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RPI's MacDonald Glad to Be Back on Campus

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 16, 2005

It was an exciting, emotional weekend at Houston Field House for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The Engineers held their third annual Black Friday, Joe Juneau was inducted into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor and the school's athletic Hall of Fame and RPI completed a sweep of Quinnipiac and Princeton.

But the most emotional part of the weekend was the return of senior forward Kirk MacDonald to campus.

MacDonald made his first visit to RPI since he announced in April that he had testicular cancer. It was just last month that Mac-Donald announced he would sit out this season and apply for a medical redshirt so that he can play next year.

It was hard for MacDonald to contain his enthusiasm about being back.

"It feels real good," MacDonald said Saturday during RPI's game against Princeton. "Just getting back here and being part of things again. It was awesome. To see the team win their home opener in league play was great."

MacDonald, who was elected a tri-captain for this season, had the opportunity to join Juneau at center ice for a ceremonial faceoff prior to the start of Friday's game against Quinnipiac.

"I think it was [RPI sports information director Kevin] Beattie who said, 'You go, and do the puck drop with him,'" MacDonald said. "I was like, 'I don't know.' It was a kind of a spur-ofthe-moment thing. It was real cool to be out there, and [Juneau] was a real good guy about it. It was fun."

MacDonald arrived at Albany International Airport Thursday night. His teammates were there to greet him.

"It was great to see all the guys," MacDonald said. "It was just good to be in the rink [Friday] night."

The appearance of MacDonald gave everyone an emotional lift.

"It's great to have him back," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "I know that he's feeling comfortable being back. He's back home with the guys, which is something that I think is very healthy for him, mentally, and I think it's healthy for the team, as well. We were missing a captain, and now he is back. That's great support for the guys, and I know that they're real happy to have him back. The fourpoint weekend says it all."

Senior co-captain Kevin Croxton was happy to have MacDonald back so he could have someone to walk with to the field house.

"We walked to the rink every day for games," Croxton said. "It's a little lonely doing the walk from the house the first couple of weekends. It's good having him around."

MacDonald said he is doing well.

"I'm getting back," MacDonald said. "I'm not as strong as I was overall. But I feel good to be out doing normal stuff, and being up and around. It's a good boost being back."

AWARDS SWEEP

Two RPI players and one from Union College won the ECACHL weekly honors on Monday.

Engineers forward Jonathan Ornelas was named player of the week. He helped the Engineers to a sweep of Quinnipiac and Princeton by scoring three goals over the weekend. Two of those goals, including the game-winner, came in Saturday's 4-1 win over Princeton.

RPI goalie Mathias Lange won his second rookie of the week award this season. He made 59 saves in the two games.

Dutchmen goalie Kris Mayotte was named goalie of the week for the second time in three weeks. Mayotte allowed two goals and made 28 saves each in wins over Princeton and Quinnipiac. He earned his first shutout of the season Saturday against Quinnipiac.

RPI's Oren Eizenman and Union's Augie DiMarzo were named to the honor roll.

RARE FEAT

RPI and Union accomplished something rare over the weekend.

The home weekend ECACHL victories over Princeton and Quinnipiac marked just the second time since Union joined the league in 1991 that the Dutchmen and Engineers have posted home-ice league sweeps on the same weekend.

The only other time was March 4-5, 1994, when RPI and Union swept Colgate and Cornell in the final weekend of the season.

Overall, the last time RPI and Union swept an ECACHL weekend together was Feb. 27-28, 2004, at Princeton and Yale, the final two games of the regular season.

UNION ON TV

Time Warner Cable announced during Saturday's broadcast of the RPI-Union football game that it will televise three Union hockey games this season from Messa Rink.

The first broadcast is Jan. 13 against Clarkson. The second one is Feb. 11 against Yale. The final telecast is the regular-season finale against Cornell Feb. 25.

RPI RECRUIT

The Engineers picked up their fifth recruit for the 2006-07 season with the addition of Chris Huxley.

Huxley is a 5-foot-11, 185-pound defenseman from Noble & Greenough Prep School. He had nine goals and 18 assists last season.

He is the third defenseman recruited for next season by the Engineers. The others are Jason Fortino (Milton of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League) and Erik Burgdoerfer (Apple Core of the Eastern Junior Hockey League).

RPI's other recruits are forwards Jordan Cyr (Brockville of the Central Ontario Junior Hockey League) and Paul Kerins (North York of the OPJHL).

ROUGH GAME

After rallying Friday to beat Harvard, 4-3, in Boston, third-ranked Cornell should have just gotten back on the bus and headed back to Ithaca instead of playing the next night at Dartmouth.

The Big Red showed up phys ically to play the Big Green, but they weren't there mentally. The Big Green scored three goals in each of the first two periods and rolled to a dominating 6-1 win at Thompson Arena.

How bad was it for Cornell, the defending league champion? Goalie David McKee, a Hobey Baker hat trick finalist, was pulled from a game for the first time in his college career. He gave up five goals on 14 shots in 24:09 before being replaced by Louis Chabot.

Asked when things started spiraling out of control, Cornell coach Mike Schafer said, "When we got off the bus."

"Obviously, we weren't prepared to play at the level Dartmouth played at," Schafer told the Valley News. "We just never got it going, and they never let us get it going."

Ryan Bellows' goal with 4:03 left in the first period snapped a 1-1 tie. Dan Shribman made it 3-1 with 1:25 remaining in the first.

Nick Johnson scored twice in the second period, and Eric Przepiorka had the other goal for Dartmouth, which won for the first time after losing its first four games.

ATKINSON LEAVES

Vermont freshman forward and Kinderhook native Mike Atkinson, who had been suspended from the team after a drunken driving arrest, withdrew from the school last Tuesday.

University police said Atkinson was charged with driving while intoxicated and careless and negligent driving after he allegedly crashed into the John Dewey Building at about 2:30 a.m. Oct. 2, five days before the team's first game. Atkinson then was suspended indefinitely for violating the student-athlete code of conduct, said Chris Wojcik, assistant director of athletic communications.

Police said Atkinson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.212 percent at the scene, although two hours later at the hospital, he tested at 0.18 percent, still twice the level of drunkenness for a driver of legal drinking age.

According to the Burlington Free Press, Atkinson was expected to be arraigned last week.

LOCAL UPDATE

Here is a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region who are playing outside the area did last week.

Clarkson sophomore forward Shawn Weller (South Glens Falls) had an assist in the Golden Knights' 4-3 loss to Brown on Friday. Weller then had a goal and an assist in Clarkson's 4-2 win Saturday over Yale.

Boston University freshman Nicki Wiart (Queensbury) had an assist in the Terriers' 3-1 victory Sunday over Vermont.

MICHIGAN ON TOP

With three of the country's top four teams losing at least one game over the weekend, Michigan moved back into the top spot in the latest USCHO.com/CSTV NCAA top 20 poll.

The Wolverines, who swept Northern Michigan, got 28 firstplace votes and earned 783 points.

Colorado College, which was No. 1 for two weeks, dropped to No. 3 after tying and losing to Wisconsin. The Badgers moved up three spots to No. 2.

Cornell dropped two spots to No. 3, and Maine stayed at No. 4.

RPI received 23 points, second most among teams in others receiving votes.

Nine of the ECACHL's 12 teams received votes. St. Lawrence (No. 15), Colgate (No. 17) and Harvard (No. 19) made the top 20.