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Engineers Snap Slide at Union's Expense

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 14, 2007

SCHENECTADY - It figured that when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ended its losing streak, however long that would take, it would be a nail-biting, hold-your-breath victory.

Saturday night's 3-2 victory over rival Union certainly was such a win.

The Engineers built a 3-0 lead that included Seth Klerer's goal at 19:59.5 of the first period, gave up a goal on the Dutchmen's only shot on goal of the second period (by Matt Cook) and saw the Dutchmen pull within 3-2 midway through the third period on a goal that may never have crossed the goal line; many observers in the pressbox just above the play thought the puck may have slid under the net while it was off its moorings briefly. Josh Coyle was credited the goal.

Things, for a change, all worked out in the Engineers' favor, however, as they held on to end a five-game losing streak and improve to 6-10-6 overall. Their stay in the ECAC Hockey League basement - for now at least, ended at one day. They are now 2-4-3 in the league, while Union (10-10-2) drops into last place at 3-7-0.

Every other ECACHL team had at least two league victories prior to Saturday.

Rensselaer end another drought: the Engineers had been winless (0-5-2) in the previous seven meetings of the teams, since RPI's 3-1 victory at Union on Jan. 10, 2004.

Jonathan Ornelas scored his third goal in five games for the Engineers, Kirk MacDonald scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the second period, Jake Luthi had two assists and junior Jordan Alford was strong in net when tested.

The Engineers did blow out a collective sigh at the end of the game, though to a man they never thought they were in danger of blowing a 3-goal lead for the third time this season.

When Union's rally was in full gear, the Engineers never let the Dutchmen assert firm control of the game and they held Union to a total of just 18 shots on goal.

"It wasn't one of those easy ones where you kind of get the bounces," said senior center Oren Eizenman, who had returned from a shoulder injury during Friday night's dismal 5-0 loss to Union.

"It was a hard-fought win, because that's what it takes to get out of a hole, when your team is struggling."

Assistant captain Kevin Broad said the thought of losing the lead in the third period "never came into our minds."

The game had two clear turning points that both also served as keys to the outcome.

The Engineers, burned for three goals by Union's power play on Friday night, killed off Andrei Uryadov's major penalty for checking from behind (he was also ejected).

Ornelas, who served the major, came out of the box at 15:34, fired a blast past Union goalie Justin Mrazek. The biggest play, though came when the Engineers had a 5-on-3 power play as the first period wore down.

"I looked up at the clock (and saw seven seconds) left and told Luthi to turn it up ice," MacDonald said. "He made a great pass and Seth went to the net and banged in his own rebound."

"That was huge," MacDonald said.

Klerer was credited with two shots on goal and Mrazek just one save on the sequence but, Klerer said, "I whacked at it four or five times. I just went hard to the net and it was a great play by Mac and Luth and he (Luthi) put it to the net and I just got to whack away at it."

MacDonald said he was thrilled to get the game-winner, firing one past Mrazek while streaking down the left slot and said, "it was probably by best game this year. I felt like the old Mac out there I guess you could say."

First-year RPI coach Seth Appert said his players' ability to stay positive after being outscored 21-5 in their previous four games (all losses) made the difference Saturday.

"(Friday) night we gave up two scoring chances in the first period and they scored on one of them and it felt like, gee, everything is going against us," he said, "and so you come back with that effort, and things may go your way. And Jonny Ornelas comes out of the penalty box, serving Andrei's penalty, and he drives wide and scores on a good shot."

Mrazek made a big save on MacDonald's shorthanded breakaway back-hander with 5:55 remaining in the game, and made a huge save to deny Eizenman's bid on a wheel-around in front 2:30 later but the Engineers didn't permit those saves to further Union's comeback.