goal was the change for sure."

Alford suffered his first loss of the season, making eight saves before Mathias Lange replaced him after Niagara scored its fifth goal.

"He had a tough game tonight, but that's sometimes the way it works," said Appert. "He's bailed us out many times this year, but tonight, we gave Niagara too many easy looks. We knew they were skilled and the way that they played. But we gave them too many goals that they didn't have to work that hard for. Power plays, quick transitions, too many two-on-ones, backdoor tap-ins."

"We didn't make them work hard enough, whereas we were working very hard for the offensive opportunities that we had and the goals that we got."

The Engineers (4-3-3) will play Ohio State in the consolation game at 4 p.m. today. The Buckeyes defeated Colgate, 4-2, in the other first-round game.