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Engineers Improve 1st-period Thrust

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 13, 2006

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute no longer has a problem coming out and playing a solid first period.

A major concern for most of the season, when the Engineers often fell behind because of an early-game lack of intensity, they've come out smoking in the past three games. They dominated opening-period play against Union, Yale and Brown over the past three games.

Converting that domination into goals was something else again - they totaled just two goals over the three games - and the Engineers seemed to hit the wall in the final period of Saturday's 4-2 victory over Brown.

They'd totally dominated the first period from a positional aspect, as Kevin Croxton's goal midway through the period was among four Grade A scoring chances and six shots on goal from the lower slot and in.

Rensselaer totaled just nine shots on goal over the final two periods, though. "I thought it was pretty evident there (in the third period) where we started to get into some penalty trouble there and I think that was (due to) the fact that we were running out of gas," Fridgen said.

"That's what tends to happen when your feet quit moving, you start reaching with the stick, reaching with the hands."

"Obviously, we got into some penalty trouble," Fridgen said, "but I thought our penalties killers ... Jonny Ornelas ... Seth (Klerer), Jake Morissette, Kurtis Colling, Mathieu Angers-Goulet, did a great job killing off the penalties. And Mathias (Lange) was there when needed to make the save for us."

In early season games against Boston University, Northeastern (both victories), Clarkson (a tie) and Merrimack, the Engineers were listless to lethargic in the opening period.

Same for midseason games against Holy Cross, St. Lawrence and Yale.

Hopefully, that problem is behind them, even if they do need to pace themselves somewhat better.

Long time between sweeps: Rensselaer players and head coach Dan Fridgen never dreamed, after beating Quinnipiac and Princeton on Nov. 11-12, that it would take so long for another 2-0-0 weekend.

Since that weekend, the second of the ECAC Hockey League schedule, the Engineers played back-to-back games eight times (though the Ohio State Tournament was played in mid-week.)

Only once did they win the opening game of the two-game set and their 16-game record during that stretch was 4-9-3, 3-6-3 in ECACHL play.

Those marks could have been better.

"We've been fighting the injury bug," Fridgen said, referring to a half-dozen injuries that cost them leading scorer Kevin Croxton for six games and two of their four senior defensemen, Brad Farynuk (seven games) and Alex Valentin, who missed the past 12 games and is out for the season.

"You take the cards that you're dealt and ... throughout this situation, we've worked real hard. It's not a situation where guys went to sleep at all. They've worked hard and they've picked up for one another and that's what they needed to do."

"We've gotten some bodies back in the lineup ... and we still have some guys (6-goal scorer Kevin Broad, defensive forward Tyler Eaves) to get back," Fridgen noted.

Broad began skating on Saturday and hopes to skate hard with the team in Tuesday's practice.

He'd love to return for next week's games at Princeton and Quinnipiac, as the Engineers hope to duplicate their earlier sweep.

"That'd be great," said Broad, who incurred abdominal and leg injuries. "I'll know by Wednesday."

It's more likely that Broad would return for the regular-season's final weekend against Cornell and Colgate Feb. 24-25.

Colling moves up: At exactly the 19 minute mark, Brown got a pretty tip-in goal by Matt Vokes with an extra attacker on the ice and came right back down after the faceoff and got off another shot.

Andrew Lord set up Colling for a game-clinching empty-net goal at 19:18, though. The freshman left winger was asked, as a Brown defender angled toward him forcing him to shoot, how one keeps from psyching himself into missing the empty net.

"I was worried about that myself, that I was going to miss," he said. "You just tell yourself (remember) in practice when there are no goalies around, you kind of just shoot it on net. So, you're used to it by now -- hopefully."

Fridgen switched Ornelas and Colling over the weekend, reuniting the high-scoring line of Ornelas (13 goals), Eizenman (11) and Croxton (now 12). On Friday night, and for a couple shifts on Saturday, though, Colling played with Eizenman and Croxton, both in equal-strength situations and on the top power-play unit.

The Ripley, Ont. native, not a big goal-scorer but an opportunistic one, was honored.

"When you look at coming in to a team, you certainly don't think you're going to be playing with guys like that," Colling said. "But I think I can fit in well with them, do my job, give them some space, get them the puck."

Indeed. Croxton gave Colling credit for "tying up (Brown's) 'D' man so I could get a shot" on his power-play goal on Saturday night.

Hot freshman: Mathieu Angers-Goulet scored both RPI goals in the 2-1 victory over Yale and had an assist on Saturday night.

The freshman center has five points (2-3-5) his past five games.

"It's fun to score two goals, of course," Angers-Goulet said after Friday night's game. "The whole team played hard; I was the lucky guy tonight."

Angers-Goulet became just the fifth RPI player to score two goals in a game this season.

Chris Hussey did so in Game 2, a loss at Alaska-Anchorage, Ornelas did so twice (wins over Northeastern and Princeton), as did Eizenman (a tie at Clarkson and 4-3 loss to Sacred Heart) and Croxton had a hat trick in the 10-7 shootout victory over RIT.

'Why us?': After losing on Big Red Freakout! Night for the third time in four seasons and falling to 0-8-0 on RPI's biggest promotional date, Brown may ask the Institute to find another opponent for next year's Freakout!

NOTES: Rensselaer penalty killers have succeeded on killing 51 of the past 58 shorthanded situations, and 89.7 percent efficiency rate, raising the season mark from 78.9 to 82.0 percent. ... The pair of victories while being outshot over the weekend raised RPI's record when being outshot to 7-8-2. The Engineers are 6-6-1 when outshooting the opposition. ... Lord has four points (2-2-4) over the past three games. He earlier had a 4-2-6 line over a nine-game span. ... Morissette was held without a shot on goal against Yale. Despite totaling just three points (2-1-3) over the past 16 games, he had at least one SOG in 15 of them. ... Needing wins on the road next week, the Engineers will take road records of 1-5-3 (ECACHL) and 2-7-3 (overall) to Princeton on Friday night. Rensselaer is 1-2-0 on neutral ice.