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RPI Dug Deep to Make Itself at Home

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 4, 2002

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won't have to pack a bag this weekend.

The Engineers completed their improbable rise from last place to a tie for third Saturday with a 3-1 must-win over Colgate, and claimed the final home ice spot in the ECAC playoffs.

The Engineers (16-12-4 overall), who finished with just two losses (both 2-1) in their final 10 games (7-2-1), are the No. 5 seed and will host No. 6 Princeton (10-10-2, 11-16-2) in the first-round, best-of-3 series Friday and Saturday nights at Houston Field House and Sunday, if necessary (7 p.m. each night).

Even during their six-game winning streak, it seemed the Engineers' drive to be home for the first round would fall short. They needed help in other games - they got plenty over the weekend - and their Saturday victory moved them ahead of both Colgate and Brown, into the fifth slot.

"The (senior might) ceremonies were very emotional," senior star Matt Murley said after Saturday's victory. "I couldn't imagine this being my last (home) game at RPI. Thank God these guys stepped up for us."

"At one point there, probably about five weeks ago, we left ourselves very little room for error."

At that time, Jan. 16, a 5-4 loss at Union in which the Engineers dominated the Dutchmen, the Engineers found themselves in last place. That's right, 12th and last, with a record of 2-6-2.

Since then, RPI went 8-3-1 in ECAC play (9-3-2 overall) and had an obvious goal by Matt Murley disallowed, costing them a victory in a 2-2 tie with Bowling Green. They lost a game in which they led Dartmouth 2-1 with less than four minutes to play at home, but bounce back to tie the Big Green in their own place in the very next game.

"I give these guys all the credit in the world," Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen said. "They battled back, they faced a lot of adversity and they got the job done. I'm real happy for the seniors that they get to come back and play another weekend at home."

Big Goal: Ben Barr was a healthy scratch for several games during Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutes' recent six-game winning streak.

The sophomore winger was as happy - and relieved - as anyone that the Engineers were finally winning. He, of course, would have liked to have been a part of it.

The quiet Faribault, Minn., native just waited until he was back in the lineup. And on Saturday night, Barr put aside a season-long slump and scored one of the bigger goals of the season, keying the Engineers' 3-1 victory over Colgate.

He fired a 40-foot blast past Red Raiders' goalie David Cann to grab the momentum away from the Red Raiders and restore the Engineers' two-goal lead late in the second period.

Sooo Close: It ain't just baseball, folks, most sports are games of inches.

Jim Henkel's final shot of Friday night's 2-1 loss to Cornell and his goal Saturday night against Colgate were perfect illustrations.

Henkel, a few feet outside the crease, tried to tip in a shot from the point in the closing seconds of the Cornell game. It was a nice shot, gently lifted from the blade of Henkel's stick and had a chance to go over the glove of Big Red goalie Dave LeNeveu.

It hit near the top of the glove and dropped down where LeNeveu covered it with two seconds left in the game.

Ironically, Henkel's goal that gave the Engineers a 2-0 lead over Colgate bounced off the top of Cann's glove and into the net.

Had his tipper cleared LeNeveu's glove - and assuming RPI and Cornell remained tied through overtime - the Engineers would have finished in third place alone.

And they wouldn't have to worry about the semifinals play-in game at the ECAC's Final 5 semifinals.