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Embattled Knights Dump RPI

Playing Without Its Head Coach, Clarkson Picks Up First Victory

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, November 9, 2002

TROY - A masked RPI student with a painted mustache circled the rink at Houston Field House most of the night Friday toting a sign that read: "Where's your coach?"

In the end, it was Clarkson fans who got the last laugh.

Even without coach Mark Morris, who's on paid administrative lead pending the outcome of a university investigation of an on-ice incident with a player, the Golden Knights defeated RPI 2-1, spoiling the Engineers' ECAC hockey opener in front of 4,446 patrons.

Morris is not with the team this weekend as the university investigates an incident involving Morris and junior Zach Schwan of Clifton Park. Morris allegedly retaliated after being checked by Schwan in a scrimmage last Saturday in Potsdam.

"We talked a lot about not bringing emotion into the game," interim head coach Fred Parker said. "You want to at a certain point, but if the emotion gets taken away from you, then you don't do too well. They were very level-headed and worked hard for 60 minutes."

Schwan attended the game, but was not in uniform. The Shenendehowa graduate and his teammates were instructed by school officials not to discuss the situation, and Schwan answered with a terse "No comment" when asked about the incident.

"I can't comment about any part of the investigation," said Sean Frazier, Clarkson's first-year athletic director. "We're conducting an investigation; that's all I can say."

On the ice, the Golden Knights looked well prepared for the task at hand and picked up their first victory after three straight defeats to open the season.

All the scoring came in the first period. Clarkson jumped to a 2-0 lead, scoring both goals within a span of 1:37 midway through the session. Adam Campana got his first of the season at the 10-minute mark in close, then Randy Jones, on a power play, rifled a long slap shot from the center that RPI goalie Kevin Kurk never saw.

The Engineers cut the margin in half on a power play of their own when Mikael Hammerstrom scored from the left slot at 15:44 off an assist from freshman Mark Yurkewecz of Troy. That was all the offense the Engineers (4-5, 0-1 ECAC) could muster as they failed on six other power plays.

"I thought we put some pretty good pressure on them," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, who's 5-12-1 against Clarkson, including a victory last March in the ECAC consolation game. "It just wasn't meant to be. We couldn't get the equalizer."

Kurk played an exceptional game in net, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Opposing goalie Mike Walsh was his equal with 24 stops, 10 in the final period.

"You don't want to use what happened (at Clarkson) as an excuse, so they came out and worked hard tonight," Kurk said. "They came out right off the bat and got the jump on us."

The second period was a costly one for RPI. Winger Ben Barr was given a game misconduct and a five-minute major for hitting from behind, but his teammates weathered the lengthy man advantage and kept the margin at a single goal.

The Engineers started the third period on a power play when Saratoga Springs native Jay Latulippe was called for elbowing as the second period ended, but they failed on that one and two subsequent man-advantage situations in the third.

Kurk made some big saves in the final 20 minutes, but the Engineers were unable to get the tying goal when he went off for an extra skater with only 36 seconds left to play.

"I think it would have been a different game if we came out and got off to the quick start," Fridgen said. "The opposite happened."

The Engineers will try to even their league record when they play St. Lawrence tonight at Houston Field House.

"I think everyone feels bad about the situation" at Clarkson, said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh, a close friend of Morris. "We are arch-rivals, we're only 10 miles apart and we know what Clarkson means to the ECAC. You really have to feel for Mark in this situation. He's obviously pretty down. Coaching hockey is more than a job to him. He has been there 15 years."

Marsh said he was surprised by the reports he's read about the incident.

"I know Mark well, and he has never exhibited that kind of thing before," he said. "I know he is a tough coach and he has always done well there. This is just a very unfortunate situation for him to have to go through."