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Icemen Foiled Again

RPI Stiffs Crimson

By David S. Griffel

This one hurt.

Go out into the numbing cold and slap your cheeks.

Go back inside and pour scalding water over your face.

Then, maybe, you'll be feeling just a tiny fraction of the discomfort that the Harvard men's hockey team suffered in its heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Rensselaer last night at Bright Hockey Center.

The Engineers (6-3-0 overall, 4-0-0 ECAC) scored with just 23 seconds left in regulation to win a game that the Crimson (3-4-1, 3-3-1) looked to have dominated for the final 15 minutes.

"It was a tough one," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "It's frustrating, but we can't let that frustration get to us."

The play that decided the game and ended Harvard's 14-game ECAC unbeaten streak at home started with a turnover in the Crimson's defensive zone.

RPI's Craig Hamelin sent the puck to the right point, where captain Adam Bartell fired a shot towards a pile of players in front of the Harvard goal. Eric Healey got his stick on the disc and deflected it into the upper right corner past junior goalie Tripp Tracy.

Harvard players and fans went into shock.

RPI players and fans became ecstatic.

"We got the goal when it counted," first-year Engineer Coach Dan Fridgen said. "It was a big one...and felt especially good to be on the winning side."

It certainly didn't seem that Fridgen's club would escape with the win, as Harvard had erased a 3-1 Engineer lead midway through the third period.

First-year Doug Sproule deflected captain Ben Coughlin's power-play shot through the pads of goalie Mike Tamburro to cut the Crimson's deficit to 3-2 with 9:28 to play.

Shortly thereafter, freshman Henry Higdon worked hard in the offensive zone to keep the puck free and left it for Sproule behind the goal. Sproule centered in front to sophomore Stuart Swenson, who roofed the puck over Tamburro to even the contest only 2:05 after Sproule's tally.

Harvard kept putting on the pressure, but Tamburro made the saves when he had to. The Crimson generated 17 shots on net in the period, but it just could not score that final goal.

"We were getting a lot of shots on net, but we've got to start putting them in," Coughlin said. "That's the biggest area we can improve on.

"We really did dominate the third period," he said. "They got lucky."

Harvard showed a lot of heart and strong play in the final stanza, but it took the team a long time to get in sync. The Crimson's passing was off most of the first two periods, and Harvard could convert on only one of its eight power plays through the first two periods. The end result was few quality scoring chances--15 Harvard shots on goal through 40 minutes.

"[RPI] was playing real aggressively on the man down," Sproule said. "We were finding the men, but just weren't putting the passes on the ticker-tape, and things weren't quite clicking."

The Engineers also put an anemic 15 shots on goal through two periods and looked somewhat sluggish for long spells, but they came out of the gate quick, scoring early in the game. They charged the Crimson goal in the first two minutes, and Eric Perardi finally stuffed the puck past Tracy on the team's fourth shot 1:23 in.

The Crimson retaliated with a power-play goal by Cory Gustalson, whose point shot deflected off an Engineer defenseman to knot to score at 1-1 with 6:20 left in the opening stanza.

But the killer all night for Harvard was sloppy defensive play. Although the team played good defense for most of the game, it seemed that every time it failed to clear the puck, RPI scored.

"We're inexperienced defensively," Tomassoni said, and one should clarify that it is the entire team that has had trouble clearing pucks, not just blue-liners. "We're getting experience, and we've got to move the puck a little quicker. We have to be a little more precise with our passing."

With just over three minutes left in the middle stanza, RPI defenseman Patrick Brownlee intercepted a clearing pass and sent a pass from the point to the right of Tracy. Hamelin was standing all alone. and he calmly deflected it in.

RPI's leading scorer-Bryan Richardson--racked up his 10th goal of the year when he nudged the puck in from Tracy's right on another chance that started when Harvard couldn't get the puck out of its own zone. That gave the Engineers a two-goal lead with 13:21 left in regulation.

"Mentally we were very into the game," Coughlin said. "A couple of times they broke out--they had those advantages that happened on quick turnovers."

