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Lower Lines Shouldn't Be Ignored

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 17, 2005

Literally all of the contending teams in the ECAC Hockey League will get more scoring from their second and third lines - and likely their fourth lines, too - than will Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

That doesn't mean the Engineers can't beat those teams - even finish ahead of some.

Oren Eizenman (six goals) and his linemates, Jonathan Ornelas (eight) and Kevin Croxton (seven) have combined for 21 of the team's 40 goals, a little more than half.

Defensemen have contributed six, leaving another 13 divided among the team's other three forward lines.

Chris Hussey, who centers or plays right wing on what's considered the second line, has three goals.

Kevin Broad, the left winger on that line, third-line center Seth Klerer and parttime right winger Tommy Green each has two.

No other forward has more than one.

That could spell problems should someone on Eizenman's line get hurt, because the Engineers are playing without 2004-05 leading goal-scorer Kirk MacDonald, who has to sit out the year for health reasons.

The lack of scoring depth doesn't have to be a problem.

Rensselaer has four senior defensemen and for the Engineers to be successful, they will have to be one of the better defensive teams in the league. The other lines don't have to score; if they just hold their own, play hard, keep the plus-minus ratings near zero, the team can succeed.

The Engineers had a sweep of their first homeice ECAC weekend and while Quinnipiac and Princeton are not the toughest assignment in the league, a sweep is a sweep.

Eizenman pointed out that, while his line was on the ice for seven of the eight goals, "we had four lines going all out. We had lines that weren't expected to do big things but those lines did great things."

Hussey's line got things going against Quinnipiac when he found Green behind the defense 2:23 into the game.

Mathieu Angers-Goulet's fourth line (Andrew Lord, Dan Peace) did a solid job against Princeton despite a scoreless night. They totaled six shots on goal and had several good scoring chances.

"All four lines were rolling and just building off one another and that's really a sign of a good team," Eizenman said.

Power play needs crispness: The most common way to judge a power play, obviously, is efficiency rating. You get 10 goals in 50 power-play opportunities, you're at 20 percent efficiency.

Most coaches, though, judge their power plays by scoring chances generated.

Fridgen and his staff haven't seen his extra-man attackers generate a whole lot of chances lately.

Croxton made an outstanding pass to Eizenman for a half-the-net open goal to get the Engineers started against Princeton in their last outing. On seven other power plays in that game, however, the Engineers got a total of three scoring chances - one Grade A - and failed to put that game away long before Ornelas' third-period heroics bailed out the Engineers.

Rensselaer has scored at least one power-play goal in seven consecutive games. Among those 10 goals, though, were three against Army's slower penalty-killers and three more which came in 5-on-3 situations.

In defeats to both Merrimack and St. Lawrence, as well as the victory over Princeton, the power play consistently did not produce pressure on the opposing net. Puck movement is the problem.

In short, the stick-handling and passing must improve dramatically. Too many times, the opposing penalty killers clear the puck without the Engineers even attempting a shot and that's mainly because of inaccurate passing.

Also, in that loss to Merrimack in which the power play let the team down with a 1-of-10 performance, Fridgen said the Engineers, "telegraphed a lot of our plays on the power play."

Power plays don't have to score to be effective; they need to tax the opposing killers and leave the power play performers with some confidence for the next chance.

The Engineers' PP has been at the 16.7 efficiency for several games. It needs to get up near the 20 percent mark for the Engineers to climb the ECACHL standings and have a chance at a Top 4 finish.

Lange stands tall: The Engineers never trailed last weekend and freshman goalie Mathias Lange was a big reason why.

"He came up big (against Princeton)," Fridgen said. "We were creating our own problems, turning the puck over. And we'd have control of it, next thing you know, we'd give it right back to them and we'd be back on our heels and he was right there protecting the net for us."

"He came up with some big saves in both games that allowed us to get going."