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RPI Can't Complete North Country Sweep

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 9, 2003

CANTON - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seemed to have so much momentum going into Saturday night's game at St. Lawrence.

The Engineers were coming off a thrilling overtime victory over their chief rival at a site where they seldom win, were on a four-game unbeaten streak and were suiting up against one of the weaker teams in the ECAC.

Evidently, the triumph at Clarkson, which could have been such an inspirational win, meant little in that regard as the Engineers were without intensity throughout a 4-0 defeat.

The 2-6-3 Saints created even fewer scoring chances than did the lethargic Engineers over the first two periods but built a 3-0 lead by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Low-scoring defenseman Ton Maci scored the first two goals of his career (he has 11 points in 50 games) and left winger Jamie Parker netted his first career goal (he has three points in 36 games) by flipping in the third rebound of a sequence.

Twice previously this season, RPI had fallen behind by three goals but roared back for a 4-4 tie against UConn and a 5-4 victory at Merrimack. It was obvious early on Saturday night that there would be no such rally on this night.

"No, it was not very pretty at all," said a disappointed RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "I don't think we played very well. We didn't play with that edge that we need to play with game in and game out."

A reason?

"Maybe they thought that this was going to be easier than it was," Fridgen said of the Engineers. "But they need to know that's not the way the game is played and you need to bring your work ethic every night. You can't go into games thinking it's already won and being happy about the night before."

Through two periods, the Engineers had 10 minutes of power play time but totaled just four shots on goal during that time and none was of Grade A quality.

After seeing their shots blocked and their passes deflected repeatedly, they tried to dump-and-chase the puck into the SLU zone but the Saints were quicker to the puck nearly every time.

Then late in the game, Keith MCWilliams walked right down the slot on a power play but his wrist shot wound up in the armpit of Saints goalie Mike McKenna, who stopped 20 shots for his second career shutout of Rensselaer.

One night after using the power play to outshoot Clarkson, 36-25, the 3-3-1 Engineers were outshot by the Saints, 31-20.

"Give them credit," Fridgen said of the Saints. "They played like a desperate team (in a nine-game winless skein) and we played tentative."

The Engineers had two glowing scoring chances in the first period but McKenna denied them each time.

Freshman Kevin Broad fired a laser from center ice onto Ben Barr's stick at the blue line but McKenna came up big on Barr's low shot. He made a sliding kick save on a wrister by Owen Eizenman, who'd been set up by a nice cross-ice pass from Nick Economakos. Then, as a second-period RPI power play was ending, he closed the 4-hole just as Kevin Croxton's short shot was about to pass through it.

A poor clearing pass by Eizenman came right to Maci and his blast from the blue line sailed right by screened RPI goalie Nathan Marsters at 13:34 of the first period.

Rensselaer co-captain Scott Basiuk felt the Engineers "were ready to go. We made a couple mistakes and they got a jump. It was pretty even in the first and in the second, we came out flat and they took it to us and got two more (goals).

"And they kept coming at us," Basiuk added. "And our battle effort was what theirs was." Barr, also a captain, noted the Engineers make their home conference debut next weekend against Vermont and Dartmouth."

"We still have a lot of things to build on, to improve," Barr said. "We just have to build on the positives from this weekend."

Unfortunately, there were few of those Saturday night.