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RPI Pounces on Union

Two Breakaway Goals Give Engineers Rare Road Win

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 8, 2003

SCHENECTADY - The RPI hockey team couldn't have picked a better time to produce its first Eastern College Athletic Conference road victory of the season than Friday night in the opening round of the league's playoffs.

Vic Pereira and Kevin Croxton scored breakaway goals in the second period and goalie Nathan Marsters made 37 saves as the 11th-seeded Engineers upset sixth-seeded Union 2-1 in the first game of their best-of-3 series in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 2,516 at Achilles Rink.

"It was a game of inches," said Union coach Kevin Sneddon, whose club outshot the Engineers 38-16 but failed to convert on seven power-play chances. "We made a couple of mistakes that gave them breakaway goals. Other than that, we controlled the game. We won the battle, but lost the war."

The Engineers, who were 0-9-2 away from home during the regular season, scored twice in the second period on almost identical plays and held off a Union comeback in the third period.

Pereira got behind the Union defense after taking a pass down the middle from freshman Keith McWilliams. He skated in on goalie Kris Mayotte, who went down to make the save, but the puck leaked in underneath him at 7:21.

Then, with the Engineers on a power play, it was freshman Kevin Croxton getting past the Union defense and beating Mayotte top shelf off a lead pass from Nolan Graham on a power play at 10:50 to make it 2-0.

"Nolan got a turnover and I was behind the 'D,' and he made a beautiful pass to me," said Croxton, who scored his third game winner of the season. "I just came in and I saw what he did on Vic's goal. Vic got him to go down, so I just tried to drop my shoulder and get him to move first and then just shoot it up top there."

The Engineers (11-23-3) were still losing the statistical battle but winning on the scoreboard.

"We got a couple of goals up on them and held the lead, and I thought we did an outstanding job of keeping the shots to the outside and playing strong defensively," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, whose club had a 1-0-1 record against Union during the season. "When we did give up some gap, give up some opportunities, Nate was there to make the saves for us."

The pesky Dutchmen (14-17-4) kept the pressure on and finally reaped the reward at 6:40 of the third period to cut the lead in half. Freshman Chris Konnick picked up a loose puck at the right crease after RPI's Carson Butterwick knocked it off the left goal post, and Konnick had an open net against a defenseless Marsters.

Union had another golden opportunity at 9:20 of the third when an RPI penalty gave the Dutchmen a 4-on-3 advantage for 1:15, but the Engineers killed the penalty. Union got another power play at 11:50, but Joel Beal's shot went right at Marsters, who had neither a stick nor a glove to defend with.

"I saw he had the open net there," Marsters said. "I was waiting for him to shoot it and kind of react to it, but he just put it right on me. Sometimes when you have those good games, you've got to get lucky."

Union had a decisive territorial edge in the first period and outshot the Engineers 14-5, but the teams went to the locker room in a scoreless tie. RPI killed off three Union power plays, including a 5-on-3 Dutchmen advantage for 18 seconds late in the period.

Sneddon removed Mayotte with a minute to play in the game, but RPI's pressure kept Union from tying it up.

"We played some pretty good hockey tonight," Sneddon said. "You've got to give RPI credit. They're big and strong and did a good job in front of the net. He (Marsters) played a fabulous game tonight. He was the difference in the game."

The teams play Game 2 tonight at 7 at Achilles, and Game 3 Sunday, if necessary.