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Engineersí Title Hopes Dashed, 3-2

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 22, 2004

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute entered the weekend with a shot at first place in the ECAC and a firstround bye in the conference tournament.

But the Engineers ended the weekend with first place out of reach, and a first-round bye uncertain.

RPI put on a furious effort in the third period in trying to overcome a two-goal deficit against ECAC-leading Colgate, but couldnít overcome a rough first 40 minutes and dropped a 3-2 decision Saturday in its regular-season home finale at Houston Field House.

The loss became even more damaging when Dartmouth beat Yale, 6-3. Dartmouth moved into fourth place, two points ahead of RPI (11-8-1 ECAC, 17-13-2 overall). The fifth-place Engineers, who dropped a 2-1 decision to Cornell on Friday, are at least guaranteed home ice in the first round. They can finish as high as second and as low as seventh.

RPI concludes the regular season next weekend at Princeton and Yale.

If the Engineers hope to earn a first-round bye, they must come out with more fire than they showed over the weekend. Against the Raiders (13-5-2, 18-9-5), RPI fell behind, 1-0, on Adam Mitchellís goal 49 seconds into the game.

Although Vic Pereira tied the score at 3:43 into the first period, Darryl McKinnon restored Colgateís lead with a power-play goal 87 seconds later.

"Itís just unfortunate for the seniors on their evening that not everybody came to play in that first period," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said.

Scott Basiuk, who was one of seven seniors honored before the game, couldnít understand why the team was lackluster.

"Coming into it, the boys felt good. I felt good," Basiuk said. "We came out slow tonight. Itís frustrating. Youíre all jacked up, and you just have a letdown right off the bat."

Kevin Croxton was denied a potential tying goal with 5:37 left in the second period. Goalie Steve Silverthorn stopped his breakaway attempt, and as Silverthorn was falling backward, referee Joel Dupree blew his whistle just as the puck was emerging from his pads and into the net.

Colgateís power play struck again late in the second, when Jon Smyth scored during a twoman advantage. RPIís power play, meanwhile, was 0-for-4.

"Their special teams outplayed our special teams tonight," Fridgen said. "Against a team like that, as good as they are on the power play, we canít put them on the power play as many times as we did. Then if youíre going to, then youíve got to kill it off, which we didnít do."

RPI outshot Colgate, 11-4, in the third period. Blake Pickett cut Colgateís lead to one with a goal at 7:47.

"Weíve got to come out strong for every game," Croxton said. "We shouldnít need to fall behind before we start playing our best hockey. Itís a sad state when youíve got to wait until youíre down a couple of goals before you pick it up."

The Engineers had numerous other chances after that. Conrad Barnes hit the post with 6:03 left. Nick Economakos missed an open net with 3:31 to go. Croxton had was denied on three chances after goalie Nathan Marsters was pulled for an extra skater with 1:30 left.