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RPI's Home-ice Bid Is Still Alive

Engineers Hold On for Victory over Brown

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, February 24, 2007

TROY - RPI put itself in position to earn a home berth in the ECAC Hockey League playoffs, but not without being taken to the wall by a pesky Brown University team that was trying to reach the same destination.

The Engineers nearly blew a three-goal lead in the third period before hanging on for a 6-5 nailbiter over the Bears on Friday night to earn a tie with Colgate for eighth place and the final home playoff berth in next weekend's playoffs. Both teams have 17 points heading into Saturday's regular-season finale with Colgate at Dartmouth and the Engineers hosting Yale.

RPI has to win and get some help to host a first-round series.

"If we don't beat Yale tomorrow night, none of it matters," said RPI coach Seth Appert, obviously relieved to escape Brown's furious comeback. "We expected a real up-and-down game. We're used to it."

Appert was referring to RPI's hectic season in which his team has now won nine of 11 one-goal games. This one shouldn't have been that close after Kevin Broad's backhander in close at 7:35 of the third period gave RPI a 6-3 lead.

But when Jeff Prough scored Brown's second short-handed goal of the game at 8:38, the 3,089 natives at Houston Field House became a little restless. It became more tense when Sean McMonagle converted a careless turnover at 14:14. When Kirk MacDonald was called for a high stick by the assistant referee at 16:37, it was borderline panic.

"It was interesting," understated MacDonald, who made few other mistakes in one of his most spirited performances of the season. "We had to win. I think we all know what's at stake (Saturday) night."

RPI (10-15-8, 6-10-5 ECAC) broke away from a 2-2 first-period tie with three goals in the middle session, the first two within 24 seconds at even strength. MacDonald grabbed a loose puck and skated all the way in on left wing to beat Dan Rosen at 4:19, then defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer's wrister from the slot made it 4-2.

Chris Poli's rebound goal less than a minute later made it 4-3, but the Engineers regained a two-goal advantage when freshman defenseman Garret Vassel scored his first goal on a put-back of a Jon Ornelas drive at 17:24 of the second.

A wild first period ended in a 2-2 tie as RPI bounced back from deficits twice to even the score after 20 minutes, including a goal by MacDonald, who also reached 100 career points.

"He (MacDonald) played with almost a vengeance tonight," Appert said.

RPI split a pair with Colgate this season. So should the two teams finish tied for eighth, the first tiebreaker is each team's record against the league's top four finishers.