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Engineers Rally, Escape with Tie

RPI Erases 2-goal Deficit, Earns Point at Princeton

By Dan Farrand

Albany Times Union, February 18, 2006

PRINCETON, N.J. - Four appears to be the RPI hockey team's magic number, in both a positive and negative sense.

The Engineers haven't lost a game this season when scoring four goals or more, and haven't won when conceding four scores. They kept both streaks alive Friday night at Hobey Baker Rink, battling back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and escaping with a 4-4 tie.

Seniors Keith MCWilliams and Kevin Croxton each scored to erase a 4-2 hole late in the game. MCWilliams got his ninth goal of the season, and his third on the power play, with a laser that beat Princeton goaltender Eric Leroux high on the glove side after the Tigers' Christian Read took a roughing penalty 8:07 into the period.

With the Princeton lead cut to one, Croxton poked the puck away from a defenseman and broke up center ice while teammate Oren Eizenman corralled the loose puck. Eizenman fired a crisp pass to the senior captain, who put a series of moves on Leroux and flipped it off his backhand. Leroux got his blocker on the shot, deflecting it into the air, but the puck landed behind Leroux and trickled over the goal line to tie the score.

"He made a great read on the shot," Croxton said of Leroux's partial save. "Sometimes you just get the bounces and sometimes you don't."

Despite the comeback there was little celebrating in a somber RPI locker room. The Engineers (13-14-5 overall, 7-7-5 ECACHL) led 2-0 after first-period goals from Eizenman and Chris Hussey, but Princeton dominated from that point on, scoring four consecutive goals from late in the first to early in the third period. The Tigers (9-15-2, 6-11-2) peppered RPI goalie Mathias Lange with 11 shots in the second period while the Engineers spent the majority of their time on penalty kills, which included a 1:25 five-on-three.

"We did a real good job on the five-on-threes, but we spent too much energy killing penalties and not enough time on offense," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "It's frustrating to play that type of game."

But Fridgen nevertheless seemed happy with his team's resilience late and its ability to escape with a point in an arena where powerhouses such as Denver, Cornell, Colgate and St. Lawrence lost this season.

"We played real good in the third period, but we should not have been in that situation to begin with," Fridgen said. "We'll take the point. They are difficult to get this time of year. We showed a lot of strong character out there."

Eizenman had a goal and two assists to lead the Engineers. Croxton and MCWilliams each scored a goal and had an assist.

RPI remained alone in seventh place in the ECACHL standings, but that margin narrowed on both ends. Clarkson, with a 3-2 victory over Yale, closed to within one point of the Engineers. Likewise, RPI inched a point closer to sixth-place Union after the Dutchmen's 3-1 loss at Quinnipiac.

RPI, which sits one point out of sixth place, plays at Quinnipiac tonight at 7.

Quinnipiac (16-15-0, 7-12-0), in its first year in the league, is tied with Princeton and Yale for ninth place. RPI won the first meeting between the teams 4-2 Nov. 11 in Troy.