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The Key to Their Success?

The RPI Men's Hockey Team Is Looking for a Big Senior Season from Oren Eizenman

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 12, 2006

TROY - Quick, who led Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's hockey team in goals last season?

While one's initial reaction may be - appropriately - Kevin Croxton, he soon remembers that Croxton missed six games and while Croxton did lead the Engineers in scoring, he totaled only 14 goals.

So then, who ...

"I believe that was me," said senior center Oren Eizenman.

Can most fans answer that without thinking first of the graduated Croxton?

"Ah, I don't really care," he said with a laugh. "It wasn't that many (16) anyway."

Eizenman (16-22-38 last season) will center the top forward line again this season.

Who'll be on that line with him isn't known yet, though senior right winger Kirk MacDonald and junior left winger Jonathan Ornelas are certainly top candidates.

If the Engineers are going to move up the ECAC Hockey League standings under first-year head coach Seth Appert, they'll likely need MacDonald, who returns after taking last season off with a bout with cancer, to return to top form; he led the team in scoring in 2004-05.

However, Eizenman is likely an even bigger key for the team's success.

While a big, offensively productive return from MacDonald is essential for the Engineers to make a significant climb in the ECAC Hockey League standings, many observers feel the RPI offense will be as productive as is Eizenman.

"It's an honor to hear people say that," he said, "because we do have a lot of very good players and, I don't really feel that's entirely true because I know we have a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net."

Eizenman and MacDonald will both certainly be on RPI's top power-play unit but in 5-on-5 situations, perhaps they'll sometimes be together, sometimes they won't.

While he may not feel pressured to score 20-25 goals himself, Eizenman knows his linemates have to be among the top four on the team and total 30 or more for the team to have a shot at a top four finish.

"I always put a lot of pressure on myself," he said, "because I know that when my line goes out there and scores goals, it helps the team win. But if I were to go out there and score four goals and get scored on five times, I would feel as though I let everyone down."

"So, I'm not so much putting pressure on myself to score a lot of goals or set up a lot of goals," he said. "What I'm concentrating on is getting the team to (the top) level. If that means just going out there, working hard and leading by example, things of that nature, that's what I'm going to do. Obviously, one of my strengths is going out there and seizing some offense. But whatever it takes, I'll do."

"Offensively, I'm just going to do what I always do and with our new, kind of wide-open style, my style of game will mesh well with that."

He knows he's got to put up good numbers, though, at least as good as last season's 38 points.

"Yeah, I do," he said, "but you know, I don't even really think about it. I just want to play well. Usually when I play well and don't think about (scoring responsibilities, numbers), I do put up some points. But more important, is (I) play within the system and help the team win in all ways."

Eizenman believes, despite the loss of Croxton and their stark lack of experience on defense, the Engineers can win a lot more often than ECACHL observers are predicting.

"I think this year, more than any other year I've been here, we have a lot of guys who can contribute on every line," he said. "Yeah, we've said that before but it's more true now. You look at the wealth of talent, and even though guys didn't have the chance to play in that role (before) ... or they're freshmen, they can do it. It's refreshing to see that the guys are coming in with the confidence to come in and do that and while I'm hoping that I play well, Mac and I both realize it's going to be a full team effort that wins games."

During one 13-game stretch last season, Eizenman did not score a goal and just four assists, while RPI posted a 4-8-1 record. While it should be added that Croxton, offensive defenseman Brad Farynuk and winger Kevin Broad were all injured during that stretch, Eizenman vows to be more consistent.

"That can't happen this year," he said. "We've got to keep those slumps much shorter."

In six of the past seven years, the Engineers have averaged well under 3.00 goals per game in ECACHL play, including 2.09 two seasons ago and 2.23 in 2002-03. It's been eight years since they've averaged over 4.00 per game.

"I think you'll be surprised this year," Eizenman reiterated. "We really do have a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net and coach (Appert) has instilled into them that they are going to be expected to go out there and score, so it's going to be a little different than last year, I think."