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Engineers Collapse, Lose 4-2

Dartmouth Scores Three in Final 3:26 to Steal Win at Houston

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 27, 2002

TROY - Prosperity can be fleeting; it lasted just one day for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers, who allowed victory to slip away in the final minutes of a 4-2 loss to Dartmouth Saturday night at Houston Field House.

Dartmouth scored three goals in the final 3:26 to hand the Engineers a horribly damaging defeat in their quest to move up the ECAC standings and get a playoff seed in the 5-7 range.

Defenseman Steve Munn had given RPI a 2-1 lead at 9:42 of the final period on a hard backhander from 35 feet following a turnover.

Dartmouth's Jamie Herrington broke a 2-2 tie with 2:24 remaining in the game, chipping a soft shot over RPI goalie Nathan Marsters. Left winger Mike Wheelihan appeared to be offside on the play.

The Engineers, burned all season long by careless clearing passes in their own end, had failed to clear the puck on two chances just prior to Kent Gillings' tying goal. Worse, the Engineers left Gillings alone in front of the net and Wheelihan made them pay with a fine play. He beat an RPI defender to the puck behind the goal line and in one motion made a sweeping pass to Gillings. Marsters had no chance on the shot.

Herrington stole the puck one-on-one from an RPI defender, walked in on Marsters and flipped one over him for the final count with 16 seconds remaining.

Matt Murley scored RPI's other goal, early in the game, but Dartmouth regrouped and ended a 15-game Houston Field House winless (0-14-1) streak.

The loss keeps the 9-10-3 Engineers, now 3-7-2 in ECAC play, in 11th place in the conference, one spot from the final playoffs berth. They could have moved up to tie for eighth and within one point of fifth-place Union and Yale (5-5-2) with a victory. Saturday's defeat, however, is the kind that can easily adversely affect a team in the long run.

"This is a bitter pill," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen when asked if the Engineers could bounce back from the crushing defeat. "A bitter pill."

"I thought we played an excellent hockey game down to the last four or five minutes, where we have to tighten up the defense." Fridgen said. "They caught a couple of bounces and we're not having the luck right now, but I certainly thought for what we put into the game we earned better than that."

The Engineers, however, in addition to the late breakdowns, were outshot 16-9 in the final period, which began 1-1.

On the tying goal, Fridgen said: "It was a missed coverage because their guy was standing alone in front of the net. And when you have missed coverage, you usually have miscommunication."

"Then you get a guy going hard to the net (on Herrington's go-ahead goal) and he just (barely) gets his stick on it and just goes over Nate's pad. Again, it's tough to explain. I thought we played a solid hockey game, but give them (Dartmouth) credit, they stuck to it."

Fridgen said he did not have a good look as to whether or not the play was offside.

League scoring leader Marc Cavosie incurred a knee injury midway through the second, went straight to the locker room but returned with three minutes remaining in the period.

"It's tight but I was able to get back out there, so I don't think it's serious," Cavosie said.

The Engineers took an early 1-0 lead at 3:22 of the first period. As has been the norm lately, Cavosie and Murley combined.

Murley crossed the blue line and centered to Cavosie, who, while falling down from a check, managed to steer a backhander past Dartmouth goalie Nick Boucher.

A few minutes later, though, Chris Baldwin's shorthanded goal at 6:51 took the momentum away from the Engineers.

Herrington intercepted a pass near the Dartmouth blue line, went right down the middle and got off a hard shot while being checked. Baldwin chopped the rebound to the net - legally - from the left side past Marsters to tie the game.

Rensselaer never did regain command of the contest.

"All the credit to them, they played real well defensively," Cavosie said of the Big Green. "We had to battle for the two goals we got. It was a tight game. We played for (only) 56 minutes."

One thing in the Engineers' favor is the fact that their next game is at Dartmouth (6-4-3, 9-8-3) on Friday night.

"We get to go right back to their barn, deal with things right away," Munn said.