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Uryadov Living Up to His Reputation

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 1, 2006

TROY - Andrei Uryadov is a goal-scorer.

Yeah, he scored one goal last season as a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute freshman.

Don't be fooled by that misleading statement, though. The hat trick that Uryadov scored in last week's 5-5 tie with Ohio State was more indicative of his scoring skills than his one goal in 28 games last season.

First-year RPI head coach Seth Appert was nearly as happy to inherit Uryadov as he was team stars Oren Eizenman and Kirk MacDonald.

After a few games, he put Uryadov on Eizenman's line with MacDonald to form the team's top forward unit.

Playing on a line with RPI's two best forwards, of course, would help anyone.

"I'm playing on a line with two very good players, Mac and Oren," Uryadov said. "They're helping me out a lot in practice. It's been fun playing together."

It goes far beyond that, though, Appert says.

"He was outstanding," Appert said of Uryadov's three-goal, four-point night vs. OSU. "Not only on his goals but how hard he's playing."

"I think that's the biggest (reason) we're so pleased with Andrei right now," Appert said. "He's playing very hard. He's finishing his checks, he's being tough, difficult to play against, he's backchecking. Those things allow him to get the puck more often. If you play hard, finish checks, you stop and start, you pay attention to details, you'll get the puck a lot more (and in better position) than you do if you're looping around out there."

The St. Petersburg, Russia native didn't show much of that last year.

Skating on RPI's second power-play unit, Uryadov scored a 5-on-3 goal with 5:35 remaining to give the Engineers their first victory last season, a 4-3 decision over Michigan Tech.

He never sent another puck across the goal line the remainder of the season, however, and was off the power-play unit a few games later.

What happened?

"I don't know," he said. "I kept playing the same way, I thought. Some games I got more time, other games I didn't."

Former coach Dan Fridgen, Uryadov said, "tried to teach me a lot. He knew it was difficult for me coming out of an environment where I was counted on heavily to be the go-to guy. I didn't play as well defensively (in prep school) as I have to in college, so he was just trying to help me get used to the defensive side of the game."

Rensselaer assistant captain Kevin Broad says the adjustment to college hockey is a process of varying lengths among different players.

"College is a tough jump to make," Broad said. "Not a lot of guys can make that jump (instantly), for whatever reason, confidence, whatever."

"I don't think Andrei got lots of looks on the PP last year and he's been on it since Day 1 this year," Broad added. "Obviously, the wide-open style that Coach Appert employs fits Andrei's skills perfectly. He's a highly-skilled forward, he has great hands. He's solid. It's a perfect fit."

"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," Uryadov said. "I got the (first-year) jitters out, you get used to the speed and the physicality of the (college) game and I just feel more comfortable and more myself."

"Confidence helps out a lot," he continued. "You take the shots you wouldn't take last year and make the passes you wouldn't make and overall, I'm having more fun."

Did his confidence waver last year?

"It was tough," Uryadov admitted. "Coming from prep school, where I was playing first-line and getting a lot of ice time, PP time, I expected a lot. I knew it would be tough but I was ready to work, work, hard and get used to college hockey and take that next step. But it was tough."

Uryadov never stopped considering himself a goal-scorer.

"Well, that is why they recruited me to come to RPI," he said. "When I'd talk to Coach Fridgen, he'd tell me, 'we need more goals and that's why we want you here.' I think that's my role and I'm ready to do that (but) I'm also ready to work hard backchecking and in the 'D' (defensive) zone."

It was asked of Uryadov when he's the most dangerous.

"I think when I'm skating and I get the puck while I'm moving my feet," he said. "I get the speed going and I think I can beat someone with my speed and hands."

"He's really, really talented when he has the puck," Appert continued. "When he has the puck, he can do special things."

Eizenman's line has been outstanding lately - offensively, anyway - and the team's top goal-scorer, Jake Morissette, is on another line. Still, the Engineers have won just one of their past five games (1-2-2). That means more frustration for Uryadov and his linemates.

"It's frustrating, we've lost some close games," he said. "The games we win are pretty close, too, and that's, I guess, the kind of games we're going to be in all season."