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Engineers Tally Early, Hang On

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 6, 2004

TROY - By his own admission, senior goaltender Nathan Marsters wasn’t at his best Friday night in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s ECAC playoff opener against Princeton.

Thanks to the Engineers’ offense, particularly their potent power play, he was good enough.

RPI converted three of six power-play chances to open up a 5-2 lead, and survived a furious Tigers’ comeback in the third period for a 5-4 victory at Houston Field House.

The two teams meet again tonight at 7, with the fifth-seeded Engineers a win away from their third straight opening-round sweep. Princeton, 0-14-2 since Dec. 16 and seeded 12th in the 12-team tournament, must win to force a decisive third game Sunday night.

Sophomore forward Kevin Croxton scored twice, junior Nick Economakos had a goal and two assists and Scott Basiuk and Kirk MacDonald two assists apiece for RPI (20-13-12).

Marsters, who had allowed only six goals in the last five games, finished with 22 saves, as Princeton (5-23-2) scored three times on 12 shots in the third period.

"I wasn’t too sharp all night. It was probably one of my worst games in a long time," Marsters said. "Luckily, the guys were there with the offense to bail me out. I just didn’t have it. It was the first time in a long time I felt that bad in a game. Hopefully, that’s it for a while."

Economakos swept in a loose puck that rolled slowly across the goal line for a 5-2 lead with 6:27 left in the third period, before the Tigers roared back. Darroll Powe beat Marsters between the pads with a 20-foot wrist shot at 16:34 to make it 5-3, and Sharam Fouldagar-Mercer snapped in a quick shot from nearly the same spot with 2:12 remaining.

Princeton even had a goal disallowed earlier in the third, when Fouldagar-Mercer tapped in a loose puck behind a fallen Marsters at 10:17 only a split second after referee Joel Dupree lost sight of it and blew the play dead.

"Any time you get a lead like that, you never want to give it up, especially in the playoffs," Economakos said, "but, bottom line is, it’s a win. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10-1 or 1-0. Give them credit, they played real good in the third period, and scored some goals. But we’re in the position we want to be in, one win from advancing to the next round."

Ryan Shields deflected in Blake Pickett’s high shot from the point 4:56 into the game for a 1-0 RPI lead. Croxton’s slam dunk at the left post 6:26 into the second period made it 2-0 before Sebastien Borza ripped a shot over Marsters’ left shoulder just under the crossbar at 8:40.

"A win’s a win," Croxton said. "Everyone’s dangerous in the playoffs. We’ll just move on to [tonight] and come hard with intensity for all 60 minutes."