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RPI Hangs Tough But Still Loses

Penalties Prove Costly Early As Engineers Fall at Cornell

By Tom Fleischman

Albany Times Union, March 15, 2003

ITHACA - For the RPI men's hockey team, Friday night's game at Cornell represented a marked improvement from the last time these two teams met.

Back on Feb. 21, the nationally ranked Big Red scored twice in the first period and never looked back in throttling the Engineers, 5-0. RPI coach Dan Fridgen characterized the game as "the men against the boys."

On Friday, the Engineers played much more like grown-ups, but the result was the same - a loss.

Greg Hornby's rebound goal with 12:53 left in the third period proved to be the game-winner as No. 2 Cornell held off RPI, 3-2 to take Game 1 of their best-of-3 Eastern College Athletic Conference quarterfinal playoff series at sold-out Lynah Rink. Game 2 is at 7 tonight back at Lynah; a Cornell victory would send the Big Red on to Pepsi Arena next weekend for the ECAC final four.

An RPI win would force a decisive Game 3, at 7 p.m. Sunday.

"I thought we battled real hard (Friday) ... and we really played the type of game we wanted to play in the first and third periods," said Fridgen, whose Engineers (12-24-3) saw their season-best three-game win streak end.

"I didn't think we executed very well in the second period," Fridgen said. "At this time of the season, if you're going to try to win hockey games ... discipline has to be a key. You've got to stay out of the penalty box."

Cornell's first goal came on a 5-on-3 power play just 3:27 into the game.

Ben Barr and Brad Farynuk scored the goals for RPI, and junior goalie Nathan Marsters had a solid game, turning aside 23 of 26 shots.

Junior Ryan Vesce and freshman Matt Moulson also scored for Cornell (25-4-1), which has won six straight and is unbeaten in its last 10 games (9-0-1). Sophomore goalie David LeNeveu, the nation's leader in goals-against average (1.16) and save percentage (.943), made 17 saves to pick up his 23rd victory of the season.

The teams combined for 13 minor penalties - not a tremendous amount, but enough to get Cornell coach Mike Schafer's attention.

"It was a frustrating game, a lot of special teams and you really couldn't get into any kind of flow," he said. "I thought Marsters made some unbelievable saves for them early in the game. So it was a good in the sense that we came back (after RPI tied the game at 1) and got the win."

The Engineers finished 1-for-6 on the power play. Cornell was 1-for-5.

Facing the nation's seventh-ranked power play - not to mention the top penalty-killing unit in Division I - RPI's main objective coming into the game had to be keeping as much of the play at even strength as possible. So when Ryan Shields went to the penalty box for boarding at 1:32 of the first, and Eric Cavosie joined him just 42 seconds later, also for boarding, it was Fridgen's worst nightmare come true.

"I don't even want to go there," he said, when asked about his team's early penalties.

Vesce, Cornell's scoring leader, made RPI pay with his team-high 16th goal of the season during the two-man advantage.

"It's not what you want at the start of a game - you don't want to give up a 5-on-3 at any time," Marsters said. "But I thought the guys rebounded really well."

After pulling Marsters for an extra skater late, RPI forced three face-offs in the final 15.6 seconds but were unable to convert.