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College Hockey:
Stone Wall: Foster, Air Force Shut Out RPI For Tourney Title

— RPI fired 32 shots on goal against Air Force Saturday. The Engineers had 11 power plays.

But Falcons sophomore goalie Peter Foster didn’t let a puck get past him.

Foster earned MVP honors and was named the all-tournament goalie for leading the Falcons to a 1-0 victory Saturday over the Engineers in the championship game of the Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Tournament at Houston Field House.

It is the first major tournament title for the Falcons (6-4-2), while the Engineers (7-7-1) have gone three straight years without winning their own tournament. It was RPI’s first appearance in the final since taking the 2001 championship. The Engineers finished last the previous two years.

RPI coach Dan Fridgen praised the Falcons, and Foster in particular. It was Foster’s fourth shutout of the season, which is tops in the nation.

“It was a well-played game,” Fridgen said. “Give them credit, they had a hot goaltender. He stood on his head, and we threw everything at him and then some. We just couldn’t put the puck by him.”

Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster, didn’t focus on his effort when asked about his performance.

“I looked in the locker room after the game and how happy our guys were,” Foster said. “It’s our first major tournament victory. That made me happy more than anything, more happy that leading the nation in shutouts. Just the team thing made me more happy than individual awards.”

At 5-foot-9, Foster’s size scared off many college programs. But not Air Force. Falcons coach Frank Serratore saw that Foster had a big heart.

“He had that knack of making bad teams good in junior hockey, and winning games for his team that they shouldn’t have won,” Serratore said. “You can’t teach that. That’s a characteristic that you either have, or you don’t. That was the reason we went after him as hard as we did, and we’re lucky we got him.”

Despite 11 power plays, the Engineers managed just 16 shots on those chances. They also failed to score on two five-on-threes. Air Force also blocked 22 shots.

“We weren’t shooting the puck early,” Fridgen said. “We were moving it up top a little bit too much. Again, give them credit. There were a lot of shots that did not make it to the net.

“They blocked a lot of them. We had to adjust and throw the puck to the side of the net because they were doing such a good job of getting in the shooting lane and forcing us to shoot into them, or getting the puck off the net and looking for somebody on the strong side down low.”

The Falcons snapped a scoreless tie late in the second period with a power-play goal.

Brandon Merkosky, the son of former Adirondack Red Wings great Glenn Merkosky, took a shot that was stopped by goalie Andrew Martin. However, Martin bobbled the puck as he tried to freeze it. After Andrew Ramsey took a whack at it, defenseman Brian Gineo came in from his point position and batted it past Martin with 1:23 left in the period.

“It hit him, and he just let it drop,” Fridgen said. “I thought there could have been a quicker whistle on that — but there wasn’t — because he did cover it. They come in, and they were jabbing at it. The whistle didn’t go, and it got behind him.”

Notebook

RPI placed two players on the all-tournament team, defenseman Brad Farynuk and forward Kevin Broad. They scored goals in RPI’s 2-0 win Friday over Robert Morris. … The rest of the all-tournament team are Gineo and fellow Air Force defenseman Brooks Turnquist. Robert Morris forward Jace Buzek was also named to the squad. … Next year’s tournament will feature Holy Cross, Nebraska-Omaha and Providence.

Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.

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