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Engineers' Win Streak Stopped at One Game

Caig's Third Period Breakaway Goal Lifts Minnesota-Duluth to Win

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 5, 2003

TROY - There'll be no winning streak for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for now anyway.

The short-handed Engineers played well Saturday but dropped a 3-2 decision to Minnesota-Duluth at Houston Field House.

The Bulldogs used outstanding puck movement to score a pair of power play goals to wipe out RPI's 1-0 lead, then got the game-winner on T.J. Caig's breakaway at 3:33 of the final period to avenge their 5-2 loss to the Engineers on Friday night.

Caig's goal came 1:45 after Ben Barr's power play goal early in the period gave RPI a 2-2 tie.

But the 8-12-1 Engineers were unable to win two straight regular-season games against teams from the four established Division I leagues for the first time since Feb. 22.

Rensselaer freshman right winger Kirk MacDonald scored his first collegiate goal at 7:46, Barr had a goal and an assist and Mikael Hammarstrom assisted on both goals.

"It could have gone either way," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "They did a much better job on their power play (moving the puck) than we did. And right after we tie the score early in the third they get a breakaway ... we kind of gave them that and that was it."

Rensselaer captain Danny Eberly was a scratch after warmups with a wrist injury. Ryan Shields sat out after aggravating a leg injury Friday and the Engineers again played without senior right winger Carson Butterwick, who has a concussion. Each is among RPI's leaders in penalty-kill minutes and it showed on both of Duluth's goals in the second period.

"But that's no excuse," Fridgen said. "Everybody knows how to play the (penalty-killing) system when they're called upon. We go over it in practice. When you're given the opportunity, you have to make the best of it. They've been doing a fantastic job up until this game tonight."

The RPI attack was hurt when assist leader Nolan Graham took a misconduct penalty at 13:19 of the second period.

Although not sharp, the RPI power play came through with both goals. With Hammarstrom and Vic Pereira setting screens in front, Barr rifled a blast past Duluth goalie Isaac Reichmuth at 1:48 of the third period.

Then the Engineers, with the momentum, had both defensemen pinching too deep before the puck was secured and Justin Williams and Caig made them pay.

Williams got the puck off the board and fed a breaking Caig, who fired one by goalie Nathan Marsters from the high slot.

"I was cheating toward the blue line a little bit," Caig said, "and (Williams) hit me with a perfect pass. Even with a quick shot, I think I surprised (Marsters) a little bit."

The Engineers had several close-range shots and swipes during the first 40 seconds of the second period but couldn't get the 2-0 lead. Graham, Vic Pereira, Kevin Croxton and Scott Basiuk all had chances with Reichmuth lying prone.

Graham said, "yeah, definitely" when asked if the outcome would have been different had he or one of the others been able to chip one over Reichmuth.

"We were all whacking at it," said Graham, who had five points in Friday night's victory.

"I don't know what it hit; their sticks, or the goalie's helmet, or his pads. If we could have buried one ... and I had a chance in the third, would have tied it up."

On that one, Graham slid to the right and backhanded one that was headed for the net but Reichmuth got a leg on it.

"Could have changed the whole outcome of the game," Graham said.

The Engineers got a break with 7:42 remaining in the first period when 13-goal scorer Junior Lessard fanned at the left post on a perfect feed from Caig.

They got an even bigger one early in the second when Bulldogs captain Jon Francisco hit the post from three feet away while Marsters was on the other side of the net.

Moments later on a power play, though, Lessard streaked down the slot, took a left wing centering pass from Tim Stapleton and beat Marsters high to tie the game 1-1.

Midway through the period, Francisco banged in a rebound and the 9-7-4 Bulldogs had the lead.

"The second period was our downfall," Fridgen said. "But we came out in the third, worked hard and tied it up and it was anybody's game."