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A Tale of Two Goaltenders

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 3, 2002

TROY - "Looks like Dan Fridgen has a goaltender controversy on his hands," said a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fan after watching 'backup' goalie Kevin Kurk win the Most Valuable Player Award in the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament last week.

Not really.

This isn't the National Football League, where whenever a quarterback has one ineffective game and the backup comes in and does a creditable job - win or lose - it's instant controversy.

It's a bit different with Fridgen, Kurk and Nathan Marsters, though.

Fridgen says he's often unsure who's going to start until warmups, even though Marsters won the job halfway through last season and should have won the ECAC Rookie of the Year Award (2.35 goals against average, 92.9 percent saves percentage, 14 wins).

"A lot of times, I just like to go with my gut feeling," says the eighth-year RPI coach. "A team relies on the goaltender to come up with a big, game-winning save. There are going to be times when you break down defensively and the goaltender needs to make the big save, on a breakaway, or a power-play situation. One or two times a game when you say, 'wow, that should have been a goal.' Saves like that can put life in a team, just like letting in a soft goal or two can take life out of a team."

"Kevin really reacted well to that situation," he said. "He makes that big save against Quinnipiac (against Matt Froehlich from right in front), then a short time later we scored."

Fridgen wouldn't say flatly that, as of right now, Kurk is more reliable in those huge saves (Marsters was last season) but he did assert that Kurk is playing a bit more consistently and with more confidence.

Marsters had big troubles controlling rebounds early this season. He corrected himself, but has been inconsistent of late. Kurk cam in during the second period of last week's Rensselaer Holiday Tournament victory over Quinnipiac, stopped all 22 shots he faced, then beat UMass in the title game with 32 saves.

"Kevin really stepped up when we needed him," Fridgen said.

Fridgen admits he feels more comfortable when both goaltenders are sharp, when both are confident.

Kurk said he hopes to start Friday night's game with Brown (and win, then start again Saturday against Harvard). He stopped short of saying he 'expected' to play Friday night.

"That's Coach's decision, totally," he said.

Who'll start Friday. Don't expect a decision before Friday.

SHIELDS TOPS OF WEEK: Ryan Shields, whose two goals won the UMass game for the Engineers, has become the third RPI player to be named Player of the Week by the ECAC.

Shields, a sophomore left winger (who's been playing right wing this season) from Portage LaPrairie, Man., scored the tying goal early in the third period in the Holiday tourney title game, then four minutes into overtime, slipped a rebound in behind UMass goalie Mike Johnson to lift the Engineers to tourney throne for the first time since 1998.

Shields, who set up Chris Migliore's double-overtime goal which beat Quinnipiac, now has four goals and three assists after somewhat of a slow start offensively.

"I'm feeling good and the puck's been bouncing my way a bit," said Shields, who had five goals and eight assists in 34 games as a freshman last year.

"It felt good to get a few points and help the team win; that's what's most important," he said.

Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley were back-to-back Players of the Week in Weeks 2 and 3.

Meanwhile, Kurk was named Goaltender of the Week for the second time, having won the award in Week 2 for his 31-save win over nationally-ranked New Hampshire.

TELLING STATS: Statistics sometimes can be manipulated, often they can be over-analyzed and sometimes they're plain meaningless. But get these numbers from RPI's overtime win over UMass, which followed the near 91-minute game against Quinnipiac.

The Engineers put 33 shots on Minutemen goalie Mike Johnson - 19 by defensemen. That's a great sign just how tired the Engineers were. In addition to being without star left winger Matt Murley, the Engineers won despite: getting no points from either of their top two scorers, Marc Cavosie or Nolan Graham and getting no shots on goal from Graham or Jim Henkel, just one from Carson Butterwick and three from Cavosie.

Massachusetts may be only a decent team, but that was a huge win for the Engineers. They easily could have lost that game.

"That's what we're going to need to make our run in the league, other guys to step up," said Murley, who hopes to return from his bout with mononucleosis this weekend.

HUGE WIN, MIGHTY FALL: Victories by ECAC teams over the WCHA are rare. That's been well-chronicled.

The Brown Bears posted a huge one last Thursday night, beating Wisconsin on its own ice, 2-1. The Bears - and the ECAC - had little time to savor the big triumph, though. The following night, in the title game of the Badger Classic, the Bears were tied with New Hampshire, 2-2. Then, the roof caved in on the Bears. They surrendered nine - yep, nine - goals in the final period and were forced to write down an ugly 11-3 L in their ledger.

That victory over Wisconsin is the ECAC's only one in 15 tries this year and the conference is 13-50-3 against all three of the other traditional conferences.

We'll have more on this season's inter-conference futility in a couple weeks.