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RPI Last in Own Tourney

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, December 30, 2002

TROY - It may only have been a consolation game, but the RPI hockey team had plenty of incentive to beat Princeton on Sunday. They just didn't have enough goals.

Hoping to avoid being swept in their own Holiday Tournament for the first time since 1995, RPI was also trying to avenge an earlier ECAC loss that gave Princeton its only win of the season. Make that two wins now after a 4-3 triumph.

Later Sunday, Merrimack, behind Most Valuable Player and goaltender Joe Exter, won its first tournament title with a 4-1 decision over Wayne State in the championship game.

The difference for Princeton was Mike Patton's short-handed goal in the second period as the Tigers improved to 2-14 with the non-league victory that left the struggling Engineers (7-11-1) shaking their heads in dismay.

"We had a team like Princeton where we just went into their barn (Nov. 16) and lost to them," said captain Danny Eberly. "It was payback time, whether it was the consolation or not. We didn't play RPI hockey; we played Princeton hockey."

The turning point came late in the second when Princeton's Scott Prime stole the puck in the RPI end with the Engineers backpedaling on a power play and trailing 3-2. Prime hit Patton in the slot, and he whistled a shot past Nathan Marsters for a two-goal margin at 14:48. Coach Dan Fridgen felt the Tigers committed a penalty.

"I thought our guy (Alexander Valentin) got taken down," said a frustrated Fridgen. "I was hoping to use this tournament as a springboard to the second third of the season. We completely missed the board, and now we'll see how deep the hole is."

Princeton had put RPI into a 3-1 hole at 2:45 of the second period after Patrick Neundorfer scored his second goal of the game when he beat Marsters on the short side from the left circle. RPI cut it to 3-2 at 12:22 in the wild-and-woolly middle session when Ben Barr poked in a rebound of a Brad Farynuk shot. Kevin Croxton's second goal made it 4-3 in the third.

As was the case in the first-round (2-1 loss to Merrimack) RPI couldn't get the tying score for the second game in a row.

"That's kind of the way the weekend was," said Fridgen, whose club won last year's tournament with two overtime victories. "We just couldn't get that equalizer. We didn't elevate our game until we got behind the eight ball."

Princeton, which was shut out by Wayne State in the first round of this tournament, has averaged 1.86 goals-per-game against all other opponents. In two wins against RPI, the Tigers have eight goals.

The Engineers got on the board first when Croxton ripped a perfect pass from fellow freshman Valentin past a defenseless goalie Trevor Clay at 15:56 of the first period on a power play. It was Valentin's first collegiate point.

Less than a minute later, Princeton struck for its first of two goals in a 22-second span for the lead. Neil Stevenson-Moore beat Marsters on a wraparound at 16:47, then Neundorfer outskated the RPI defense and beat Marsters in close at 17:09 for a 2-0 lead.