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Engineers Anxious to Drop Puck

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 7, 2004

TROY - The leaves are falling, the pucks are flying and the Engineers are antsy.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute opens its 2004-05 hockey season on Saturday in Omaha, Neb., meeting Merrimack in the opening round of Nebraska-Omaha's Maverick Stampede.

Last season, the Engineers - record-wise - were the ECAC's most-improved team, posting a 13-8-1 league record (22-15-2 overall) after finishing 4-15-3 (12-25-3) the previous season.

They narrowly missed a berth in the conference semifinals at Pepsi Arena and thus, can't wait to lace 'em up and go bang heads with another team, rather than among themselves.

"There's not a guy on the team right now who's not having trouble falling asleep at night and not thinking about (Saturday)," junior co-captain Brad Farynuk said. "I know it's in the back of my mind and you keep thinking about those first strides out there in Nebraska. It's exciting." The Engineers will play either Nebraska-Omaha or UConn in the consolation/championship round on Sunday night, then host the UConn Huskies in their home opener on Oct. 16.

Houston Field House is a bit brighter these days, with new dasherboards, new glass and fresh paint.

New line: During the annual Red-White Intrasquad Scrimmage last week, RPI head coach Dan Fridgen put most of the juniors and seniors on the White team, underclassmen on the Red (who overcame a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime).

So, he put his three top-scorers - right-wingers Kevin Croxton and Kirk MacDonald and left winger Nick Economakos.

He'll keep the trio together for the opener, moving Croxton to the off- left wing and have Economakos center the line.

Croxton had 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points last season, followed by MacDonald (15-19-34) and Economakos (10-20-30).

"They've played together on the power play (last season) and I thought I'd just take a look and see what they can do in 5-on-5 situations," Fridgen said. "Nick seems to be comfortable, he saw some time at center last year, so I want to see what that looks like. But I've certainly got enough guys on the wings who are natural centers, so if I want to make an adjustment, I can."

Each of the players is excited about the new combo.

"Any time you can play with guys like Crox and MacDonald, who put the puck in the net the way they do, it's definitely exciting to be part of it," co-captain Economakos said.

"It's exciting," said Croxton, who has no problem playing the off wing. "Those guys are fun to play with. We all think the game well and it's great to play with creative players."

"I played some left wing two years ago," Croxton said. "And the way our defense is run anyway, the first (forward) back in the (defensive) zone plays low, so that could be me or Kirk. We're all used to playing every (forward) position anyway."

"Great to play with those two," MacDonald said. "Can't complain at all. Great offensive players. Croxton, one of the top scorers in the league and it should be a lot of fun to play with those two guys. We'll see what happens this weekend."

Tutoring: Rensselaer senior goalie Andrew Martin knows how Kurt Warner feels.

He's pretty much in the same position as Warner.

The New York Giants brought in the oft-injured veteran quarterback to tutor QB of the Future - an expensive one - Eli Manning.

"Yeah, I do," said Martin, a Plano, Texas native and transfer from Fairfield U. "I was watching when they brought in Manning, it was a big deal that they had a guy with experience (Warner). He's stepped into a different and done well." Martin will play one of RPI's two games this weekend but he knows that freshman Jordan Alford is RPI's future goalie. It's just a matter of when.

"Yeah, he asks me things, like 'what am I supposed to do here with all this stuff going on (such as Wednesday's Media Day, etc.). It's pretty funny."

"Jordan is really sound fundamentally and movement-wise," Martin said. "I've been trying to teach him ... playing the puck. He told me that in juniors he really didn't play it a lot and Fridge told him that's what really stuck out, his puck-handling. So, I've been trying to teach him situations when you get the puck, you want to go here or whatever. And he's been coming along. I've been watching him in practice with his passes, he's picking up what I've been telling him."

"We goaltenders all stick together," Martin said. "We're out there all alone."