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RPI's on the Right Side of Momentum

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 17, 2005

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute may not be ready to intimidate Boston University - its next opponent - but the Engineers are feeling much better about themselves after their 4-3 victory over Michigan Tech and third-place finish in the Nye Frontier Classic at Anchorage.

The Engineers appeared on the verge of being blown out by a mediocre Tech team Saturday night and headed for their fourth last-place finish among their past five in-season tournaments when they trailed 2-0 early in the second period.

The Engineers, however, after being outscored 6-2 during the third periods of losses to UMass-Lowell and Alaska-Anchorage, were in total control in the third period against Michigan Tech and got the winning tally when freshman Andrei Uryadov tallied his first collegiate goal on a 5-on-3 power play with 5:35 remaining.

Kevin Croxton began the comeback with a nice feed to set up Jonathan Ornelas' goal. The senior right winger also scored himself (from Ornelas), also assisted on Oren Eizenman's goal and was named Player of the Game.

Most pleasing was the fact that the Engineers had reversed two disturbing early-season trends; they handled Michigan Tech's forecheck after having big problems with Lowell's and to a lesser degree, Alaska-Anchorage's as well. Further, they were finally able to maintain some momentum. As they tried to rally back against UAA, the Engineers twice surrendered goals soon after scoring themselves, just as they had done at Lowell when building leads of 2-0 and 3-1.

"It's all about momentum," Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen said. "We talked about that (after Friday's loss); we have the momentum, then we have a (defensive) breakdown or take a penalty and we give it right back."

"Tonight (Saturday) we tied the game up, we took a penalty but we drew momentum by killing it off and tonight we were able to sustain it."

'A' line bounces back: Eizenman's line (Ornelas-Croxton) was blanked by UAA on Friday night but took over the contest against Michigan Tech.

"I can't say enough about the offense that was created by Oren's line," Fridgen said.

Eizenman's deflection goal tied the game at 3-3.

"Our line was fortunate enough to get some breaks and get some goal," Eizenman said, "but it was really the (other) lines that set the tone, rattled them and kind of put them back on their heels and got them to cough up the puck."

Finally, some power plays: The Engineers, despite their losing records of 6-15-1 within the ECAC Hockey League and 14-22-2 overall, were among the nation's leaders in drawing power plays last season. Over the first two games this year, though, the man-up situations had been rare. They scored on a power play less than three minutes into the Lowell game but were awarded only three more prior to Saturday night.

"Yeah, that was nice to see," Fridgen said. "We were playing tough, physical hockey and that's how you draw them (opposing penalties)."

Eaves, Peace provide spark: Fridgen benched both Kevin Broad, the third-leading goal-scorer among returning players with Kirk MacDonald out indefinitely, and Andrew Lord for inconsistent play on Friday night, inserting little-used sophomores Tyler Eaves and Dan Peace on Saturday.

"Danny Peace and Tyler Eaves getting into the lineup, I thought that line (with freshman Kurtis Colling on the left) gave us some real good energy."

Penalty-killing solid: Michigan Tech did not have a strong power play last season. With outstanding sophomore center Chris Connor having a year under his belt, that will likely change this year.

Connor scored two 5-on-5 goals on sparkling individual plays Saturday night but the Engineers were able to win the game by killing all five Huskies power plays, including one at 17:23 of the third period.

"A real player," Fridgen said of Connor. "Every time he was on the ice, we had to be aware because they were springing him." (His first goal was a breakaway on a headman pass from Mark Malekoff.)

"I thought our penalty killing was outstanding because they are pretty potent with that PP."

'To heck with the lead': The Engineers twice led by two goals in the 5-3 loss at Lowell and scored first in the 6-3 loss to Anchorage.

"It is interesting," Fridgen said, "that our losses have been when we've taken the lead. It's tough to explain. It's a mentality that's tough to explain. I think it depends on the team and ... I don't know. There's a comfort level there. We just have to get mentally tougher, that when you have a lead, you have to build off it as opposed to relaxing and being happy with it."

Off to BU Friday: The Engineers will make their first appearance at BU's spanking new Agganis Arena on Friday night and will have to deal with Clifton Park native and BU star Peter MacArthur.

He scored a pair of goals in the Terriers' 3-1 season-opening victory over UMass-Lowell.

Notes: Alaska-Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak is a dead ringer for Union's Nate Leaman. ... While Eizenman's line was held scoreless Friday, the other lines combined for three goals. Even though they lost by three, the Engineers will no doubt take three from the others and take their chances whenever the top line is blanked. ... The victory Saturday was just RPI's 10th in its past 34 games (10-23-1) against teams from the traditional four conferences, dating back to the 2004 ECACHL playoffs at Dartmouth. ... Engineers' home opener is on Sunday against Army.