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Offensively, RPI Needs to Toe the Line

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 26, 2007

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forwards don't have the depth of offensive firepower compared to most other ECAC Hockey League teams.

Oren Eizenman (5 goals-10 assists-15 points) centers the top line with Kirk MacDonald (7-9-16), one of the top forwards in the league, on the right wing.

With Jonathan Ornelas (3-6-8) or Andrei Uryadov (7-6-13) at left wing, that line is more than formidable, despite its lack of gaudy numbers.

For most of the season, junior Jake Morissette (7-7-14), a natural right winger, has centered the second line with sophomore Seth Klerer (7-8-15) on the right and lately, Uryadov on the left. That line has enjoyed surprising success, though Morissette has not scored a goal in 13 games.

Last Saturday night, the fourth line, centered by freshman Paul Kerins (6-7-13), with junior Andrew Lord (2-3-5) on the left and junior Dan Peace (1-2-3) on the right, tallied two goals and two assists as the Engineers nearly knocked off 19th-ranked St. Lawrence, having to settle for a 3-3 tie.

At Quinnipiac last month, with both MacDonald and Eizenman out, the third and fourth lines combined to score three third-period goals and forged a 4-4 tie with the first-place Bobcats.

Matt Angers-Goulet's (5-5-10) third line scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over UMass-Lowell one week after the rally at Quinnipiac.

Obviously, the Engineers need MacDonald and Eizenman to step up their production - and for Morissette to break out - in the final 10 games, both on the power play and in equal-strength situations, to have any chance of success.

However, just how far the Engineers, who enter tonight's game at Yale in last place in the 12-team ECAC Hockey League, can move up the standings, may depend on the production they get from the third and fourth lines.

"Down the stretch, it's important to have more than two lines going," said assistant captain Kevin Broad (1-5-6), who set up Ornelas' goal in a recent 3-2 win at Union.

"At the start of the year when we were successful, we had all four lines getting some goals here and there," said Broad, who alternates between both wings and the third and fourth lines. "Teams are tough to beat when they come at you four-lines deep and everyone contributes."

Broad, who nearly scored a goal against St. Lawrence and in the 4-1 defeat to Clarkson the previous night, said it's important to at least get some quality scoring chances, even if you don't find the net.

"It helps with confidence, and can get (the opposition) back on their heels a bit," Broad said. "And I think if all of us are even at the end of the night, we're doing our job out there."

Junior Dan Peace (1-2-3), who plays all three positions on the fourth line, assisted on what would have been the game-winning goal against SLU if the Engineers had held on.

He was asked what the team can expect from the third and fourth lines.

"Hopefully, we can expect a little more offensive production," he said. "Sometimes we'll get what we look at as favorable matchups for us. Right now, the fourth line has some experience and a lot of times we're playing against underclassmen and guys with less experience."

Third-line left winger Kurt Colling (2-5-7) scored a big goal in an earlier tie at Cornell, continues to play hard despite the fact that he hasn't had a point in 10 games.

"You don't want to let it eat at you," Colling said of the slump. "Lately, each line has been trying to wear down teams. I think every line is doing better at puck protecting, playing down in (our) own end and I think if we continue to do that ... you don't want to put too much emphasis on scoring goals but I think if we wear teams down in their end, that's what will make it happen for us."

"Our line's playing fairly well right now," said Angers-Goulet, who skated superbly against SLU. "We haven't gotten many points the last few weeks (RPI as a team hasn't) but we've been skating well and I think it's just a matter of finishing for us."

Kerins, who plays left wing as well as center, has alternated from the second line to fourth while being hampered with a nagging back injury.

Almost all of his points have been big ones in tie games or one-goal decisions.

"That's been a change for me," Kerins said. "I was talking to my dad and he said, 'I don't think you scored a third-period goal in your life and you've got three here.'"

"Definitely, that (his goal against SLU) will help us confidence-wise, with our third- and fourth-line scoring," Kerins added. "If all four lines are scoring, we're a pretty good team."

Lord had scored a goal earlier and his work - he twice dug the puck out of the corner - to set up Kerins' goal that gave RPI a 3-1 lead over St. Lawrence early in the third period, typified the Engineers' play. He took the lost victory as hard as anyone.

"I don't really care much about points or game-winning goals, but it was more that we had almost 6,000 fans in the stands and we let them down," Lord said. "That's the most disappointing."

Lord did say, "hey, I love to score goals ... but this year I've definitely had more of a checking role, playing a lot more penalty kill, so I'm priding myself on that."

Rensselaer is last in the ECACHL in goals. The players know that and just hope to get a few on occasion.

"Hopefully, we can chip in with a few and help out down the stretch," Peace said.

"Putting our noses in front of the net and bury some goals," said Angers-Goulet.