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It's the Final Countdown?

Six RPI Seniors Look to Extend Careers, Snap a Postseason Slump

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 1, 2007

TROY - Kirk MacDonald, Oren Eizenman and Kevin Broad have been much of the heart of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team over the past four years.

They're well aware that the Engineers have not won a playoff game since they were freshmen. No one is more disappointed with that fact than they.

The trio, along with forward Tommy Green and defensemen Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson, will end their RPI careers this weekend at Colgate unless the 9th-seeded Engineers (10-16-8 overall) can take down the No. 8 Raiders (13-19-4) in the preliminary round of the ECAC Hockey League playoffs.

After all, the Engineers won two of three during the season.

The teams divided their two ECACHL games, though, and wound up tied for eighth place with 17 points, RPI with a 6-11-5 record, Colgate with a 7-12-3 mark. The Raiders get the home ice nod, though, by tie-breaker.

Last season, the 7th-seeded Engineers were upset by No. 10 Quinnipiac on Houston Field House ice, 2 games to 0.

"As seniors," Broad said, "the most you're going to remember the most of your career is your senior year and how you went out. It's huge. We definitely want to advance past Colgate and keep going."

"We haven't had any (postseason) success in a couple years; we're aware of that," MacDonald said. "We're going to try to beat Colgate and see who's next. We're prepared to go to battle."

Eizenman said that, while the Engineers desperately want to avoid another early exit, "what's happened in the past."

"It's the coaches' first year and we definitely want them to start out on the right foot (in postseason) and getting this first-round win is very important."

"But we put a lot of pressure on ourselves but I wouldn't say any more than usual," Eizenman said. "The past couple of years, it hasn't happened, for one reason or another. I can think of a lot of things that just went wrong during our opening series."

Eizenman has 36 goals and 62 assists for 98 points, so just two points puts him at the 100-point mark.

"I'm just hoping we can win two games this weekend," he said, discounting the milestone for now.

Luthi's previous career high was 12 points but he's taken over the point role on RPI's top power play unit this year and with 26 points (4-22-26), he's tied with MacDonald (12-14-26) for the team's scoring lead.

"We really want to get a postseason (series) win," he said, not concerned with any scoring race.

Swanson played sparingly over his first two seasons and was the Engineers' most improved player during the 2005-06 season.

The team, however, hasn't improved that much - from a consistency standpoint at least - from the first month to the final stretch.

He agreed it's important for the Engineers to end the postseason losing streak.

"It is but it's always important to win the first series," he said. "We really need to win this series and I think we're taking strides to do that in practice."

"I think we'll be ready to go," he said.

"We've got to focus just on this weekend," MacDonald said. "If we start looking ahead of ourselves, we're going to be done."

While the Engineers were held to a tie at Clarkson in a game they came within four seconds of winning (and should have won) and dropped their final game to a struggling Yale team among a 2-5-1 finish, Colgate enters the postseason having lost six of seven.

"I don't even know that," said Eizenman. "It's tough to surprise me in this league anymore, just because I've seen so much happen that (each) on its own, would be surprising."

Broad knew the Raiders lost both games last weekend (at Harvard and Dartmouth) but not six of seven.

Surprised?

"I would say, this is the ECAC and nothing surprises me," he said.

With 24 goals and 50 assists among them, MacDonald, Luthi and Eizenman represent nearly 30 percent of the RPI offense. Broad is one of the top checking forwards and hardest hitters on the team and chips in with eight points (3-5-8).

And the graduation of Luthi and Swanson will leave Rensselaer's corps of defensemen sorely lacking in experience.

Replacing the group will be difficult.

"This group of six defensemen has meant so much, not only to the RPI program," said first-year head coach Seth Appert, "but also to the new coaching staff. They've been very helpful to us as a staff and they will be severely missed."

Well, let's hope they're not gone yet; that they've got 5, 10, 12 games remaining.

"I definitely think the guys in the (locker) room are capable of putting together a nice playoff run," Broad said.