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Tending to Business

No Matter What Ups and Downs the RPI Hockey Team Faces This Season, One Thing is Certain: Engineers

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 15, 2002

TROY - Strong in net.

If a hockey team can make that statement, things can't get too bad.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is strong in net, and Engineers fans hope the team's duo of junior netminders Nathan Marsters and Kevin Kurk can keep the team competitive.

It's a rebuilding season in other areas for the Engineers, and the team has already exhibited that it will struggle to put the puck in the net.

So, the lanky Marsters and Kurk - each is 6-foot-4 - will have to keep it out of the RPI net more than ever, and each admits to feeling a little more pressure.

"Yeah, I think so, a little bit," Kurk said. "You never know what the guys are going to do; they could start scoring four or five a game. But yeah, right now it looks like there won't be a lot of goals. We just have to keep (the opposition) off the boards and hope our guys can get one or two."

"We just have to play," Marsters said. "You can't worry about how much you're scoring, you just have to make sure they're not."

For two years, Marsters and Kurk played with high-scoring forwards Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley, who could often get a key goal of two to lessen the burden on goalies.

Now that they no longer have that luxury, is their mental preparation affected?

"Not really, because you have to prepare for every game the same," Marsters said. "Whether you're playing a good team, a bad team, or an even (team). You've just got to do the job, whether (your team) gets one goal or six."

"You (assume) there won't be many goals."

"Yeah, our job is still just to keep the puck out of the net," Kurk added.

Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen stops short of saying that goaltending is the Engineers' main strength, but says, "no question, coming back (from last season), that's where our experience was. And both are playing very well at this point."

During their freshman season of 2000-01, Marsters took over the No. 1 job, went on to win 15 games, posted a 2.58 goals against average, stopped 92.0 percent of the shots he faced and narrowly missed winning the ECAC Rookie of the Year award.

He shook off a rough start last season to actually be a little better in the GAA (2.35) and saves percentage (92.9) departments.

Yet, Fridgen shocked some on opening night this season, going with a gut feeling and naming Kurk to start at University of Wisconsin. The Orchard Park native beat the Badgers 5-1, and after he shut out Iona and Army in consecutive games, appeared to have the No. 1 job.

He lost at St. Cloud State though, despite playing fairly well, and when Marsters beat the Huskies the next night, the rotation was on.

Now, though, Marsters and Kurk are comfortable with sharing the job.

"It's great right now," Marsters said. "We've got a real good tandem going for us right now. Kevin's been playing very well ... we're just not scoring goals for him. He could easily have a six-game winning streak right now."

Added Kurk, "It's good for the team right now that both of us got it going."

Kurk admits, though, that he would have liked a longer shot at being No. 1.

"It's coach's decision, though," he said. "Sure, you'd like to play, but he's going to do what's best for the team, so you can't really let it bother you."

Often, especially for the first game of a two-game weekend, Marsters and Kurk don't know until a couple hours before game time which of them will start that night.

"My first game I didn't like it," said Marsters, a native of Grimsby, Ont., "but now I'm used to it. You find out the day of the game, it keeps you preparing all week in practice. If you know you're not playing, you might just start schlepping around."

"I prepare for every game as if I'm playing," said Kurk, who went nearly one and one-half years knowing he likely would be sitting most every game.