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Engineers Simply Have to Play Through Pain

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 2, 2006

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won't play the best teams in the ECAC Hockey League during the next three weeks, with all due respect to Union and the other upcoming opponents.

How many games can the injury-plagued Engineers win against the Dutchmen (two), Brown, Yale, Princeton and Quinnipiac?

Who knows?

Against the rival Dutchmen, they will continue to be without top scorer Kevin Croxton, second-line forward Kevin Broad, standout defensive forward Tyler Eaves and top defenseman Brad Farynuk.

Croxton skated hard on Wednesday - but is said to be out for Union anyway - while Farynuk, Broad and Eaves still haven't practiced since their Jan. 13-14 injuries.

Next week for Croxton?

"See how it feels, I really can't predict (it)," he said Wednesday. "It's frustrating."

The Engineers, losers of three straight games, aren't using the injuries "as a crutch" in the words of head coach Dan Fridgen, though it's obvious the shorthandedness on defense and lack of scoring punch - if not the losses - are wearing on him.

"We're not living in the past, we've got to look forward," he said. "It would be nice to get a little more puck luck every now and then but we're not feeling sorry for ourselves. We're just concentrating on what we have coming up this weekend."

Fridgen even declined to say that the extra ice time the blueliners have had to log has led to opposing goals, even though Harvard had clear 2-on-1 breakouts through the neutral zone on its first two goals during its 3-1 victory over the Engineers last Friday night.

"That's tough (to say)," he said of the 14 goals allowed by the Engineers during their three-game slide. "You know what, though, I don't look for any crutches whatsoever. Some of them were nice plays, some of them Mathias (goalie Mathias Lange) would like to have back again."

"And," he added, "some of them, as usual lately, were a (lucky, quirky) bounce. The tying goal (at Harvard), the guy was deflecting it, it was going to go to the corner and it hit our defenseman in the back and went into the net. There's not too much you can do about something like that."

"So I mean ... no, I don't think it has to do with guys being fatigued."

Farynuk and Croxton say dealing with being sidelined has been tough.

"Obviously, it's real frustrating that you can't be out there to change things. It's tough to visualize on the radio. Sitting on the couch listening to it, makes it a lot harder to deal with."

"It's hard not to be able to contribute," Croxton said. "Frustrating."

Farynuk says the underclassmen need to use the opportunity given them to make the team better next season, not just the remainder of this year.

"If I were a freshman or a sophomore," Farynuk said, "I'd be like, 'jackpot, I'm going to make Croxton and Farynuk earn their spot when they do get back. This is my time where the coach can put some confidence in me and give me that playing time. That's what a mature player should be doing."

The Engineers miss the leadership that Croxton and Farynuk can provide but each lauded the team's other defensemen, Keith MCWilliams and Scott Romfo and forwards Chris Hussey and Mark Yurkewecz for helping to fill the void.

"We have enough leadership in there, if Brad and I aren't on the road trip, I don't think it's a problem," Croxton said.

Of course, scoring production, and playing with only five defensemen, are the problems that the Engineers will have to continue to try to overcome.

The above-mentioned teams - Yale's current 6-0-2 streak not withstanding - rank 7th, 8th (tie), 10th, 11th and 12th in the 12-team ECACHL and have a combined record of 21-42-9 in the league. Even being so shorthanded, hopefully the Engineers can hold their own with them and get some points.

Remember back on Oct. 28 when RPI hosted a horribly depleted Northeastern squad, which played without leading scorer Mike Morris (who's missed the entire season with concussions), and without three other forwards among the top seven returning scorers on the team - Ray Ortiz, Yale Lewis and Joe Santilli?

Well, the Engineers won that game, 7-5, but not until after the Huskies came out smoking in the first period and bolted to a 4-0 lead, with two of the goals scored by career 5th-liners.

That's the way the Engineers must play against Union this weekend - and then keep the lead, of course.

Murls waits: Pittsburgh Penguins left winger and former RPI All-American Matt Murley decided to wait on surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, scheduled for Tuesday, and seek a second opinion.