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Engineers Finally Get Victory Over Huskies

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 18, 2004

TROY - Nothing beats victory, even if it comes against a team you should beat.

In Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's case Saturday night, the 4-1 triumph came against a team the Engineers should beat - Connecticut - but a team the Engineers had to write down a tie in their book in each of the two previous meetings of the teams.

So, the win, the season's first for the 1-1-1 Engineers, is quite welcome, especially since they must travel to one of the tougher buildings for visiting teams, in the East - Northeastern University's Matthews Center on Tuesday night.

Since Hockey East teams are quite used to playing on weeknights and ECACHL teams rarely play such games, the Huskies will have a distinct advantage above and beyond the home-ice nod.

Kirk MacDonald scored a pair of goals for RPI Saturday night and Chris Hussey became the first Engineer to score three goals this season with his late-game empty-netter.

MacDonald deflected home a Matt McNeely power-play blast from the blue line for the game's first goal 12:31 into the contest.

With the Engineers holding just a 2-1 lead at 4:28 of the third, MacDonald had the puck alone along the left sideboards. UConn had a defenseman and a backchecker out of position and freshman goalie Brad Smith seemed to be directing them when MacDonald snapped one off.

The shot seemed to surprise Smith who allowed the puck to carom off his shoulder and into the net.

"He just snapped it off from the boards," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said of MacDonald. "He put it short side and I don't think the goalie was expecting that kind of shot. That's what goal-scorers do. They (often) just release the puck when the goaltender leasts expects it and it finds its way into the net."

The Engineers made one glaring careless play and it cost Alford and the team a shutout at 14:41 of the first period.

"Defensive-zone breakdown where we threw it up the middle of the ice and they capitalized on it," Fridgen said.

On the play, UConn's Beau McLaughlin deflected a lazy clearing pass near the blue line, steering it into the circle to Eric Helstedt. He whirled around and saw only linemate Mike Neilon between himself and Alford.

Helstedt looked toward the net and wound up, then slid the puck ahead to Neilon who beat Alford low. It was his second goal, each coming against Rensselaer.

"Otherwise, I thought we played well," Fridgen said.

Penalties subside ...comparatively speaking: After committing 26 penalties in their first two games, the Engineers dropped the number to eight Saturday night. And they limited the 0-2-1 Huskies to just a couple of Grade A scoring chances.

"Penalty killers did a great job tonight," he said. "I thought all eight of them did a real good job of contributing. There were times we built some momentum and offensive opportunities off the kill, especially with Oren (Eizenman) and Chris Hussey out there. A credit to those guys for working real hard."

Alford learning: The freshman netminder is technically sound but is still learning one aspect of tending goal at such a high level.

"A couple of times he could have gotten out and played the puck (to) help out our D," Fridgen said, "but I think that's a learning experience. Otherwise, I thought he played real well."

Tough chore at Northeastern: The Huskies have finished last or next-to-last in three of the past four Hockey East seasons. Their record against ECACHL teams, however, is as good as most other Hockey East teams. They posted a 4-2 victory at Michigan last week.

"They're playing real well and they've already knocked off Michigan," Fridgen said, "so we're certainly going to have our work cut out for us."