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Engineers, Dutchmen Staged Memorable Playoff Series

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 12, 2003

The ECAC tournament first-round series between Rensselaer and Union over the weekend at Achilles Rink will be remembered for a long time for many reasons.

For starters, the 11th-seeded Engineers made amends for a poor regular season by eliminating the sixth-seeded Dutchmen, 2-0, in their best-of-three playoff. The stellar play of RPI goalie Nathan Marsters, who made a total of 66 saves, had a lot to do with that.

Then there was the incredible way Saturday's game played out. Ben Barr scored two shorthanded goals into an open net 50 seconds apart in the third period when Union goalie Kris Mayotte lost races for loose pucks at the bottom of the right circle in the Dutchmen zone. Those goals turned a 2-1 Union lead into a 3-2 RPI victory.

But what will also be remembered is the wonderful support both teams received from their fans. And the best thing about it was nothing was thrown onto the ice.

Union security, with the help of the Schenectady police, searched fans as they entered Achilles, trying to prevent anyone from bringing oranges into the building that could be thrown on the ice after a Union goal. The Dutchmen didn't want to get a delay of game penalty like the one they received in their Jan. 10 contest against the Engineers, which led to a power-play goal for RPI.

The orange-throwing tradition started during Union's Division III days when Hamilton was the team's main rival. The custom carried over after the Dutchmen moved to Division I in 1991 and RPI assumed the role of chief antagonist.

Prior to last weekend's series, warnings were issued to fans, students and faculty, telling them that anyone caught throwing objects onto the ice would be arrested. Apparently, everyone got the message. Nothing was tossed after the Dutchmen's goals.

"I could not be any more proud of the way both RPI and Union fans handled the weekend," Union coach Kevin Sneddon said. "I said before the series started that I was going to be optimistic that people would realize how important the games were. It just shows that there are good hockey fans in the world."

RPI coach Dan Fridgen was appreciative of the effort Union made to prevent any problems.

"I thought it was great," Fridgen said. "It was nice not to have to deal with anything being thrown on the ice. That's a testament to Val [Belmonte, Union's athletic director] and his off-ice crew, and Kevin because I know that they've been pushing for it. [Achilles] is a fun place to play. That's hockey right there - there's no interruptions, and the players go and play. That's what college hockey is all about."

The two games drew a total of 4,813 fans, including a standing-room only crowd of 2,516 on Friday.

"It was great," Barr said. "It was one of the most fun series I've ever played in my life. The fans were great. That's what you play for."

Two RPI recruits

The Engineers picked up two more recruits over the weekend for the 2003-04 season.

Right wing Kevin Broad of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League's Chilliwack Chiefs has committed to RPI. Broad, 21, had 44 goals and 32 assists in 57 games this season. Last year, the 6-foot, 182-pounder had 34 goals and 28 assists for the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

The other player to commit to RPI is 18-year-old Tommy Green of the SJHL's Melfort Mustangs. The 5-11, 170-pound Green had 27 goals and 27 assists in 46 games this season.

ECAC recap

Here are reviews of the other ECAC first-round series.

  • Two years ago, 10th-seeded Vermont upset top-seeded Clarkson in three games in the first round at Cheel Arena. The Catamounts did it again over the weekend at Cheel. No. 10 Vermont ousted No. 7 Clarkson in two games by scores of 3-2 and 6-1. Like he did in 2001, goalie Shawn Conschafter played well, making 56 saves.
  • No. 5 Brown survived a tough series with No. 12 Princeton to win in two straight by scores of 2-1 and 3-1. Chris Swon had two goals and an assist in the series that saw all of the scoring take place in the third period.
  • The only series to go the distance was No. 8 Colgate and No. 9 St. Lawrence. The Saints won the opener, 2-1, but the Raiders rallied to win the next two games by scores of 3-2 (in overtime) and 5-2. P.J. Yedon's second goal of the game with 3:14 left in overtime helped Colgate tie the series. Dave Thomas' first goal of the season 1:57 into the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and lead Colgate to the series-clinching win.

Quarterfinal picks

After going 2-2 last weekend, here are my predictions for the quarterfinals.

  • No. 11 RPI (12-23-3) at No. 1 Cornell (24-4-1).

    The Engineers got great play from goalie Nathan Marsters and played a tight-checking game to eliminate Union.

    They will have to improve upon that against the Big Red, the second-ranked team in the country.

    And even that may not be enough.

    The pick: Cornell in two by scores of 4-1 and 5-1.

  • No. 10 Vermont (13-18-3) at No. 2 Harvard (19-8-2).

    Conschafter's outstanding effort helped the Catamounts to their first-round victory, but Harvard has too many talented offensive players, and they will carry the series.

    The pick: Harvard in two by scores of 6-2 and 5-0.

  • No. 8 Colgate (16-17-4) at No. 3 Dartmouth (17-11-1).

    The Raiders were extended to three games in their first-round series. They will go up against a Big Green team that won their last three games and five of their last six to finish third.

    The pick: Dartmouth in two by scores of 4-2 and 6-2.

  • No. 5 Brown (14-11-5) at No. 4 Yale (17-12).

    The Bears struggled to beat Princeton in the first round. Yale lost its last three games and dropped from third to fourth.

    The pick: Yale in three by scores of 2-3, 4-1 and 4-2.

Exter serious

Merrimack goalie Joe Exter remains in serious condition after he suffered a fractured skull and internal bleeding in a collision with Boston College's Patrick Eaves in the third period of Friday's Hockey East tournament quarterfinal game. Exter has yet to regain consciousness.

Eaves's knee hit Exter in the head at full speed as the two were going after a puck. Trainers and doctors from both teams immediately came to Exter's aid. He suffered a seizure on the ice, and a breathing tube had to be inserted.

The play triggered a number of fights. Eaves picked up a double game disqualification. Since Eaves already had a DQ earlier in the season, he was suspended for five games for his double DQ. That means he won't be eligible to play again until the Frozen Four, if BC gets that far.

Maine upset

The biggest playoff surprise of the weekend took place in Hockey East, where sixth-seeded Massachusetts upset third-seeded Maine in the quarterfinals in Orono, Maine.

The Minutemen defeated the Black Bears, the fourth-ranked team in the country, by scores of 5-3 and 4-2.

UMass advances to the semifinals for the first time. It will play top-seed New Hampshire on Friday at the FleetCenter.

Clarkson finalists

Clarkson has narrowed its search for a new head coach to replace the fired Mark Morris to four candidates.

The finalists are Greg Roll, the SUNY-Oswego hockey coach and interim athletic director; Jim Roque, a Lake Superior State assistant coach; Ron Rolston, an assistant at Boston College; and Greg Dreschel, a Los Angeles Kings scout.

All four candidates have been assistant coaches at Clarkson.

Golden Knights interim head coach Fred Parker interviewed for the job but reportedly withdrew his name from consideration.