Both teams had apparent goals waved off-Harvard junior Kirk Nielsen's first-period shot came inches short of crossing the goal-line. Bartell's wide-angle blast in the second period was ruled to go off the goal-post, but the angle from which it came out seemed to indicate that it had actually hit the inside frame of the goal and should have counted.

In any event, Harvard now has to prepare for Saturday's show-down against Brown, which was blanked by RPI on Saturday but which defeated the Crimson in the season opener.

The Crimson will need to play 60 solid minutes of hockey, which is something it hasn't really done so far. Harvard dominated the late stages of the game yesterday, but it had put itself in a big hole that it eventually couldn't get itself out of to win.

"We're getting better," Tomassoni said. "It's going to come. We've said all along it's going to take time."

"Eventually it will."Crimson File PhotoThe Crimson had a tough time getting to the puck last night.

Shortly thereafter, freshman Henry Higdon worked hard in the offensive zone to keep the puck free and left it for Sproule behind the goal. Sproule centered in front to sophomore Stuart Swenson, who roofed the puck over Tamburro to even the contest only 2:05 after Sproule's tally.

Harvard kept putting on the pressure, but Tamburro made the saves when he had to. The Crimson generated 17 shots on net in the period, but it just could not score that final goal.

"We were getting a lot of shots on net, but we've got to start putting them in," Coughlin said. "That's the biggest area we can improve on.

"We really did dominate the third period," he said. "They got lucky."

Harvard showed a lot of heart and strong play in the final stanza, but it took the team a long time to get in sync. The Crimson's passing was off most of the first two periods, and Harvard could convert on only one of its eight power plays through the first two periods. The end result was few quality scoring chances--15 Harvard shots on goal through 40 minutes.

"[RPI] was playing real aggressively on the man down," Sproule said. "We were finding the men, but just weren't putting the passes on the ticker-tape, and things weren't quite clicking."

The Engineers also put an anemic 15 shots on goal through two periods and looked somewhat sluggish for long spells, but they came out of the gate quick, scoring early in the game. They charged the Crimson goal in the first two minutes, and Eric Perardi finally stuffed the puck past Tracy on the team's fourth shot 1:23 in.

The Crimson retaliated with a power-play goal by Cory Gustalson, whose point shot deflected off an Engineer defenseman to knot to score at 1-1 with 6:20 left in the opening stanza.

But the killer all night for Harvard was sloppy defensive play. Although the team played good defense for most of the game, it seemed that every time it failed to clear the puck, RPI scored.

"We're inexperienced defensively," Tomassoni said, and one should clarify that it is the entire team that has had trouble clearing pucks, not just blue-liners. "We're getting experience, and we've got to move the puck a little quicker. We have to be a little more precise with our passing."

With just over three minutes left in the middle stanza, RPI defenseman Patrick Brownlee intercepted a clearing pass and sent a pass from the point to the right of Tracy. Hamelin was standing all alone. and he calmly deflected it in.

RPI's leading scorer-Bryan Richardson--racked up his 10th goal of the year when he nudged the puck in from Tracy's right on another chance that started when Harvard couldn't get the puck out of its own zone. That gave the Engineers a two-goal lead with 13:21 left in regulation.

"Mentally we were very into the game," Coughlin said. "A couple of times they broke out--they had those advantages that happened on quick turnovers."

Both teams had apparent goals waved off-Harvard junior Kirk Nielsen's first-period shot came inches short of crossing the goal-line. Bartell's wide-angle blast in the second period was ruled to go off the goal-post, but the angle from which it came out seemed to indicate that it had actually hit the inside frame of the goal and should have counted.

In any event, Harvard now has to prepare for Saturday's show-down against Brown, which was blanked by RPI on Saturday but which defeated the Crimson in the season opener.

The Crimson will need to play 60 solid minutes of hockey, which is something it hasn't really done so far. Harvard dominated the late stages of the game yesterday, but it had put itself in a big hole that it eventually couldn't get itself out of to win.

"We're getting better," Tomassoni said. "It's going to come. We've said all along it's going to take time."

"Eventually it will."Crimson File PhotoThe Crimson had a tough time getting to the puck last night.

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