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The Magic Continues

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 13, 2005

Call it mystique, magic, hockey gods, whatever; it was working for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Saturday night on the Engineers' 28th Big Red Freakout Night, an evening in which members of the 1985 NCAA Championship team were honored.

Junior right winger Kirk MacDonald and his big league shot skated into the Brown zone with 10 seconds remaining in the game and fired the game-winner past possible ECAC Rookie of the Year Adam D'Alba and the Engineers (13-17-2) kept their sweet Freakout Night streak intact - and ended a puzzling, painful streak with a 3-2 victory at Houston Field House before a sellout crowd of 5,152.

Nick Economakos tied the game on a perfect power-play feed from Kevin Croxton just 36 seconds into the third and 19 minutes later, it looked as if the teams - Brown especially - appeared to be waiting for overtime when Jake Luthi got the puck in the neutral zone and sent it ahead to MacDonald. He wound up and rifled a blast that went over D'Alba's glove and scraped the underside of the crossbar.

"No, I wasn't," MacDonald said when it was suggested he simply wasn't going to be denied on the play.

"We had a great transition, Luthi up to me and I was flying," he said. "There was a bad gap on their 'D' man (defenseman David Robertson). He didn't get up on me and I just was toe-dragging and he (Robertson) opened his legs and I was able to get the shot through."

Yep, that ole' Freakout magic - between the defenseman's legs and under the crossbar.

"You could just see when (MacDonald) took that puck," said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen, "that come heck or high water, it was going to end up in the net."

Andrew Martin stopped 30 shots for RPI, including a big-league kick save on a point-blank range shot from Cory Caouette with 12:21 remaining.

The victory increased RPI's unbeaten skein on Freakout Night o 15 (11-0-4) and is huge for the Engineers in several ways. It improved their ECAC Hockey League record to 5-12-1 and ended a school-record seven-game losing streak in homeice league games. It breaks a tie for 11th place in the 12-team league with Princeton (4-13-1) and gives them some confidence for later home games with the Tigers and last-place Yale.

Brad Farynuk, an Engineers' co-captain, said the finish left him "breathless."

"It's unbelievable, it's kind of breathtaking," he said of the Freakout Night magic. "It just keeps happening. The guys talk about the hockey gods. I was never one to believe in them but there's just something that happens here on this night. You're not even sure of what happens. Time stands still."

The Engineers agree MacDonald is the guy they'd like going in on goal in the closing seconds of a tie game.

"There's not really a better guy to have going down the wing with that kind of speed and the puck on this stick," Farynuk said. "When we both turned the corner and he picked up the puck at the (Brown) blue line, I said, 'come on big guy, just a little help from upstairs'."

The Engineers blew a 3-0 lead in a 3-3 tie at Brown earlier this season and co-captain Nick Economakos said "we felt like we owed them one."

The Engineers began the third period on the power play an wiped out their deficit quickly, as Economakos chipped in Croxton's backhand pass.

"Just typical Kevin Croxton," said Economakos, who has 15 goals. "If I capitalized on every great pass Kevin Croxton's given me this year, I'd have 25 goals."

Though Brown was credited with just six shots on goal during the second period, the Bears dominated RPI with a relentless, effective forecheck.

The Engineers compounded the problem with several horrid efforts on clearing chances but they trailed only because of a fortunate goal by Antonin Roux.

The right-handed left winger fielded a rebound between the left circle and the goal line and banked the puck off the back of RPI goalie Andrew Martin and behind him just 1:28 into the period.

For the next 18 and one-half minutes and much of the third, the Bears (8-7-2, 13-8-3) kept the puck out of their own end and pressured Martin.

"I think we were still a little worn down from (Friday's) game (a 3-0 loss to Harvard)," Fridgen said. "They had their legs and were beating us to the puck. They stayed on us... they're a good team."

"I'm really happy we were able to deliver for the fans, because they came out and were cheering for us," Fridgen said. "It's been a difficult year ... but they've stuck with us and it was nice to be able to deliver another on Freakout Night for them."