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Union Denies RPI

Dutchmen Tally Twice in 15 Seconds to Ruin Croxton's Return

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, February 4, 2006

SCHENECTADY - A courageous and unexpected comeback by RPI star Kevin Croxton provided the backdrop for a dramatic twist, but it wasn't quite enough to change the ending of this story.

Croxton, the ECAC Hockey League's leading scorer before breaking a bone in his ankle and missing the past four games, skated through the pain for 19 shifts and even assisted on a goal, but Union pulled out a 3-2 victory on a pair of goals within 15 seconds of the second period Friday night before a sellout crowd of 2,284 at Messa Rink.

Freshman Chris Potts scored the game-winner unassisted off a fluky turnover at 16:38 of a five-goal second period after teammate Jonathan Poirier had evened the score at 2-2 seconds earlier to move Union (13-11-5, 6-6-3 ECAC) into sixth place in the standings.

RPI (11-14-3, 5-7-3), which entered the first of this home-and-home series tied with the Dutchmen, dropped into a tie for eighth.

"He's a warrior," Union coach Nate Leaman said of Croxton, who was only expected to be used on the power play if he played at all. "It didn't catch us off guard that he was playing. The most important thing is that we had a senior (Scott Seney) step up and lead us tonight. He played a great, great game."

Seney scored Union's first goal, his third against RPI the past three games, and assisted on Poirier's tying score. Seney wristed in a shot inside the left post at 5:41 of the second on a 5-on-3 power play, but then RPI answered with a pair of power-play scores.

Defenseman Keith MCWilliams' drive from outside skipped over goalie Kris Mayotte's glove at 12:47, then fellow blueliner Jake Luthi made it 2-1 with a long drive that caromed off Mayotte into the left corner at 15:22.

Union came firing back to score twice against Mathias Lange, who was pulled in the final minute to give RPI a 6-on-4 power play for the final 53 seconds after one of several ill-advised Union penalties in this game. Croxton nearly made the Dutchmen pay, but a defenseman knocked the puck out of danger in front.

"It was real close," said Croxton, who admitted he's probably about 70-80 percent. "He made a great defensive play. I didn't feel that bad. I just wanted to take it slow. I don't think I forced coming back just because it was Union."

RPI certainly had its chances with 10 power plays in all, but the Engineers were unable to get a goal from any of their forwards and fell to Union for the third consecutive time over the past two seasons. Leaman said some of the players in this lineup may not be in tonight's game as a result.

"I think we know how to play on the road," he said. "I'm not worried about home or road; I'm worried about us playing a smart game tomorrow night. We as a team have to play much more disciplined. They had 24 shots - 14 of them on the power play."

For Seney, these were his first points since the Clarkson game Jan. 13.

"After I scored that first goal, it was kind of a monkey off my back," Seney said. "I had fun out there. I tried to make as many plays as I could. We had to bounce back as quick as possible, and Poirier had a nice goal."