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Union Assistant Coach Barr Has Different Angle on Rivalry with RPI

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 5, 2009

SCHENECTADY - This weekend, Union hockey assistant coach Ben Barr will be helping the Dutchmen find a way to beat Capital Region rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The teams meet Friday at Houston Field House and Saturday at Messa Rink.

Six years ago, Barr was on the other side, helping the Engineers beat the Dutchmen.

Barr scored two of the most memorable goals in the history of the RPI-Union rivalry since the Dutchmen became a Division I program in 1991. In Game 2 of the 2003 ECAC Hockey tournament the night of March 8, he tallied two strange short-handed goals within 50 seconds of each other, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 RPI victory that gave the Engineers a sweep of their first-round series.

The Dutchmen, who finished sixth in the regular season, were hosting their first playoff series at the Division I level, and they drew the 11th-seeded Engineers in the first round. Union dropped a 2-1 decision in the opener. In Game 2, the Dutchmen took a 2-1 lead on Kris Goodjohn's power-play goal at 9:53 of the third period. Union then got a power play just under two minutes later when RPI's Blake Pickett was called for roughing. This was an opportunity for the Dutchmen to take control of the game.

What happened next still resonates with Barr. The goals were scored the same way against Union goalie Kris Mayotte.

"Nick Economakos and I killed penalties together," said Barr, who was in his junior season. "[RPI defenseman Scott] Basiuk just sent it down the ice both times. It was a 50-50 play. If [Mayotte] doesn't come out, it's a breakaway. If he comes out, he's got a chance to knock it away from me."

Mayotte came out both times to play the puck. On the first one, Econmakos beat Mayotte to the puck at the bottom of the right circle. Barr, who was trailing the play, picked it up fired it under a couple of Union defenders and into the open net at 11:47.

At 12:37, Economakos cleared the puck to the bottom of the right circle. Again, Mayotte came out to play it and beat Barr to the puck. But Mayotte shot it into Barr, who then put a shot off the left post and over the goal line to give RPI the lead.

To see the play unfold once was unusual enough. But to have it happen again less than a minute later was absolutely mind-boggling to Barr.

"It was almost surreal," Barr said. "On both of them, I had the puck, and the goalie was out of the net. I was just so worried about missing the net because I was at a bad angle."

The series win advanced the Engineers to a quarterfinal-round matchup with top-seeded Cornell, a series in which RPI was swept. But winning the series against the Dutchmen gave the Engineers some satisfaction after a rough regular season. RPI, which had reached the ECACH tournament semifinals the year before, was 4-15-3 in league play, and were 10-23-3 overall before the playoffs.

The Engineers rebounded the next season, finishing tied for fourth with Dartmouth. They swept Princeton in the first round, but dropped the quarterfinal series with Dartmouth in three games.

"That was a really tough year for us," Barr said about 2002-03. "It was an adjustment, having lost [Matt] Murley and [Marc] Cavosie the year before. It was a big steppingstone [because] the following year, we had some success."

Barr, who served two stints as a volunteer assistant coach, will have some strange feelings when he goes to Houston Field House as a visitor.

"I haven't thought about it much," Barr said. "It will be a little bit different when we go over there Friday night and the other side of the rink, which is a place I've never been before."