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Engineers Advance in OT

Barrís Goal Turns Aside Princeton

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 7, 2004

TROY - It took a little longer than expected, but the end result was all that mattered.

Senior forward Ben Barr swept in a rebound of Matt McNeelyís shot 98 seconds into overtime to lift Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute past Princeton, 3-2, in their ECAC first-round playoff game Saturday night at Houston Field House.

The victory enabled the Engineers (21-13-2) to sweep the pesky Tigers in the best-of-three series and avoid a decisive third game tonight. They advance to play at fourth-seeded Dartmouth, beginning Friday night in quarterfinals.

Barr figured in all the scoring for RPI, setting up Nick Economakos 88 seconds into the first period and fellow co-captain Scott Basiuk on the equalizer with 2:23 left in the third.

"We wanted to make sure we went out on a winning note," Barr said. "We needed to do it tonight. At least we took care of that."

It wasnít easy against a tough Tigers team that got great goaltending from sophomore Eric Leroux, who finished with 41 saves, and strong penalty-killing to snuff out all six RPI power plays.

"With their season on the line, they played us really hard. They certainly put us to the test," head coach Dan Fridgen said. "We believed in ourselves. You look at the last two goals, thatís your leadership stepping up, making big plays when big plays need to be made."

RPI kept up steady pressure in the third period, outshooting the Tigers, 15-4, but didnít get the equalizer until Basiukís seeing-eye wrister from the bottom of the left circle that deflected off a Princeton defender in front and trickled between Lerouxís pads. Basiuk, who made a nice play to keep the puck in at the blue line, stepped around a sliding defenseman before releasing the shot.

"I donít know how many blocked shots they had on me tonight," Basiuk said. "I just tried to get it on net. I finally said, ĎMaybe I should fake one and try to get around that guy.í Fortunately, it went in."

The Engineers got another good bounce on the winner. Pressing from the overtime faceoff, RPI spent the entire time in the Tigersí zone. Driving to the net as McNeely wound up, Barr shoved a backhander through a crowd in front and just inside the far post.

"I just kind of got my stick on it. I didnít see it go in," he said. "I guess it just kind of sneaked in there real slow. It was pretty lucky, but Iím glad itís over with now."

Just as they did Friday, the Engineers led 1-0 after the first 20 minutes. Barr jumped onto the ice on a line change and right into a loose puck at center ice, skated in up the right side and slid a centering pass to Nick Economakos, who lifted it over a sliding Leroux,

Though credited with only six shots, Princeton carried the play in the second period, scoring twice, both on a power play that came into the game ranked 11th in the 12-team ECAC. Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer finished off a cross-ice pass from Seamus Young at 3:21, and Dustin Sproat tipped Patrick Neundorferís pass with 4:17 left for its only lead of the series.

"I was proud of the effort. The effort was tremendous from start to finish," said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle, whose club finished the season on an 0-15-2 slide. "Over the course of the game we started to gain confidence as the game went on, but in the last couple minutes RPI really took it to us."

RPI was 0-1-1 against Dartmouth this season, tying 1-1 at home Nov. 15 and losing 4-3 on the road Jan. 30, the last time the Engineers allowed four goals in a game.