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Strong-willed RPI Shrugs Off Injuries

Lesser-names Fill Void with Inspired Play, Big Goals; 'D' Men Log Extra Time

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 16, 2006

TROY - It's difficult to overrate what a monumental effort Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute displayed in Saturday night's 4-3 victory over rival Clarkson.

Already shorthanded with leading scorer Kevin Croxton and three others out, the Engineers lost forwards Tyler Eaves and Kevin Broad during the game.

Playing with five defensemen and severely shorthanded up front as well, the Engineers were a decided underdog against a team

  • with big goal-scorers on three different forward lines;
  • a chief rival that hadn't beaten them in three years;
  • a team that was 14th-ranked in the nation;
  • a teed off bunch smarting from a dismal 5-0 blanking at Union the previous night.

With the injuries piling up and with Clarkson's Nick Dodge scoring just 3:15 into the game, many anticipated a rout.

That didn't take into account the heart of the Engineers, who've lost a handful of games this season they probably should have won.

There are probably several of those losses (non-leaguers each, to be sure) that they wouldn't trade for the inspirational triumph on Saturday.

Combined with last week's 3-2 victory over Harvard - and providing they can get healthy soon - the decision could be the spark that pushes the Engineers toward their main goal; a Top 4 finish in the ECAC Hockey League.

"This is a very big win," said Dan Peace, who scored his second goal on a great lead pass from Kurt Colling, who also scored his second goal.

"I was flying in and he (Colling) put it right on my stick, gave me a mini-breakaway," Peace said. "I just put a little shoulder move on (Clarkson goalie Kyle McNulty) and fired it on the glove side."

Peace, with just two goals in just 24 career games, is an unlikely hero, at least from a scoring standpoint. Then again, the victory, all things considered, was also unlikely.

"I'm really trying to capitalize on the opportunities I get," he said. "That's the type of team we have, guys who can step up when we need it and that's what good teams do. It's a real testament to the way we played tonight."

Getting a key goal against such a skilled, high-scoring team as Clarkson while playing his usual tough checking game was a big plus for Peace.

"Absolutely," he said. "Our main objective is to shut down their top line but we have good enough players - Jake Morissette, Tyler (he went down tonight) and Kurt Colling - who can make some things happen and that's what we plan on doing."

Defensemen take extra shifts: Until recently, RPI had a veteran defensive crew, with four seniors, and two juniors (Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson) who had both played in almost every game this season.

Then senior Alexander Valentin went down with a knee injury and decided on surgery rather than a return this season.

Then senior tri-captain Brad Farynuk, bothered by a painful injury high on his right foot all season, suffered a slight fracture in the lower foot and will be lost 2-4 weeks.

That means extra duty, and extra pressure, for senior blueliners Keith MCWilliams and Scott Romfo. Each was dead tired after Saturday's survival.

"Yeah, kind of, with Boots (Farynuk) being out of the lineup, some other guys have to step up," Romfo said. "But I don't know if I'd call it pressure. We just have to execute ... make less mistakes. I guess ... but if we make (defensive) plays, we should be all right."

MCWilliams admitted there's an added weight on his shoulders.

"It's not a negative weight, though," he said. "It's something that I look at as a challenge, bigger challenge. Guys have to step up and whoever that may be on a given night, it's a challenge. I kind of thrive on a challenge."

MCWilliams has also helped the offense with eight points (3-5-8) over the past seven games.

"I've been fortunate," MCWilliams said. "My shot's been getting through and guys have been getting in front of the net."

MCWilliams was asked if he'd ever logged as many minutes (27) as he did on Saturday.

"I have but it was when I was a lot younger, maybe in midget hockey," he said.

"Long weekend," Romfo added with a long sigh.

Amazing 10-goal stretch: The fact that the Engineers struggled to get goals from forward lines other than Oren Eizenman's line was well-documented.

When Croxton (11 goals) left the Harvard game on Jan. 7 early in the second period, RPI fans worried from where the goals would come; could the Engineers score enough?

Since Croxton's been out, the Engineers have scored 10 goals.

Amazingly, neither Ornelas (12 goals) nor Eizenman (11 goals) had any of the 10. Matter for fact, Eizenman, who recently had a 15-game scoring streak, hasn't had a point since Croxton's been out.

Even more amazingly, RPI was able to win two of those three games, all against nationally-ranked teams.

Seven of those 10 goals came from forwards on the other three lines; Broad 2, Andrew Lord, Mathieu Angers-Goulet, Peace and Colling; and three by defensemen; two by Keith MCWilliams and Reed Kipp's game-winner on Saturday night.

Second unit great: Rensselaer's second power play unit hadn't enjoyed much success until lately, having produced just four goals in nearly 120 tries.

Over the past five games though, five of RPI's eight power-play goals have come from the second unit, though it must be added, of course, that Croxton has missed half of that time.

Broad (2), MCWilliams, Jake Morissette, Colling and Kipp scored those second-unit, power-play goals.

Broad will be missed: Broad's injury will be fully evaluated today but there's a good chance he'll be unable to make the trip to Brown and Yale this week.

As mentioned, the Engineers have been looking for scoring other than Eizenman's line.

Broad had put in four goals during his last six games prior to being hurt Saturday.

Croxton, though, is expected to return to the lineup.

Tough adjustment for Kipp: The new, tight enforcement of interference in hockey is even more strict in the college game than it is in juniors.

It's been a tough adjustment for freshman defenseman Kipp.

The Victoria, B.C. native drew three interference infractions against Clarkson.

"You can't even touch somebody with your stick, move a shoulder into them, or they'll get you," Kipp said. "Yeah, it's been tough. I'm still adjusting."