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MCWilliams Is Upbeat This Year

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 1, 2006

Keith MCWilliams can't thoroughly explain it, but one thing is for sure: The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute defenseman is enjoying his senior season.

And with good reason. MCWilliams is playing the best hockey of his RPI career with seven goals and nine assists, both career highs. MCWilliams' 16 points are tied for fourth best with teammate Brad Farynuk, and the two are tied for fifth in scoring among ECACHL defensemen.

"I don't know if I've matured more, but I'm just having a lot more fun," MCWilliams said. "I was talking with coach [Dan] Fridgen after [Christmas] break, and he said, 'You seem to be having a lot more fun this year.' That's been the difference. I really enjoy the group of guys that are on the team. I really enjoy going to the rink every day for practice. The games are the highlight of my week."

When asked if he didn't have as much fun his first three years because he was putting too much pressure on himself, MCWilliams had a tough time explaining it.

"I don't know if I can point it to a certain thing," MCWilliams said. "I really don't know. Here in college, you go through a lot of changes while you are here. I don't know if some of the things that were going on in my life at the time maybe had an effect on that, or what it was exactly. I just know I enjoy it more than I have in the past."

With injuries to captains Farynuk and Kevin Croxton, MCWilliams has taken on a leadership role. He has also contributed offensively, getting five goals and five assists in his last 12 games.

"We've been relying on Keith, and he's been doing an outstanding job with it," Fridgen said. "Not just off the ice and in the locker room, but on the ice, as well. He's a very hard worker. He's a very intelligent player. He really does a good job of keeping his game simple."

"He's very conscious of his nutrition, his rest, and he's very diligent in the weight room. He's a strong player who takes care of his body, and does what he needs to do at this high a level."

The offensive output may be a surprise to some people, but it isn't to MCWilliams.

"Growing up, I was one of the most offensive players on my team," MCWilliams said. "Then I went to play junior hockey, and kind of changed of my game a little to fit in the role I was put into. I wasn't as offensive. I think, finally, maybe I'm just getting back to where I feel comfortable."

"I have been given an opportunity to be on the power play, and use my offensive skills that, maybe in the past, I had to put aside and put defense first."

HAPPY FOR SENIORS

Union's 2-1 win over Harvard Saturday not only gave the Dutchmen their first season-series victory over the Crimson, it gave head coach Nate Leaman his first win against the team for which he served as an assistant coach for four years before moving to Union.

But he didn't take any satisfaction in beating his former school.

"It's the first time that the seniors have beaten Harvard," Leaman said. "I'm more happy for the seniors. We're trying to get over a lot of mental humps. Obviously, Harvard is one of them. They've dominated this series in the past. If we can take three of four [points] on the season from them, hopefully, we can build on that the rest way."

Meanwhile, Harvard coach Ted Donato was less than complimentary about play in the game, although he credited the Dutchmen's effort.

"In general, I don't think it was a good brand of hockey," Donato said. "Very muddy waters out there. Lots of clutching and grabbing."

GOALIE RECOVERS

Dutchmen goalie Kris Mayotte certainly didn't look sharp in Friday's 5-1 loss to Dartmouth. Mayotte gave up a couple of soft goals, and another was an uncharacteristic one.

Mayotte never gets caught out of position. But he did on the Big Green's second goal of the first period. He followed Mike Ouellette as he came down the left wing, but strayed too far from the net. That allowed Grant Lewis to tap Ouellette's pass into an open net. Mayotte was pulled after giving up two goals in 70 seconds midway through the third period.

But Mayotte bounced back against the Crimson with a 26-save effort. His biggest save came in the third period when he stopped Jack Christian's onetimer from the left-wing off a Charlie Johnson cross-ice pass on a three-on-two break.

"When you play back-to-back nights, you can't let one night carry over to the next," Mayotte said. "You have to try and forget it."

Leaman, who wasn't happy with Mayotte's performance against Dartmouth, was very pleased after the Harvard game.

"I think he's one of the best goaltenders in the league," Leaman said. "I'm not going to say he's the best, but I definitely think he's one of the best. He has to have his 'A' game if we're going to have a chance."

BUTTAFUOCO RESIGNS

ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco submitted his resignation last Wednesday.

He had served the ECAC since 1998, which included running the hockey league. In 2004, the athletic directors of the 12-team league teams decided they wanted more of a say on running the circuit, so they voted to form the ECAC Hockey League and move the offices from Cape Cod to Albany. Steve Hagwell, who had served as ECAC associate commissioner, was named interim ECACHL commissioner and, eventually, had the interim tagged removed.

Buttafuoco will be remembered for moving the conference tournament from Lake Placid to the Pepsi Arena, starting in 2003. It was a deal that upset officials from the Olympic Regional Development Authority, who thought they had a verbal agreement to keep the tournament in Lake Placid, which had hosted it for 10 years. There were accusations of ORDA phone calls not being returned by Buttafuoco.

LOCAL UPDATE

Here is a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region who are playing outside the area did last week.

Boston University sophomore forward Peter MacArthur (Clifton Park) had a goal and an assist in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Massachusetts. MacArthur was runner-up to Boston College's Sean Collins for Hockey East player of the month for January. MacArthur had five goals and six assists in eight games, and had a plus-minus rating of plus-9.

Clarkson sophomore forward Shawn Weller (South Glens Falls) assisted on Shea Guthrie's gamewinning tally, helping the Golden Knights beat North Country-rival St. Lawrence, 3-2, on Friday. Weller added a goal and an assist the next night in a 5-4 loss to the Saints.

Brown junior defenseman Lauren Deeb (Menands) had an assist in the Bears' 3-1 loss Friday to Cornell.

Maine junior goalie Rachel Gettings (Watervliet) stopped all 15 shots she faced in the Black Bears' 7-0 rout of BU Saturday.

SLAP SHOTS

Boston College's stay at the top of the USCHO.com/CSTV NCAA Top 20 college hockey poll lasted only a week. The Eagles were beaten by Boston U., 4-3, Friday. Miami (Ohio) is the new No. 1 team, earning 20 of 40 first-place votes and getting 777 points. Minnesota is No. 2 with 767 points, including 15 first-place votes. BC fell to No. 3. . . .

In the Eagles' loss to the Terriers, the shutout streak of BC goalie Cory Schneider ended at 242 minutes, 19 seconds. . . .

Brown played in its eighth overtime game of the season Friday, tying a team record. The Bears lost to Cornell, 4-3. Six of Brown's last eight games have gone to overtime. . . .

More than 100 former Dartmouth players came back Saturday to celebrate the program's 100 years of hockey.