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Taken to the Cleaners

Croxton and RPI Looking for Goals and Victories

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, February 12, 2005

TROY - Poor Kevin Croxton. The man can't have his clothes cleaned without getting grief.

"Everywhere I go, people ask me about it," he said. "I dropped off my dry cleaning yesterday, and the guy there was chatting me up about it."

"It" is Croxton's goal-scoring drought. "It" reached 19 games in Friday's 3-0 loss to No. 10 Harvard before 3,112 at Houston Field House.

"It" is bad. The Engineers are 4-12-1 in the ECAC Hockey League, 2-7-0 since the New Year. They are tied for 10th. Even with a good finish, they will likely open the playoffs on the road. Turning this regular-season jalopy into a postseason Ferrari is more important than wins and losses.

Which brings us to Croxton. He led the team in goals and points in both his previous seasons. RPI needs him. The numbers bear it out. The Engineers are 4-1-1 when he scores, 8-16-1 when he doesn't.

"All the power to him," said co-captain Brad Farynuk, when apprised of the figures. "If he starts putting together a streak, I'll take that."

He tried to start one Friday. Especially in the third. With nine minutes left, he crept from the corner and tried to squeeze one short side, but Dov Grumet-Morris closed off his angle. Kirk MacDonald chased after the rebound and centered Croxton in front. He snapped it goalward. Grumet-Morris kicked it to the corner, another stop in a 32-save shutout, his third of the season.

"He's got a 90-whatever save percentage for a reason," Croxton said.

But Croxton kept at it. He whipped one wide with 7:30 left. He had another fine chance at a rebound late, but Harvard's Rob Flynn wrestled him down.

Croxton's plight was common among RPI's skaters. They had twice as many shots as Harvard (32-16), but found few prime chances against a Crimson defense stocked with six NHL draft picks.

"Look at their lineup," Croxton said. "Their D-men are 6-5 and above. It's tough. Our guys are banged up from going in there."

All this, while Harvard's Charlie Johnson - like Croxton, a junior winger from Calgary - scored twice.

Croxton found "a lot of positives" in the loss and even appears unaffected by guff from the dry cleaning guy.

Tonight, against Brown, RPI plays for pride. A sold-out Big Red Freakout crowd and national audience on College Sports Television (CSTV) will be watching. The Engineers are 10-0-4 in their last 14 Freakouts - one streak Croxton wouldn't like to have snapped.