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Croxton Needs to Be Sr. Sniper

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 4, 2005

TROY - Kevin Croxton's goal-scoring production fell off last season after he led Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute during his first two seasons. So the junior right winger led the team in assists with 25.

Croxton scored 15 and 18 goals as a freshman and sophomore and RPI fans expected him to fill the net last year.

He scored four goals in the first eight games and totaled six after 12 games. Then came a 22-game goal-scoring drought that puzzled Croxton and the entire ECAC Hockey League.

He finished with 10 goals in 38 games - and that included one in each of the final four games.

"Weird season," he says.

Croxton says the slump has no lingering effect on his psyche and that he's in the best shape of his career.

"It (slump) would really bother me if I hadn't been getting points during those 22 games," he said. "But the assists were stil coming and that's all I can worry about. I don't want to be a guy who, if I don't get a couple goals, I'm starting to shoot from areas where I shouldn't be, and getting selfish, trying to get myself goals instead of doing what I do best, setting up other guys."

Croxton's added a bit of muscle since last March.

"Chris did a real good job putting together our workout program," Croxton said, referring to RPI head trainer Chris Thompson.

Croxton finished the season playing on a line with (then) sophomore Oren Eizenman, the team's top center, and junior left winger Mark Yurkewecz, who's not a scorer but who stays in the lineup with just plain old hard work.

"I ended up on a high note and the line we had together was clicking real well and I think that's probably the thing I've got to reflect on the most going into the season, ending on a good note."

Fellow senior, fellow right winger and fellow tri-captain Kirk MacDonald, the team's top scorer last season with 16 goals and 20 assists, is recuperating from testicular cancer and though he vows to return, the Engineers don't know how long they'll be without or how close to 100 percent he'll be when he comes back.

The players have tried to rally around their popular teammate in his time of need, even though he's 3,500 miles away at a Vancouver hospital or at his Victoria, B.C. home.

"Kirk's a huge part of our team," Croxton said, "and, of course, we're all pulling for him and looking forward to getting him back. We're just trying to control what we can control and Kirk knows we can't wait to get him back."

Croxton says he won't have to worry that he'll put too much pressure on himself to score more while MacDonald is out.

"I always put pressure on myself scoring-wise," he said. "So, I can't imagine it getting any worse. I'll try not to do that and just try to contribute."

Croxton also says other forwards who may get a few more shifts of ice time during MacDonald's absence, need to guard against trying to do too much as well.

"Kirk was our go-to guy last year and our best player," he said. "You can't (expect) one guy who's going to step up and fill in that void. I think when you miss a player of that caliber, you have to have everybody collectively has to pick up his game a little bit make up for it. You're not going to get one guy who's all of a sudden going to become a Kirk MacDonald this year."

Croxton certainly wants to score more than 10 goals - and expects to - in his final collegiate season. He won't make a numerical prediction, though. And when asked if he feels more like an 18-goal scorer or a 10-goal scorer, he just laughs.

"I'll leave that to you," he said.

Well, how about Yurkewecz's number - 21.