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Little Guy Plays Big for RPI

At 5-foot-9, 165, Graham Makes His Presence Felt

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, November 16, 2001

TROY - At 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, Nolan Graham isn't going to scare off many college hockey defensemen. But the RPI forward has certainly found a way to frustrate them.

"He's a little guy, but he's real crafty," said coach Dan Fridgen of the junior from British Columbia. "He's very evasive and slippery. He can be an antagonist, get underneath your skin. You try to nail him down and he's tough to get a piece of."

Graham is off to a big start for the Engineers, scoring in every game and compiling eight points (4-4) on a line with Matt Murley and Carson Butterwick that has accounted for 11 goals and 20 points in six games.

"They seem to be getting that chemistry back that they had at one point last year as far as their offense is concerned," Fridgen said. "They've been working hard in practice. Each of them adds a different element of creativity. They complement one another real well."

Graham is already well ahead of last year's goal pace after scoring in both ECAC games last weekend, including the game-winner against coach Fridgen's alma mater at Colgate. He had RPI's only goal in the 4-1 loss at Cornell. As a sophomore, Graham finished with 11 goals and 25 points.

Last year Graham was particularly effective on the RPI power play, scoring five times when the Engineers had the man advantage. He readily admits his linemates make life much easier in the opponent's zone.

"Matt Murley's one of the better players in college hockey," Graham said. "The things he can do with the puck and the space he creates ... the time the defensemen have to give him creates spots for other guys to jump in there. He's the best player I've ever played with."

Murley is averaging a goal a game thus far, but he's quick to point to Butterwick and Graham as keys to his success.

"We played together last year, so we kind of know what we want to do when we're out there," Murley said. "They know where I like the puck and I know where they like the puck. We've been able to find each other pretty well so far."

Size hasn't been a detriment for Graham, who needs only to look into his head coach's office to see he has a place in college hockey.

"I've always been told I'm not the biggest player," Graham said. "I've been fortunate. Coach, when he played, he was also a smaller player, and I think from what he tells me we play kind of similar."

Home sweet home: After playing five of their first six games on the road, the Engineers won't be on the bus for the next nine games. The homestand begins Saturday against Mercyhurst of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

"This is a good time for us now to get back to basics," said senior forward Jim Henkel. "We've got the next two weeks to right the ship, get back to .500."

The Engineers (2-4 overall, 1-1 in the ECAC) face Iona of the MAAC next weekend before resuming their league schedule Dec. 1 against archrival Union College.

Ice chips: Union is off this weekend with exams under way. The Dutchmen return to action Tuesday against Providence of Hockey East. ... RPI has been out-shot in all six games this season. ... Niagara, UMass and Quinnipiac will compete with the host Engineers in the 51st annual Holiday Tournament Dec. 28-29.