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RPI, Union Take On Powers

Tournament Openers Are Against Highly Ranked Foes

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, December 29, 2005

TROY - The Capital Region's Division I hockey teams can earn a major measure of respect for the ECAC Hockey League in a pair of Midwest tournaments beginning tonight.

RPI makes its first appearance in the Ohio Hockey Classic, taking on second-ranked Miami of Ohio in the opening round. If the Engineers make it past the RedHawks today at Ohio State, they likely will face the hosts - the preseason favorites in the CCHA - in Friday's championship game.

Union College, which was swept at 19th-ranked Ohio State in its last games before the Christmas break, faces the nation's most successful program of the past decade when it plays third-ranked Minnesota at the Dodge Holiday Classic. The winner will play the winner of Lowell vs. Canisius.

If RPI is to be successful, the Engineers need continued production from their high-powered top line of Kevin Croxton, Oren Eizenman and Jonathan Ornelas. All three have scored 11 goals, and they've put up 72 points among them. But they will need help against the likes of Miami and Ohio State.

"The other lines are getting chances; they're just not getting the bounces," said Eizenman, whose next goal will match the total from his first two seasons at RPI. "It's just one of those things. We have a lot of good players on this team, and they'll start producing. It's only a matter of time."

Some of that help came in RPI's last game before the break, a 10-7 win over RIT. That game, however, posed some obvious defensive concerns for the Engineers.

"It was a wild game," said Eizenman, who extended his point-scoring streak to 15 games against RIT. "We know we're a good team. We just have to play like we're a good team every single time we touch the ice."

Croxton is third in the NCAA in scoring per game. Eizenman ranks 10th.

"Our line has had some success so far," Eizenman said. "We're just trying to keep doing what we've been doing. We have a lot of speed. Croxton is a great playmaker, a great player. Jon is so quick, so fast. He's just a great scorer. We complement each other's game, and I think we're unselfish players."

RPI has played Miami once before, a 9-1 Engineers rout in 1984 when the RedHawks were in their infancy. Union has met Minnesota once, a 3-2 victory for the Gophers in Minnesota in 2000.

Ice chips: Ohio State's all-time leading goaltender, Dave Caruso, who missed the Union series with an injury, has been cleared to play. He has a 1.97 GAA for the Buckeyes and a career mark hovering right around 2.00. ... Colgate found tournament life difficult last weekend, getting thumped by Providence and then being tied by Brown in the consolation. ... RPI is 2-3-3 on the road; Union is 3-7-0 away from Schenectady.