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RPI Snaps Dartmouth Jinx, 3-1

Holds Off Rally, Eyes Spot in Finals

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 13, 2004

HANOVER, N.H. - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ended its seven-game winless skid against Dartmouth at Thompson Arena Friday, but just barely.

The Engineers took a two goal lead after two periods, and withstood a furious third-period rally by the Big Green to pull out a 3-1 victory in Game 1 of the ECAC hockey tournament quarterfinals.

The fifth-seeded Engineers (22-13-2) took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. They can clinch the series and earn a trip to Pepsi Arena for the championship round if they win Game 2 tonight at 7. A win by the fourth-seeded Big Green (12-9-9) would force a third game at 7 p.m. Sunday.

"They came after us real hard in the third period," said RPI forward Kirk MacDonald, who scored the first goal through goalie Dan Yacey’s pads late in the first period and added an assist. "They were all over us. We stuck to our defensive play as best we could there. We held on to the victory. It probably wasn’t one of our better third periods, but we’ll take the victory any way we can do it."

RPI hadn’t won at Dartmouth since an 8-5 victory Nov. 13, 1998. Since then, the Engineers went 0-6-1, including two losses in the first round of the 2001 ECAC tournament.

"You’re coming here, and obviously, in order to move on, you need to win here," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "I don’t think we gave [the streak] much thought."

For the senior class, this was their first triumph at Dartmouth.

"This year, we have a totally different team," said senior defenseman Scott Basiuk, who scored the game-winner on the power play midway through the second period. "We came in here and blew one earlier in the year. We had them. I think the boys have learned and matured a lot since then. It’s a completely different team than the one that came in here freshman year."

Dartmouth, which had a firstround bye, turned up the pressure in the third period. The Big Green pulled to within one when Mike Oullette scored a power-play goal at 4:59.

The pressure increased later in the period.

Chris Snizek missed a chance to tie it when his backhander rolled across the crease and out the right side with 6:40 left. Less than a minute later, Nathan Marsters stopped a left-wing drive by Eric Przepiorka. With 4:39 to go, Marsters made a save on a Hugh Jessiman shot from the slot.

"I thought we had great chances to score," Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. "It just didn’t go in for us. Their goalie played really well."

Marsters’ biggest save came 32 seconds later. Basiuk couldn’t control a bouncing puck in front of the net. The puck ended up on Lee Stempniak’s stick at the left of the net. He tried to get the puck past Marsters, but Marsters kept it out.

"Guys kept their composure," said Marsters, who made 33 saves. "The D-men did a good job blocking shots, clearing rebounds and keeping guys to the side. They kept the temperature gauge down."

Nick Economakos’ empty-net goal with 57 seconds left clinched the win.