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RPI's MacDonald Makes Pro Debut

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 22, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass. - Kirk MacDonald admitted to being quite nervous as he took to the ice for his first professional hockey game on Wednesday night in Worcester.

The former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute captain joined the Albany River Rats on an Amateur Tryout Contract for their game against the Worcester Sharks and conducted himself quite well in a 3-2 defeat.

The big Victoria, B.C. native had two shots on goal in the final seconds, was credited with three hits and nearly had a chance for a tip-in that would have tied the score.

Ryan Bayda scored the first goal for the Rats, Brad Parsons gave Albany a 2-2 tie 2:11 into the third period and defenseman Johnny Boychuk assisted on both goals.

Craig Valette beat Rats goalie Tyler Weiman from the left circle with 12:56 remaining - Valette's second goal of the game - and the Rats lost a chance to pad their lead over idle Bridgeport in the race for the American Hockey League East Division's final playoff spot. They remain one point ahead of the Sound Tigers.

"Yeah, I was definitely nervous all day," MacDonald said. "Getting out there was nervy but once you're out there, these guys are so talented, it makes it a lot easier. You just have to use that (to your advantage), relax and sort of just do your job the way everybody is doing it."

"The passes were generally on my tape and I just go to where I'm supposed to be, run into bodies and forecheck."

MacDonald, who gained widespread attention for beating testicular cancer last in 2005-06, said there was no real surprise.

"No, it's very fast and crisp," he said of AHL play, "sort of what I expected."

"It's a much higher level," MacDonald said. "I've got to shoot the puck faster. Gotta get it off quicker because the goalies are a lot better, the 'D' men (defensemen) are a lot stronger, everybody's just better, so you've got to be quicker."

"It was good to get out there and get settled in," he said. "It was a good first game. I think I played pretty well for the first game. I tried to keep it simple and just run into bodies and forecheck."

"It would have been nicer to get the win," he added.

MacDonald commented on his two shots on goal, one in the first period, one in the second.

"Backhander from the slot and I tried to poke home a rebound in the first that didn't want to go in," he said. "I was getting chances, though, and that stuff will come."

"And I had a couple (shots) that missed by a mile," he added. "Like I said, I've got to shoot the puck quicker."

Boychuk's holding penalty expired with 2:07 remaining in the game and Rats coach Tom Rowe sent MacDonald's line, centered by Jakub Petruzalek, out on the ice with 1:59 remaining.

That gave MacDonald an added sense of belonging and the Rats even pulled Weiman for an extra attacker.

"Yeah, you just want to go out and work hard," he said. "I'm new here, so I just do what I'm told. Coach threw me out there and ... okay, I just went out and tried to park myself in front of the net. But that made me feel good, more than just the new guy."

"We almost tied it up. I was standing in front, there was a scramble and I was hoping the puck would pop out to me," MacDonald said.

One started to, but Worcester defenseman Patrick Traverse steered it away before it reached MacDonald.

Playing on a team with former RPI All-American Matt Murley was an added treat.

"Yeah, that was fun, he's a bit of a clown, so it's always fun to be around," MacDonald said. "He keeps the room pretty light."

"And it was nice to see a familiar face when you walk in for the first time," he added.

"I thought he played great," Murley said of MacDonald. "The (RPI) coaches really improved his play and got him ready to jump right into the pro game."

Murley, a left winger, wouldn't mind playing on a line with MacDonald.

"You never know," he said. "I got one shift with him in the beginning and it's fun to see another RPI guy in the pros. The NHL is the ultimate, but this is the dream."

MacDonald was asked if he had any specific plans for his first paycheck.

"Ah, save it, I don't know," he said. "It won't be much."

The Rats visit Hamilton on Friday night, Syracuse on Saturday night.