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RPI Bounces Back, Regains Respect

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 28, 2005

TROY - It had been forecast by many that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute would suffer a big letdown Saturday night and finish in last place in its own holiday tournament for the third time in four seasons.

They were wrong.

Think back to preseason. Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen and captains Brad Farynuk and Kevin Croxton have spoken often since then that the senior leadership on this team was a marked upgrade from previous years.

Perhaps that's why the Engineers bounced back from the dismal loss to Holy Cross with one of their best efforts of the season.

Their 3-2 victory over Providence could easily have been 5-2, even 5-1. The Engineers missed on two breakaways.

Seth Klerer hit the goalpost in the first period, Jonathan Ornelas did so in the second. Providence goalie Tyler Smith robbed Ornelas with a sweeping, overhead (but under the crossbar) glove save and Kevin Broad didn't handle one goalmouth feed, didn't get his stick down in time on another.

As mentioned, the Engineers could have had a laugher.

Farynuk said that the players were seeking to "get back a little respect from our fans." "It was a satisfying win," he said.

"I thought we played hard for 60 minutes," said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. "Our 'D' (defensemen) had a little more jump (than Friday night). And we got some really solid play from Andrew Lord who came back into the lineup and came through with a goal and an assist."

Though it was defenseman Keith MCWilliams who scored it, Seth Klerer's line came up with a goal on Friday night and Chris Hussey's line had two (his own and Lord's) on Saturday.

The Engineers had been counting too much on the top line of center Oren Eizenman, Croxton and Ornelas, the top three scorers on the team. The team needs to get something from other lines. "Coach mentioned (Friday) night after the game that some guys who had to step up," Farynuk said, "and Andrew Lord and Hussey definitely did that. They made a couple of big plays for us that got the ball rolling."

From healthy scratch to first PP unit: Lord had back-to-back healthy scratches lately. Fridgen, trying to get the slumping RPI power play some spark, inserted the big right winger onto the top unit with leading scorers Croxton and Oren Eizenman Saturday. "That's something I'd talked (about) with the captains, bouncing things off them," Fridgen said. "I was a little apprehensive at first but I decided to make that move and it certainly worked out. He's a big body in front of the net, he certainly takes up space ... pure strength on a rebound ... and he's got a real good shot as well."

Lord's power-play goal in the third period snapped a string of 18 RPI power plays without success. "A guy who hadn't seen any power-play time this year finally gets the one for us (the game-winner)," Fridgen noted, "and I think that's great."

Near miss for Yurk: Nothing excites players and fans alike quite like a shorthanded breakaway. Senior left winger and Troy native Mark Yurkewecz had one with about 5:50 remaining in the first period.

Sims made the save but couldn't control the puck and as he was falling across the goal line, he batted it toward the left corner with his arm.

"I kind of rushed it a little bit," Yurkewecz said. "If I had waited a little longer, his legs probably would have opened up. I think I rushed it."

"Next time," he added.

Sims made a nice save to deny Klerer on RPI's other breakaway.

Success vs. Hockey East: They've lost to the worst team in the league (Merrimack) and opened the season by twice blowing a two-goal lead in a 5-3 defeat to UMass-Lowell but the Engineers have played some of their best hockey this season against Hockey East conference teams.

Saturday's victory over Providence gave them a 3-2-0 record against the East's more elite league.

"Yeah, obviously that's really important," Farynuk said. "Hockey East always seems to get a lot of poll attention and always has highly respected teams. When you can knock off teams like BU (Boston University) and Providence, it looks good."

Croxton noted that Providence "is on top of Hockey East and we did real well against them. That's a positive."

It wasn't that long ago that RPI had a tough time against the eastern neighbors. Prior to the 3-2 victory at BU on Oct. 21, RPI had lost 12 of its previous 16 games against Hockey East teams.

Second loss to MAAC: The setback to Holy Cross gave RPI an 18-2-2 record against teams from Atlantic Hockey (formerly Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). The Engineers won the first 11 games against such teams.