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RPI Edges Harvard

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 8, 2006

TROY - So victory-starved was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday night, the Engineers accepted their hold-your-breath, sigh-of-relief triumph over Harvard, especially since it was accomplished virtually without leading scorer Kevin Croxton; and well, it almost didn't happen.

Trailing by three goals with well under four minutes remaining in the game, Harvard rallied hard for goals at 16:14, with an extra attacker at 18:43 and nearly tied the game with 25 seconds remaining in the Engineers; 3-2 victory.

When Rensselaer's Jake Morissette fired a roofer past Harvard goalie John Daigneau with 4:50 to play, no one in the crowd of 2,597 expected it to be the game-winner.

"They came real close (to tying it)," said RPI goalie Mathias Lange, who stopped many Grade-A chances among his 30 saves. "They just kept coming hard."

Lange made a butterfly save with his right arm while prone on the ice, denying the Crimson of the equalizer.

Croxton was injured late in the first period and left for good after two quick shifts in the second period, shut things down in the scoreless game.

The triumph ends a three-game losing streak for the Engineers and is just the third victory in their past 10 games (3-5-2). They improve to 3-2-3 in ECAC Hockey League play, 9-9-3 overall.

Goals have been hard to come by for Rensselaer these days but the Engineers dug deep, getting second-period goals by Keith MCWilliams and Kevin Broad, as well as Morissette's late game-winner.

"This is probably one of the best team efforts I've seen in the three years that I've been here," said Broad. "Croxy went down, Jonny (Ornelas, who missed a number of shifts after taking a shot off the hand), Slovak (senior defenseman Alexander Valentin) was out for the weekend."

"We had guys stepping up tonight; I'm proud of the boys tonight," Broad added.

Head coach Dan Fridgen agreed, and said the Crimson had some "puck luck" on both their goals.

"Granted, I don't think we did a very good job of communicating and picking up loose sticks," he said, "but the puck is bouncing all over, they take swipes at it and bounces into the net."

"I thought we did a good job coming out and taking the play in the first period."

Fridgen also praised the other three right wingers - Morissette, Chris Hussey and Andrew Lord "did a great job rotating through after Croxy went down."

Seeking better scoring depth, Fridgen had broken up the Oren Eizenman (Ornelas, Croxton) line that had tallied 34 of the 55 goals scored by RPI forwards.

Harvard defenseman Dylan Reese scored a split-second after the whistle - net off its moorings - with 6:05 remaining and the Crimson (7-6-1, 10-7-2) were buzzing the RPI net when Harvard head coach Ted Donato took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive complaints to referee Tim Kotyra.

The Engineers capitalized when Scott Romfo forechecked the puck away and fed Morissette for a shot low in the left circle that Daigneau couldn't handle.

"I got a good shot off," Morissette said with a slight smile. "It was a good pass by Romfo off the wall."

The game-winner?

"No, that didn't really cross my mind," he said.

With the Croxton-less No. 1 power-play unit having just left and the No. 2 unit on the ice, defenseman MCWilliams fired a blast from the top of the slot through a screen, giving the Engineers a 1-0 lead at 9:49 of the second period.

After a center-ice faceoff six and one-half minutes later, freshman defenseman Reed Kipp lasered the puck to Broad at the Harvard blue line.

The junior winger stick-handled around Walsh just outside the left circle, moved to the center a bit and fired one past Daigneau.

"Kipper somehow saw me through eight guys and fed me a nice pass," Broad said. "He hit me right on the tape, I had a little gap (on Walsh) so I just cut across and fired it far side."

With four forwards and himself all down in the goalmouth, Reese shoved on under Lange with 3:46 remaining and Alex Meintel tipped in a short rebound 2:29 later.

"Then the guys did a good job holding them off," Lange said.