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Bittersweet Ending for Engineers

Victories and Good Times Came, Just Too Late in Season

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 18, 2002

LAKE PLACID - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed its explosive ability and awesome power play at the ECAC Championship Tournament.

Unfortunately, the Engineers couldn't show an ability to battle defense-oriented Cornell in full-strength situations in all three zones.

Therefore, RPI's season ended with Saturday's 4-3 victory over Clarkson, a dull, sluggish game for two periods that had a thrilling ending.

The tournament's consolation game victory was the 20th for the Engineers, marking the third time in four years the Engineers (20-13-4) reached the 20-win figure.

While they just didn't put enough pressure on the Cornell net in the semifinals to have a chance to win - and while Harvard's stunning upset of the Big Red in the championship game no doubt accentuated their frustration - the Engineers concentrated on the positives of the weekend.

Not only did they hit the 20-win plateau, they posted crowd-pleasing, come-from-behind victories over Dartmouth and rival Clarkson.

Matt Murley's goal with 22 seconds remaining capped RPI's three-goal comeback and gave the Engineers third place in the tournament with the victory over Clarkson on Saturday.

"This was a great way to go out," said right winger Chris Migliore, one of eight seniors who played his last game on Saturday. "These last few weeks have been special."

While a stigma is usually attached to consolation games - even victorious ones - Murley noted that "not many teams get to win their last game of the season. And we (seniors) got a win the last game of our careers with a nice comeback against one of our big rivals."

They got a nice little third-place plaque and they could boast of two wins over Clarkson for the first time in eight years.

Remember, the Engineers were 2-6-2 on Jan. 16, had failed to beat Union for a second straight season (0-2-2), were buried in last place in the ECAC and, all their talent not withstanding, appeared to be going nowhere.

"We came from a long way back to get to this point," said senior defenseman Jim Vickers, who had two assists in the win over Clarkson.

Many felt that if regular-season champion and heavily-favored Cornell was to be upset at the Final Five in Lake Placid, Rensselaer would be the team to pull off the feat.

Other than the 23-6-2 Big Red, the Engineers were the hottest team in the conference and RPI had come within inches/seconds/whistles of deadlocking the Big Red late in a 2-1 loss to them three weeks earlier.

With First Team All-ECAC forwards Marc Cavosie and Murley heading the highest-scoring team in the ECAC, the RPI-Cornell semi was most anticipated.

Yet, the Big Red thwarted the Engineers in a 3-0 victory. One night later, it was Harvard that pulled the upset of Cornell, 4-3, in double overtime, earning the Crimson the ECAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Weeks and months from now, the Engineers will long lament the many lost points in several ties and tight losses - games they should have won - that ultimately cost them an NCAA at-large bid.

"Yeah, it's a little tough to swallow, looking back on it," senior center Jim Henkel said.

"We'll reflect back," said captain Steve Munn, "but we won two games up here and we want to enjoy that for now."

Winger Andrew McPherson, defenseman Hamish Cunning and goalie Jim Palmer were the other seniors who finished their RPI careers with a record of 82-53-10.