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RPI's Off to Fast Start in Recruiting

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 2, 2005

With a number of key spots to fill in the lineup for next year, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach Dan Fridgen has begun his recruiting for 2006-07 early.

He and his staff may have come up with a big goal-scorer in center Paul Kerins, a 5-foot-11, 176-pound center from the North York Rangers of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.

Kerins scored 36 goals with 26 assists in 49 games last season and had eight goals in the first 12 games this year.

With North York last season, Kerins was a teammate of RPI freshman center Seth Klerer.

"I'm really looking forward to him coming here," Klerer said of Kerins. "He's a great goal-scorer, great teammate. He'll fit in well with the team."

Another forward, left winger Jordan Cyr, has also told Rensselaer he'll be here in September.

He had 23 goals and 33 assists in 56 games for Selkirk of the Manitoba JHL last year. (He was then traded to Brockville of the Central JHL.)

Cyr put on a few pounds last summer to reach 182, but obviously, he and Kerins don't make the Engineers' corps of forwards any bigger.

Hopefully, they can make up for that with some scoring and decent play in the defensive zone.

Meanwhile, Fridgen's biggest task will be to replace four senior defensemen who represent a fairly solid group - tri-captain Brad Farynuk, Keith MCWilliams, Alexander Valentin and Scott Romfo.

He's landed two 'D' men thus far, though one, Erik Burgdoerfer, could be the youngest defenseman ever at RPI if he plays as a freshman. He'll still be two months from his 18th birthday when he hits the Houston Field House ice in October.

With his size - 6-1, 202 - and Rensselaer's big blueline needs, however, the Long Island native may get a chance to play right away. He's a former teammate of RPI freshman goalie Mathias Lange at NYC Apple Core of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

The other defenseman - and RPI assistant coach Frank Bretti says more are coming - should be in the opening-game lineup.

Jason Fortino is a solid defensive defenseman who will help alleviate the Engineers' lack of experience at defense next season. He's regarded as a smart, solid, stay-at-home defenseman but he can handle the puck.

Tired of hearing he's not all that big or strong, the 6-foot Fortino put on 15 pounds and some muscle during the offseason and now tops the 200-pound mark.

He had three goals and 24 assists in 56 games last season and isn't considered an offensive defenseman but he did have three goals over the first 10 games this season.

Having 2004-05 leading scorer Kirk MacDonald back next season should allow RPI's offensive productivity to help with the inexperience at defense.

Last year at this time - even well into 2005 - left winger Kurt Colling, currently on RPI's fourth line, was the only recruit to have committed to Rensselaer.

Speaking of defensemen, MCWilliams sat out both games last weekend with a groin pull. He hopes to make the trip this weekend when the Engineers open ECAC Hockey League play at Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Power play sputtering: The RPI power play, of course, is missing its top weapon, rifle-shot right winger Kirk MacDonald. He's recovering from four surgeries related to his treatment for testicular cancer.

The Engineers scored on their first power play of the season (by Jonathan Ornelas). Since then, their only three goals in 31 tries against teams from the traditional, full-scholarship leagues came on 5-on-3 advantages.

Against Army last week, they did score three power-play goals but the Cadets were simply much slower than other opponents.

This past weekend against two mediocre teams, Northeastern and Merrimack, the Engineers' puck movement and stick-handling were not sharp.

The Rensselaer power play has had some dramatic ups and downs in recent years - most power-play units do - but if the Engineers are to substantially improve their finish in the ECAC Hockey League, they'll need to sharply improve upon the power-play production.

Yurkewecz scores: How good it was to see senior winger and Troy native Mark Yurkewecz get a goal during the loss to Merrimack.

Discounting his empty-netter last season at Northeastern, Yurk's goal on Saturday night was his first goal since Jan. 24, 2003 at Vermont, a span of 56 games.

Despite his lack of offensive numbers, Yurkewecz has nailed down a regular spot in the lineup with plain ole hard work and sound play.

"Mo (Jake Morissette) gave me some space with the pass, and I put in my own rebound actually," Yurkewecz said.

'Never, that's when': When was the last time RPI swept its yearly North Country trip to Clarkson and St. Lawrence in consecutive years.

According to the media guide, it's never happened.

The Engineers, amidst a losing streak, posted a pair of one-goal wins at St. Lawrence and Clarkson last year.

Duplicating the feat won't be easy. Both teams have been playing well lately.

And don't think for a minute that the fact that Clarkson has dropped its past four games with rival RPI won't be a part of the Golden Knights' preparation for Friday night's contest.