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Sweetness of Comeback Lessened by Loss

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 31, 2005

TROY - One night after its incredible comeback victory - from a 4-0 deficit - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suffered an upset defeat.

Clearly, the Engineers suffered from a letdown after the 7-5 victory over Northeastern and it showed against Merrimack on Saturday night. And that letdown cost them in a 5-3 loss to the Warriors.

Still, though recapping the thrilling triumph on Friday night, during which the Engineers scored five goals in the second period, is fun.

Leading scorer and tri-captain Kevin Croxton said the Engineers knew they could come back.

"We were just trying to stay positive," the senior right winger said. "I remember sitting on the bench and I said to Broader (Kevin Broad), 'all we need is one'. They (Northeastern) took a couple of penalties right away and we were fortunate enough to get a 5-on-3."

Croxton was right.

That first goal came when a Croxton rebound came right to the stick of Jonathan Ornelas at the right goalmouth and the sophomore left winger tipped it into the net 2:25 into the period.

Chris Hussey rifled a drive past NU goalie Adam Geragosian at 6:17, Jake Morissette scored on a rebound in traffic at 14:22 and Oren Eizenman converted a brilliant pass from Croxton to tie the game 4-4 at 17:58.

What's better than wiping out a 4-0 first period deficit within the second period?

Actually taking the lead, of course, and the Engineers did when Croxton found Brad Farynuk for a chip shot that beat Geragosian with one second remaining in the period.

After Northeastern tied the game with 5:06 remaining, the Engineers got a fortunate break when - just 44 seconds later - Ornelas' game-winning goal bounced off his chest and into the net.

Croxton, who assisted on four goals, added a late empty-net goal.

Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen was asked which period was more incredible; RPI's five-goal comeback in the second, or the four-goal outburst by an NU lineup that was loaded with freshmen and alternates.

"Probably the second," he said. "You dig a hole and allow four goals, to come back and get five in the second period, is certainly an uphill battle. I thought they (NU) let up a little bit and we came out and did the things we needed to do that we certainly weren't doing in the first period."

"We were basically standing around watching (NU) play hockey," Fridgen concluded.

Sophomore goalie Jordan Alford, who earned the win in relief, said it was fun watching from the other end as his teammates rallied and filled the net.

"I've never seen a game like this in a while," Alford said. "They (Engineers) were flying, they were hitting, they had a spark in the second period; scoring goals. They played great."

"Fabulous win," Morissette said.

"It was a great effort by everybody in this (locker) room," Croxton said. "Everyone was hitting. There was such a difference in the bodychecks between the first and second periods. They had a pretty young lineup out there and when you start hitting, it starts to cause turnovers."

Discipline helped: On Eizenman's goal, prior to Croxton's pass, Eizenman fired a blast that would have found the net but it hit the knob of Geragosian's stick. He asked how he kept himself from just shouting out and giving up on the play.

"That's actually a coaching thing. Coach (Fridgen) makes us do 10 pushups every time we skate by the goal line. So, I guess I'm hard-wired now to (stay in the play)."

What happened?: Merrimack's 5-3 victory over the Engineers on Saturday night certainly wasn't the biggest upset of the year - perhaps not even of the week (RIT beat St. Lawrence 3-2 despite being outshot, 68-22).

Failing to capitalize on the emotional high of Friday night's comeback against a weak team was a huge disappointment.

Taking repeated penalties in the first period hurt them, then they failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the third.

"We really have to play smarter and come out harder in that first period," Fridgen said. "This is the second game here where we didn't dictate play as I would have liked to coming out in the first period."

Added Croxton on the slow starts, "we've got to quit doing that. It's going to catch up to us (in league play) and it caught up with us tonight."

Overall, the Engineers must play much better next week - in general but especially at the outset of the games at Clarkson and SLU.

They've been outscored 10-4 in the first period and outshot, 90-58.

All of a sudden, RPI has beaten rival Clarkson four straight times.

Amidst the low point of last season's 6-15-1 ECACHL season, the Engineers posted one-goal victories at SLU and Clarkson.

They have never, though, swept the North Country trip in consecutive seasons. Undertaking the trip Thursday night on a five-game winning streak may have meant a little extra jolt of confidence.