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Engineers Rally to Pull Even

RPI Falls Behind UConn 4-1, But Comes Back to Tie in Home Opener

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 18, 2003

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute waited too long to assert itself on Friday night. The procrastination cost the Engineers their first victory of the season, as RPI's three-goal, third-period rally produced only a 4-4 tie with Connecticut.

Freshman center Owen Eizenman scored a pair of goals on outstanding individual efforts and C.J. Hanafin nudged in the game-tying goal with 5:34 remaining as the Engineers, trailing 4-1, scored the trio within 4:41. While the rally was commendable, and much-enjoyed by an announced crowd of 2,972, the tie was a clear giveaway of a victory.

After Nick Economakos scored off a faceoff just 52 seconds into the game, the freshmen-laden Huskies - a 10th-place team from college hockey's weakest conference, thoroughly outplayed the Engineers, who sleep-walked through a 30-minute stretch of the first and second periods. Rensselaer (0-2-1), as has been the case in each of its three games, repeatedly gave up odd-man breakouts. The 0-2-1 Huskies of the Atlantic Hockey conference made them pay on goals by Eric Helstedt and Brian Burns. On UConn's other two goals, the Engineers had several chances to clear the puck but could not. All four UConn goal-scorers are freshmen.

Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen let out a sigh as he approached reporters following the game. Asked if that was a sigh of relief, since his team had trailed 4-1 with less than 14 minutes remaining, he said, "Not really. There wasn't really any relief there."

Fridgen agreed the Engineers not only should have won the game, but should have done so decisively.

"Yeah, yeah, a lot of missed opportunities," he said. "We weren't real consistent with the pressure that we needed to apply."

"And then when we did apply pressure, that was the difference. It wasn't any magic."

On a power play, Eizenman re-directed Scott Basiuk's blast to begin the RPI rally at 7:19.

About 1:30 later, he took the puck out of the corner, skated toward the net and slid the puck under UConn goalie Scott Tomes.

"It seemed as if a seem opened up," Eizenman said. "They were covering Shieldsy (Ryan Shields) and (Kevin) Croxton pretty close because they know they're good scorers. It really made it easy for me to just kind of walk in there. No one was paying any attention to me."

At 14:26, Hanafin reached in among a bunch of sticks and legs and pushed the puck into the net to tie the game.

Perhaps when Economakos took Ben Barr's faceoff in the right circle and fired a laser through heavy traffic and past Tomes, the Engineers thought they could fill the UConn net without much hard work. If so, they were dead wrong.

The Engineers could have easily cleared the puck on Stewart's goal that tied the score at 1 but instead, the puck trickled in off RPI defenseman Alexander Valentin.

Also, on Cole Koidahl's goal that made the count 4-1 at 6:39 of the third period, two Engineers fanned at the puck and Mark Murphy slid it to Koidahl right in front of RPI goalie Kevin Kurk.

And then there were 2-on-1 breakouts.

"Too many pinches (by defensemen)," said Basiuk, RPI's captain and a senior defensemen, "We're getting beat on 2-on-1s. We've got to settle down, play back and let our forwards do their work."