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Fresh Off Impressive Win, RPI Faces Harvard Next

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 7, 2005

TROY - While it was good news to see Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finally score some goals during Saturday's 8-4 victory over Holy Cross, the Engineers have a major task before them.

The netful of pucks they put in Saturday won't do them any good against the Harvards, Browns, Cornells and Colgates but the fact that the offense broke out of a long funk certainly won't hurt them as they try to salvage their season and perhaps get at home-ice bid in the first round of the ECAC Hockey League playoffs.

If one of your co-captains is going to get himself suspended with a particularly senseless act as Economakos did the previous week, then it's great to get a hat trick from him when he returns.

"Hat tricks are tough to come by (these days) in college hockey, especially in the ECAC, such a defensive conference with great goaltenders," Economakos said. "Thank God I'm able to play with great players (such as) Kirk MacDonald and Kevin Croxton."

"It's great to have a nice win," Economakos said, "to get back on track in the winning column."

The team's psyche was definitely affected when Economakos and defensemen Matt McNeely and Blake Pickett were suspended for the road trip to Vermont and Dartmouth.

Even though McNeely didn't return Saturday, the Engineers were glad they were, with junior center Oren Eizenman returning to form, as well off as they've been in weeks.

The non-league victory means nothing to the Engineer within the ECAC Hockey League standings but the offensive output certainly won't hurt them.

To have any chance at postseason success, the Engineers have to be at their best the rest of the way. And that starts with a strong game - win, lose or tie - against powerful, 9th-rated Harvard, the ECACHL's hottest team.

For the Engineers to worry about earning a homeice bid for the upcoming ECAC Hockey League playoffs would be a futile exercise.

Not only do the Engineers have to win home games against Brown, Princeton and Yale, they may have to post an upset (or get at least a tie against title contenders Harvard, Cornell or Colgate - the latter two on the road), but they're going to need some help, too.

They need Union to keep right on losing; the Dutchmen are 1-10-0 in league play after a 6-0-0 start.

And the Engineers also need the above mentioned contenders, as well as Vermont or Dartmouth.

Each of those teams has one game remaining with the Golden Knights. If Clarkson gets more than three points out of those six games, the Engineers are going to need a big upset to pass the Knights in the standings. Rensselaer would have the tie-breaker should the teams end up deadlocked, having swept the rival Knights for a second straight season.

So, the Engineers just need to play their best hockey of the season - they played their best in mid-February on for years - and see where the chips fall.

Ideally, they'll finish eighth, or at least ninth and open the playoffs at No. 8 Union.

Eizenman shows flashes: Sophomore center Oren Eizenman, slowed most of the season by a virus and pneumonia, was flying on Saturday night.

"I haven't really had a good game all year," he said after scoring his fifth goal on Saturday night. "I've been sick all year and it's been a really trying year for me. It felt good to get a decent game under my belt."

While he skated well and showed more stamina than he has all season, Eizenman says he's still not 100 percent physically.

"I'm not back to where I want to be," he said, "I still have a long way to go."

Head coach Dan Fridgen said Eizenman "practiced hard all week. And we had a one-game weekend, so I utilized him as much as I could. He's coming around."

Eizenman gave credit to his linemates, Jonathan Ornelas (one goal, two assists) and Kevin Broad (the prettiest assist of the night).

"Those guys really helped me along," he said. "I'm still trying to get back in the flow of things. I haven't played for a while and they really helped me out by moving their legs and creating their openings for me."

Key, peculiar, late goal: Not only did Economakos' second goal at 19:59 of the second period appear to be in after the horn, it came on an unusual play.

Defenseman Jake Luthi broke his stick at the blue line with about nine seconds remaining.

So Keith MCWilliams jumped on for Luthi, got the puck and earned the primary assist on the late goal, which gave the Engineers a 5-2 lead.