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Big Red Handcuff Engineers

RPIís ECAC Title Hopes Diminish, 2-1

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 21, 2004

TROY - When Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute plays Cornell, you know what kind of game will be played. It will always involve clutching and grabbing.

The Big Red worked that style to perfection Friday at Houston Field House. They held the Engineers to 18 shots on goal, kept RPIís power play from being a factor and took over sole possession of third place in the ECAC with a 2-1 victory.

"Cornellís a fun team to play," said forward Vic Pereira, who scored RPIís only goal with 12:19 left in the game. "I think our styles match up quite nicely. Whatever team usually gets the breaks comes out on top. Unfortunately, they capitalized on their opportunities, and we didnít."

The Engineers (11-7-1 ECAC, 17-12-2 overall) slipped into a fourth-place tie with Dartmouth, which skated to a 2-2 tie with Princeton. However, Dartmouth holds the tiebreaker edge for the final ECAC tournament first-round bye slot by winning the season series, 1-0-1.

RPI is three points behind Brown and Colgate, which are tied for first place. Colgate visits RPI tonight at 7. There are three games left in the regular season.

The Engineersí frustration with the Big Redís style was displayed with 1:25 left in the game, when Kirk MacDonald took a retaliatory slashing penalty against Chris Abbott, who had knocked him down in front of the RPI bench.

"Rugby on ice," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "It was a wellplayed game both ways, but there were a lot of scrums. It was tough to get open space. Thatís the way they played, and thatís the way they called it."

Cornell (11-5-3, 13-7-6), which is one point out of first place after winning its fifth straight game, killed off both of RPIís power plays. That ended a streak of 12 games, and 20 of the last 21, in which the Engineers scored a power-play goal.

In the Engineersí 2-0 win at Cornell Jan. 17, both goals came on the power play.

"Weíve become a lot more disciplined," Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. "We knew against them, we had to stay out of the [penalty] box, and we did that."

Neither team scored in an evenly played first period, but the second period belonged to Cornell. The Big Red outshot the Engineers, 8-3, and had the better of the scoring chances. Cornell attempted 16 shots, compared to just five for RPI.

A turnover led to the first goal.

RPI defenseman Scott Basiuk was in the slot when he intercepted a Mike Knoepfli pass from behind the Engineers net, but Basiuk lost control of the puck. It was stolen by Mike Iggulden, who passed it to Greg Hornby at the left of the net. Hornby quickly fired it past a sliding Nathan Marsters at 13:36.

"The guy [Iggulden] whacked at it when it came off my skate," Basiuk said. "Thatís just one of the breaks in hockey."

The Big Red got another break while on the power play early in the third period.

Basiuk was attempting a clearing pass from behind his net. The puck hit Ben Barrís shin pad and deflected to Matt Moulson in the high slot. Moulson fired a wrist shot over Marsters í right shoulder.

"I had it wide open, and Benny called it," Basiuk said. "He kind of skated right into it as I was putting it down the ice. Usually, if I shoot it hard enough, itíll go out. But it went right to [Moulson], and he fired it top shelf."

Notebook

RPIís seven seniors will be honored before tonightís game. They are Barr, Basiuk, Marsters, Conrad Barnes, Mikael Hammarstrom, Kevin Kurk and Ryan Shields. . . .

The last time RPI won the regular-season series against Cornell was in 1998-99, when it went 1-0-1. The Engineers last won two games in the regular season against Big Red in 1997-98.