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RPI Seniors Receive Fitting Send-off

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, February 27, 2005

TROY - Seven solitary skaters circled an ice sheet Saturday night. They paused every few strides and raised their sticks. A crowd of 2,843 cheered warmly in return.

RPI co-captain Nick Economakos thought about "everything." Coaches and teammates. Games and goals. His parents, certainly, who cried in the stands as their son drew a hand to his mouth and tightened his face, trying to hold it in.

The Engineers' seniors had just played, and won, their last game at Houston Field House, a 3-2 overtime victory over Yale. It meant nothing in the standings. It meant everything to them. And Economakos, he of the ever-present minicam, was thinking back to those rinks near his home in Lockport, Ill., and 122 games at RPI.

"They say, before you die, you have a flash of video-reel memories," he said later. "That's what it felt like."

The careers, senior seasons, and final home games of this Class of 2005 are not among the greatest in program history. In fact, these are the first RPI seniors to graduate with two 20-loss seasons. But for one moment Saturday, they were perfect. They came from behind to win their final home game when junior Kevin Croxton scored with 15.1 seconds left in overtime, on the third power play of the extra session.

Seconds earlier, a possible winner skipped over the stick of Yale's Jeff Hristovski. But Kirk MacDonald stormed into the Yale zone on a 3-on-2. He passed through the slot to Economakos, who chipped it to Croxton, who slipped it beneath Matt Modelski for his 100th career point.

RPI, which also received goals from Jonathan Ornelas and Kevin Broad, opens the playoffs next weekend at Brown, whom the Engineers beat and tied this season.

It has not come easily for RPI, which finished next-to-last in the ECAC Hockey League (6-15-1). On Saturday, RPI nearly lost to the only team below it, a team that began the night with the worst scoring defense, penalty kill, and winning percentage in Division I - and skated only 17 players because of injuries.

Winning Saturday, coach Dan Fridgen said, was a matter of "pride." The Engineers did it the hard way. But at least they did it.

"Fitting," Economakos said.

After the celebration subsided, the seven were left on the ice alone, to take an emotional, impromptu victory lap.

So many memories. Next weekend brings a chance for more.

"We're forgetting about the season that ended tonight," Fridgen said. "It's playoff hockey."