March 16, 2012

Burgasser Engineering Stevens' Defensive Corps

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

He's the top civil engineering junior in the state of New Jersey, but Tyler Burgasser had a tendency to overthink his role as a close defenseman for No. 4 Stevens. Now that he's no longer worrying about the intracacies of the sport and just playing, he has become a key cog for the Ducks.
© Stevens Athletic Department

For the second time in the first half, a Springfield attackman got the jump on Tyler Burgasser.

The Stevens junior close defender was again caught flat-footed, a symptom produced by Burgasser's occasionally overly analytical mind, and he was beaten for a goal that allowed the Pride to hang around with the fourth-ranked Ducks.

"I find myself kind of taking that half step to make the play, and then I start thinking what happens if that happens," said Burgasser.

He had an idea of what was coming next. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw members of the Stevens coaching staff waving him to the sidelines.

Burgasser was getting pulled.

It was the last thing Stevens head coach Gene Peluso wanted to do. If the Ducks hope to achieve their goals, they'll need Burgasser at his best on the backline. Oddly enough, he's at his best when he's not being as cerebral as he usually is.

"He's as smart of a defenseman as we have," said Peluso. "We'll say, 'Ty, sometimes you just have to stop thinking about it and just go out and do it.' He's so smart, but sometimes he's too smart. We've had that conversation. All of our assistants say, 'Ty, stop. Just play.'"

Burgasser is a civil engineering major at Stevens, and Peluso knows all about dealing with engineers. Before taking over at Stevens three years ago, he was the long-time coach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, which had a roster stacked with them. They produce different questions for a coaching staff than perhaps other students in other disciplines.

This year, Burgasser asked Peluso about the protocol if Stevens faces a situation where it will need a fifth or sixth slide on a particular possession.

"I said, 'Tyler, if we need a sixth slide, let's just put the ball in our own cage, we'll face it off and see what happens,'" Peluso said. "I'm just not smart enough to figure it out. My whole career has been coaching engineers, and they are funny people when it comes to that stuff. They are so analytical on the field."

Burgasser might be the smartest of the bunch.

He was nominated by the Stevens civil engineering department to represent the institution for the Solseid Award, given annually to the top junior in the state of New Jersey majoring in civil engineering. After going through the interview process, pitting him against students from Princeton, Rutgers and other schools, Burgasser was named the honoree, picking up a $10,000 scholarship for his efforts. His 3.9 grade point average helped.

"It's a pretty big deal," said Peluso.

Earning the award was a tacit confirmation that Burgasser had made the right choice when selecting schools. He was recruited hard at RIT by Peluso, but because civil engineering consists mainly of planning and building large infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and tunnels, he thought Hoboken would be a better fit.

"New York City is kind of the Mecca of construction," Burgasser said. "That's kind of why I wanted to come to Stevens."

Civil engineering was the last thing on Burgasser's mind when he was standing on the sidelines after getting yanked against Springfield.

"Ever since I picked up a stick, I've been the guy who takes it really personally when I play bad, especially when I get beat," he said. "I really take that to heart. When I got pulled, it was definitely a low point for me. But you have to be ready when you get called on again."

He got the call again during a couple of man-down situations against Springfield. He responded by picking off a pair of passes, grabbing a couple of ground balls and even producing a single-handed clear.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, he had his starting spot back.

"I would imagine that's how he does in his school life, as well," Peluso said. "If he gets a bad grade, and it probably doesn't happen very often, he responds and crushes it. It's kind of who he is. It's what he's made of and the type of kid he is. That was his defining moment."

Burgasser followed his Springfield performance by playing the best game of his career against Endicott in the Ducks overtime win, according to Peluso. With Stevens hosting second-ranked Tufts in one of the biggest games of the weekend, he'll be counted on once again to solidify the defensive unit.

If he's at his best, you'll know he's not worrying about the sixth slide.

"Sometimes you've just got to be an athlete and make something happen," Burgasser said.


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