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RPI's MacDonald Can't Wait for Season to Start

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, August 29, 2006

TROY - At 4:23 p.m. Monday, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior forward Kirk MacDonald hopped over the boards and onto the Houston Field House ice surface, along with junior forwards Tyler Eaves, Jake Morissette and freshman forward Paul Kerins, for a skills and development workout with new assistant coaches Shawn Kurulak and Jim Montgomery.

On any normal day, especially since it was the last Monday in August and official practices don't start until Sept. 30, this wouldn't be news. But considering what MacDonald was going through at this time a year ago, it was an encouraging sign to see him skating and shooting during the 15-minute workout.

MacDonald missed all of last season while recovering from testicular cancer. He had hoped to return some time during the year, but complications developed. He spent nearly three months in the hospital, and had four surgeries. In fact, one year ago Monday, he was having one of those surgeries.

"It's a big jump from where I was last year to today," MacDonald said. "Coach Montgomery asked me about the surgery I had, and I looked at my watch and it was one year ago today. It's kind of a coincidence. It's been a long haul, that's for sure."

Even though he didn't want to have a big fuss made about his return, MacDonald was very happy to be back on the ice and working with his teammates for the fi rst time since March 5, 2005, when RPI lost to Brown, 4-3, in Game 2 of the ECACHL tournament first round, a game in which he had two assists.

"It was good," said MacDonald, who is cancer-free. "Two weeks ago, I was in San Jose at their development camp. I'm used to playing with NHL players. Being out here is just another step. I'm trying to get better every day. I'm not looking at this as a momentous occasion. I'm not going to lie, I'm looking forward to the first game [Oct. 13 against Boston University]. I've got that circled on my calendar."

Kurulak was impressed with Mac-Donald's workout.

"You can tell he's a special player," Kurulak said. "Just watching the little things he does with the puck, shooting the puck, how he competes, how he's going hard every time it's his turn to do a repetition."

MacDonald's teammates are glad to see him back in uniform again.

"He's such a big part of this team and program," Morissette said. "He bring so much. It's real exciting to see him out there again."

MacDonald led RPI in scoring during his junior season with 16 goals and 20 assists. His most memorable goal that year came in the Big Red Freakout. He scored with 8.3 seconds left in regulation, giving RPI a 3-2 win over Brown.

MacDonald lost 73 pounds during his ordeal. Infections from his surgeries kept him in the hospital. He couldn't eat solid food for nearly two months.

He has gained most of his weight back. MacDonald weighs around 195 pounds, about 10 pounds off of his playing weight during his junior season.

"I feel a lot quicker out there," MacDonald said. "I've always felt pretty fast once I got going. Now, I feel like I've got a better first step."

Kurulak, who was an assistant coach at Army before joining RPI, can't wait to see what MacDonald can do.

"It's just exciting to have Kirk back on the ice," Kurulak said. "It's a special story. People want to hear about it and talk about it, and they should. Kirk is a special person He's overcome a lot. I know he's just happy to be back out on the ice."

NOTEBOOK

Even though practices don't start for another month, NCAA rules allow coaches to work with players in groups of no more than four players while school is in session. Classes just started at RPI. ...

New RPI coach Seth Appert wasn't at the workout. He was on a recruiting trip. ...

The Puckman logos in the center-ice circle have been replaced by RPI's school seal, which encompasses the entire circle.