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RPI Has Blank Stare

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, January 16, 2005

TROY - Kevin Croxton was alone in front. His stick smacked the ice, frantic and loud, like a series of pulsating rim shots. This would be it, he thought, his first goal since mid-November.

Brad Farynuk sizzled a pass. Tape-to-tape. Croxton deked briefly. He reached to stuff it between David McKee's skate and the post. But McKee smothered it. No rebound. Moments later, Croxton slammed that same stick against the boards, then pounded the butt end on the bench.

Neither Croxton nor the RPI Engineers earned a reprieve Saturday night. All their horrific streaks grew by one in a hopeless 5-0 humbling at the hands of No. 11 Cornell before 3,274 weary witnesses at Houston Field House.

"It's hard not to think about it," Croxton said of his 13-game goal-scoring drought. "If we were winning games, I couldn't care less how much I score. But when we score two goals a weekend, then it's a team thing. And I feel like I'm letting the team down."

He is not alone. No RPI forward has scored in five games. Not coincidentally, that is the length of the Engineers' losing streak, their longest since late in the 2002-03 season.

It gets worse. Historically so. The Engineers are 2-9-1 in the ECAC Hockey League, one point worse than their record at this time two seasons ago, the previous low of Dan Fridgen's 11 seasons. You have to go back to the 1969-70 season to find an RPI team with a worse conference record after 12 games. That season, the Engineers were 1-10-1 en route to a 15th-place finish in the then-17-team ECAC.

For the second time in eight days, Fridgen changed goalies mid-game. Jordan Alford started but allowed two goals on seven shots in the first period. Andrew Martin relieved him and let in three more.

It has been 318 minutes, 11 seconds - more than five full games - since RPI's last even-strength, non-empty net goal. If you began watching "The Godfather" when Vic Pereira scored early in the third period at Notre Dame on New Year's Night, and played it on hockey time, you would almost be through your second viewing.

The RPI power play - minus injured Kirk MacDonald - was 0-for-10 with eight shots on goal. The Engineers hit three posts.

Fridgen said he has never been around a more "snakebitten" team at RPI. But "snakebitten" cannot explain everything. When the game was still close, 1-0 late in the first, defenseman Matt McNeely jumped up in the rush. But Charlie Cook stripped him before he took a shot. Cook traded passes with Shane Hynes and teed up a slapper from atop the right circle. It ricocheted off Alford's right leg and high into the net with only 6.7 seconds left in the period.

McNeely said he was a step behind Cook when he took the shot. "I made a mistake," he said.

Fridgen called timeout when it was 4-0 in the second. He scolded his team, which he believed had "started to watch." The Engineers allowed another late-period goal, this one a rebound by Hynes with 3 seconds left.