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RPI Reverses Fortunes Against Nationally-ranked Teams

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 24, 2003

TROY - Prior to Friday night, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had lost 13 of their last 15 games against nationally-ranked teams.

This fact I just a humorous memory now after the Engineers took down the nation's No. 5 team, St. Cloud State, twice.

The Engineers, who'd been outscored 13-8 in the second period, outscored the Huskies 3-1 in the middle stanzas, then won both games in the third period on goals by Vic Pereira and Kevin Croxton.

Last season, the Engineers just didn't do that. They've already won three games in the third period, and one in overtime. RPI is 4-0 in games decided by one goal after posting a 2-8 record in such games during the 2002-03 regular season.

Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen said it was as good a weekend for RPI hockey as he can remember.

Within the past three and one-third seasons, co-captain Scott Basiuk certainly agrees.

"I don't remember any weekend that we played quite as well as we did this weekend," he said.

"That Princeton weekend my second season (2002 ECAC playoffs) was right up there."

The Engineers were dominant in that series, winning 5-3 and 6-0 but Princeton had a 11-18-2 record that season, not the talented team St. Cloud State is today.

"These guys are quick and can skate with the puck," Basiuk said of the Huskies.

"We played well defensively, (goalie Nate Marsters) played real well in the nets again. That's just confidence playing in front of a guy like that right now."

Both Basiuk and co-captain Ben Barr were asked how far the Engineers have come since the season-opening pair of 5-2 defeats at Boston University and Providence College. In these games, the mistakes were glaring and six of the 10 goals resulted from poor RPI clearing passes or odd-man breakouts allowed.

"I think we've just learned to bear down a little bit better and not get so antsy with the puck," Basiuk said. "Just hold on to it, make a good play. Just the little things, getting the puck out, not turning it over in the neutral zone."

"Sometimes, our 'D' sometimes allows a little too much gap but all in all, at least we're not making mistakes and getting caught up ice," Basiuk said.

Barr noted that the deaths of Tom Cavosie, equipment manager and father of former Rensselaer forwards Marc and Eric Cavosie, and of RPI women's coach Bill Cahill, who as a men's assistant coach had recruited Barr, Basiuk and other current seniors, have brought the team together.

"We've been through a lot together," Barr said. "Some tough times. And last year (a 12-25-3 record). Everyone has just bonded together and played for one another."

Marsters' numbers improve: They're just numbers, and there's a long way to go in the season but Marsters must be silently pleased to see his stats - especially his saves percentage - take such a positive leap of late.

Due mainly to the poor defensive zone play of his teammates, Marsters' saves percentage after two games was just 83.9. Since then, he's blanked Army, held St. Cloud to the aforementioned three goals in two games and has stopped 222 of 243 shots (91.4 percent) to get his season percentage up to a solid 90.7.

His goals against average has improved from 4.54 to 2.47.

"He was just as good as last year," St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said of Marsters.

Dahl saw Marsters beat his team for the third straight time, stopping 104 of 108 shots in the process.

Ranked or not?: When the U.S. College Hockey Online poll comes out today, will the Engineers be ranked?

Probably not, but they should be first or second among teams also receiving votes.

"If we keep playing the way we have been, the recognition will come eventually," Pereira said.

"If we're not ranked, that's even better," Croxton said. "We just want to bring our lunch pails to work, play defense first and do what we have to do."

Interesting. Dahl, who had expected to leave Houston Field House with a pair of victories, had referred to the Engineers as "A very good lunch-pail team."

McNeely finds the net: If you'd made a bet six weeks ago that RPI's goals leader among defensemen was not either Basiuk or Brad Farynuk, you'd have been offered some great odds. And then junior right-sider Matt McNeely would have made you a loser.

St. Cloud let him skate right to the net Saturday night and McNeely burned the Huskies for a game-tying goal. It was his third of the season. Basiuk and Farynuk each has two.