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Fruits of Tie Spoiled

Union Fans' Orange-tossing Results in Penalty, RPI Goal

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, January 11, 2003

SCHENECTADY - With a standing-room crowd listed as 2,504 at a fever pitch in Achilles Rink for 65 minutes of hockey, it's nearly unthinkable that a couple of them in a matter of seconds may have cost their own team a victory over archrival RPI.

Warned once for observing a decades-old tradition of throwing oranges onto the ice after Union's first goal, a couple of them failed to heed the admonition of referee Alex Dell and the subsequent penalty led to a second-period RPI goal and a 3-3 tie in an otherwise inspirational ECAC game Friday night.

Union had just taken a 2-1 lead on a short-handed goal by Joel Beal when two oranges were tossed onto the ice at 3:09 of the second. Thirty-four seconds later and now with a 5-on-3 advantage, RPI made it 2-2 when Scott Basiuk beat freshman goalie Kris Mayotte in the slot.

"I was thoroughly disgusted by that," said Union coach Kevin Sneddon. "We ended up with a great short-handed goal you might just as well have taken back. I hope those fans feel good about themselves throwing two oranges on the ice. I understand the history and the tradition after the first goal. It happened OK. I don't like it but it happened. To put us down two men is inexcusable."

The tie left Union at 3-4-2 in seventh place in the ECAC with eight points, still two ahead of RPI (2-4-2) in eighth.

Other than that one foolish fan escapade, this was one of the more exciting games in the series with plenty of hard checking, fast skating and timely goaltending.

"This was a great college hockey game," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, a former assistant at Union. "I thought the quality of the game was outstanding."

Most of the offense came in the second period as the teams combined for five of the goals, three of them by Union to make it 3-3 after 40 minutes. The Dutchmen started the period on a leftover power play to erase a 1-0 deficit when Max Seel beat RPI's Kevin Kurk in close with only two seconds left in the man advantage.

Union then scored shorthanded at 3:09 when Kris Goodjohn beat RPI's Danny Eberly to the puck in the RPI end and found Beal open in front. Out came the oranges, and in went Basiuk's wrister in the slot at 3:43 to even it at 2.

The Engineers took a 3-2 lead at 11:11 of the second when Nick Economakos went top shelf against Mayotte, but Union battled back to tie it again at 3 when Beal's drive deflected in off Eberly at 14:48.

Union had a territorial edge and a 10-6 advantage in shots in the first period, but RPI exited the ice with a 1-0 lead after Ryan Shields beat Mayotte at 19:08 off a nice centering pass from freshman Kevin Croxton. Kurk made a big glove save on A.J. Palkovich, Goodjohn and Nathan Gillies, then got a friendly post on a Glenn Sanders shot in the closing seconds.

The wild second period was followed by 25minutes of scoreless hockey as goalies took over. Union got off three shots in the five-minute overtime to none for RPI, but the Dutchmen were unable to make good on captain Gillies' victory guarantee.

The Engineers, outshot 34-23, seemed a bit more comfortable than the Dutchmen were to leave with the tie.

"They're a pretty good team this year," said Kurk. "We didn't get the sweep, but it's pretty good to get one (point) in this building."

"It's three out of four points, so I accept that as a good tie," Fridgen said.

And it's a good bet he'll have some orange juice with breakfast today.