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Ornelas' Goal Gives Lift to RPI

By Phil Janack

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 14, 2007

SCHENECTADY - Since the RPI hockey team came back from its holiday break late last month, junior forward Jon Ornelas has been a different player.

Maybe it's no coincidence.

"I asked for a little luck for Christmas," Ornelas said. "It looks like I got it."

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Orn elas jump-started the Engineers on Saturday, scoring the first goal in a 3-2 victory over arch-rival Union, 24 hours after RPI was shut out on home ice.

"That was real good for our morale," Ornelas. "We came out flying [Friday], and they scored first, and that really put a damper on the way we play. Coming out tonight and getting the first one gave us that momentum we needed."

For Ornelas, it was his third goal in five games after enduring a drought that lasted 28 games dating back to a 3-1 win at Brown Jan. 20, 2006.

"It was hard," said Ornelas, who had 13 goals in RPI's first 19 games as a sophomore. "I'd never been through a slump like that before in my life."

"I had great support from my coaches and my teammates. They were saying to keep playing the way I'm playing, and sooner or later, it's going to go in. Lately, it has been."

It hasn't come as a surprise to first-year head coach Seth Appert, who had Ornelas on the Engineers' top line at left wing with Oren Eizenman and Kirk MacDonald.

"He's been playing very good lately. He's been one of our best forwards consistently since Christmas," Appert said. "I think it was more important for us to get the first goal than Union."

"When you're struggling, you need something to go right to get that feeling going again. To get that first goal was almost a sense of relief."

Things didn't begin well for RPI, when defenseman Andrei Uryadov was ejected midway through the first period for a hit from behind on Union's T.J. Fox.

Appert picked Ornelas to serve Uryadov's penalty, and the move paid off. Coming out of the box, Ornelas stepped into a loose puck, skated across Union's zone and up left wing, where he ripped a shot low inside the far post.

It was only the sixth time this season that RPI scored the first goal.

"Mac made a great forecheck there," Ornelas said. "The puck just popped out, and I went around. They gave me a little time, and I just put it low blocker. To come out and score the first goal, which we haven't done for a while, was a huge key."

Appert credited Ornelas' work ethic in snapping his slump.

"I think Jonny started focusing on the process of how you get chances, instead of worrying about whether or not he was scoring," Appert said. "When you start worrying about whether you're scoring or not, you start looking to score instead of working to score. He's been so good about finishing checks, hunting down loose pucks and going to the net and stopping for rebounds, and goals have become a byproduct of that."

Ornelas ended his drought against Union in a 5-1 consolation game loss at the Catamount Classic in Vermont Dec. 30, and scored again in last Friday's 6-2 loss to Dartmouth.

"At the beginning of the year, I was gripping the stick a little tight," he said. "The break for Christmas really helped me. I just came back and played the way I used to play."