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Merrimack Nips Rensselaer

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 29, 2002

TROY - With his Rensselaer teammates tired, goalie Kevin Kurk had a chance to give them a breather when he made a save on a shot by Merrimack's Lucas Smith with less than eight minutes to go in the third period Saturday.

Instead, he chose to keep the play going. And that proved costly.

Brendon Clark scored with 7:36 left in the third period Saturday to break a 1-1 tie, lifting Merrimack to a 2-1 win over RPI in the first round of the 52nd annual Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament at Houston Field House.

It will be an all-Warriors final tonight at 7. Wayne State, which is also nicknamed the Warriors, cruised to a 7-0 win over Princeton. The Engineers (7-10-1) will face the Tigers (1-14) in the 4 p.m. consolation game. Princeton's only win came against RPI, a 4-3 decision on Nov. 16.

It is the second time in three years that RPI has been relegated to the consolation game.

"I don't even know what happened," Kurk said. "We got running around in the zone. It was just a couple of breakdowns, and they're a good enough team to capitalize on it."

After Kurk steered the puck into the left-wing corner, Rob LaLonde picked it up, and he centered a cross-ice pass to Clark, who was open to the right of the net. Clark easily tapped the puck past Kurk.

"We make a play that we shouldn't be making, and I know that's going to happen," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "It's a six-man unit out there, and we've got to recognize when we need to get off the ice and get fresh legs out there. As a six-man unit, if we have an opportunity to help that along, then we need to do that."

It was another frustrating loss for the offensively challenged Engineers, who are averaging just 2.33 goals per game. It was the fourth time in five games they have scored just one goal, and the sixth time overall this season.

Defenseman Scott Basiuk scored RPI's only goal, a slap shot that beat goalie Joe Exter and tied the score, 1-1, early in the third period.

"I thought we had a good chance," Basiuk said. "After that goal was scored, we had the pressure on them. We were buzzing around. We missed a couple of [chances]."

A charging penalty against Ryan Shields 44 seconds into the game gave Merrimack a power-play opportunity. The Warriors haven't been good on the power play this season, scoring just eight goals in 62 attempts.

But the Warriors converted on the chance. Tim Reidy came out from behind the net and stuffed the puck past Kurk's right pad at 2:41.

"I don't know if we had more scoring punch," Merrimack coach Chris Serino said. "All of our games have been like that. We play decent defensively, we've been getting good goaltending and we've been scoring an opportunistic goal."