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Engineers Drop Heartbreaker

Rensselaer Will Play in Tourney Consolation Game After Losing 2-1 Decision to Merrimack

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 29, 2002

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute played well enough to win Saturday but that fact offered little solace to the Engineers after a 2-1 loss to Merrimack in the first round of the 52nd Annual HSBC Rensselaer Holiday Tournament.

Defenseman Scott Basiuk skated along the blue line early in the third period, set up screens in front and fired a laser-like shot off the glove of Merrimack goalie Joe Exter and into the net.

That goal tied the game 1-1 with 16 minutes left and gave the Engineers some momentum. But they couldn't get another and the Warriors' Brendon Clark scored the game-winner on a wrister in front with 7:36 remaining.

It marked the fourth time in five games RPI scored just one goal.

Thus, the 7-10-1 Engineers must, for the second time in three seasons, play in the 4 p.m. consolation game against a woeful Princeton team.

The Tigers - whose only victory in 15 games came against Rensselaer on Nov. 16, were routed by Wayne State in Saturday's first game, 7-0.

Merrimack (7-10-1) and Wayne State (6-10-0) - each nicknamed Warriors - will clash for the tournament title at 7 p.m.

"No, I don't feel good about it at all," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said when asked if playing well enough to win made the defeat any easier.

"It's a tough loss, frustrating," Basiuk said. "We played well and we had chances to win."

Without any stretch of reality, the game could have been a 1-0 RPI victory.

On both Merrimack goals, the Engineers had had excellent chances to clear the puck but came up just short and the Warriors capitalized.

"No question," Fridgen said. "I didn't think they beat us (solely) on their own merit, I thought we had a helping hand in it."

On Clark's game-winner, defenseman Rob LaLonde beat an RPI player to the puck, then skated down the slot and found Clark alone at the side of the net. Rensselaer goalie Kevin Kurk had no chance on Clark's quick-wrister.

"A little bit of a breakdown from our perspective," Fridgen said. "We give them another crack at it at a time when we've got some tired legs out on the ice and they happened to get a (line) change in there and capitalized on that opportunity."

Kurk said, "I don't even know what happened on that goal. We got running around in our zone and they got a couple guys open."

"We should have made a change," Basiuk said.

Twice the Warriors intercepted clearing passes on a Merrimack power play early in the game. Then, with time winding down on Ryan Shields' charging penalty, Tim Reidy held the puck behind the net. He looked for a teammate, then deked left, went right and stuffed the puck just inside Kurk's glove, and just inside the left goalpost.

"I thought our 'D' was going to pinch him in," said Kurk, who didn't see Reidy in time. "I'm not really sure how it went in."

With under two minutes remaining, Basiuk had the puck near the blue line in a similar situation as on his goal.

"But I really didn't get a chance to shoot it," he said. "I could hear their coach (Chris Serino) yelling from their bench to get to the point, so I knew they'd be coming a little harder. The centerman actually left his man to come to me, so I knew Nolan (Graham) would be open but I just couldn't get it out front."

Graham, who won a faceoff to set up Basiuk's goal, had a half-open net at which to shoot with four minutes left but was pinned a bit too deep.

"A shot came from out by the point and the rebound came to me at the side of the net, a couple feet off the goal line," the senior center said. "I just couldn't get it to the net. It hit the side of the post."

Graham agreed it was a frustrating loss.

"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "We had some chances but we made some mistakes that cost us in ice time and length of shifts."

The Engineers had some other big chances. Eric Cavosie had an open net on a first-period rebound but waited a bit too long and fired the puck into Exter's pads.

Shields had chip shots in the second and third periods that tested Exter and several times the Engineers just couldn't tee up good feeds.

Having been the only conquest of Princeton should motivate the Engineers once game time rolls around today.

"Definitely we have some incentive to get them back," Basiuk said.

"I'm sure it'll give us a little motivation come game time," Graham added.