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RPI Sends Union Packing

Engineers Stun Rivals, Face No. 1 Cornell Next

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 9, 2003

SCHENECTADY - The Route 7 rivalry rarely produces a dull evening of hockey between RPI and Union College, but those who witnessed Saturday night's victory by the Engineers aren't likely to ever forget this encounter.

RPI, which had scored only two short-handed goals all year, got two from Ben Barr within a 50-second span of the same third-period Union power play and held on to stun the Dutchmen 3-2 and sweep them in two games in their first-round ECAC playoff series at Achilles Rink.

The Engineers, who finished a dismal ECAC season in 11th place and hadn't won a league road game all year, now advance to play at top-seeded Cornell next weekend. For Union, which finished in sixth place and earned its first home ice berth ever in the Division I playoffs, the Cinderella season is over.

"I'm very proud of our guys," said Union coach Kevin Sneddon. "Nobody in our locker room's hanging their heads right now. We've come a long way this year as a young team. It's very tough to swallow that the season's over. At the same time we want to take the positives from the year and learn from it."

After the Dutchmen took a 2-1 lead on Kris Goodjohn's tip-in on a power play at 9:53 of the final period, it looked as if this series might be headed for a third game. And when Union went on another power play at 11:31, the Dutchmen were braced to get some insurance. That's when the wheels came off for the home team.

With Union on the attack, RPI's Scott Basiuk chipped the puck into the Union end and goalie Kris Mayotte came far out of his net trying to beat RPI's Nick Economakos to it. Economakos won the race and got the puck to Barr, who rifled it in from the middle of the circle into the vacated net at 11:47 to make it 2-2.

Fifty seconds later, it was an eerie case of déjà vu for the Dutchmen. Economakos dumped the puck out of the Union attack zone and again it was a race in the other end, this time between Mayotte, who again came far out of the net again, and Barr. Mayotte knocked the puck off Barr, who picked it up and shot it into the vacant net off the far post.

"Yesterday two breakaway goals," said a disconsolate Mayotte, describing RPI's opening night 2-1 win. "I thought I had a chance to get out and get to the puck. The first one, I thought I had it. I guess it went to the second wave. The second one I got to it before him (Barr) as well. I shot it right up into his chest. If I had to do it over I'd probably make the same play."

Sneddon defended Mayotte's decision to go for the loose pucks.

"Everything that had to happen did happen for them to get those two goals," Sneddon said. "I don't second-guess what Kris did. As a goaltender, you're the last line of defense and you've got to make a decision in a split second. Both times, he did win the race to the puck. It was just unfortunate bounces that happened after that."

Union never relented in its quest for the equalizer, but couldn't get it past goalie Nathan Marsters, who won both games. One apparent goal was already whistled dead before the red light was mistakenly turned on with 38.7 seconds left, giving the home fans one last hope.

"It's a 60-minute game and anything can happen," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "We got a couple of bounces. I felt all along that we're not an 11th-place team. It's a funny game. It just goes to show how quickly a game can turn around."

Union got the game's first goal at 6:34 of the second period, ending a drought of 11 consecutive power plays in the series. Freshman Scott Seney broke the scoreless tie on a rebound from the right of the crease off a shot by Jordan Webb.

RPI took over the rest of the second period, peppering Union's freshman goalie with a number of scoring chances before finally cashing one at 17:44. Carson Butterwick took a wild shot from the left circle that was retrieved by Keith McWilliams on the other side. He fired one that Eric Cavosie tipped over to Butterwick, who tossed a neat backhand shot past Mayotte to make it 1-1.

For Barr, it was his third short-handed goal of the season.

"It's kind of an in-between play," he said. "Either he has to come out or I've got a clear breakaway."

The Engineers (12-23-3) now have to tackle the toughest team in the league to make it to the ECAC semifinals at the Pepsi Arena the weekend of March 21-22. Union finished at 14-18-4.