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He's a Rounder

RPI Andrei Uryadov Has Developed an All-around Game

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 13, 2007

TROY - Dan Fridgen had visions of Andrei Uryadov being an instant scorer when he recruited the Russian to play hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute several years ago.The dual winger scored a game-winning goal on a 5-on-3 power play in the late stages of a 4-3 victory over Michigan Tech in Game 3 of his rookie season. He wouldn't hit the score sheet againthat season.

"I didn't adjust to the college game as quickly as some guys," Uryadov said.

"The way I was playing in prep school wasn't really geared to the college game. I wasn't asked to playing defense, or backcheck or block shots."

"Some guys knew that and were better able to adjust to the college game and to the speed of college hockey."

Rensselaer coach Seth Appert, who replaced Fridgen prior to last season, knew of Uryadov.

"I saw him at South Kent when I was at Denver," Appert said. "Very talented but there wasn't a lot of detail to his game. It was basically, 'Andrei take the puck from end to end, go through every body and see what happens.'"

Great for some guys in prep school, not nearly enough at the Division I college level, no matter who you are.

"Andrei has worked hard to improve his knowledge of the game," Appert said. "He uses his teammates now to become a give-and-go hockey player, rather than just a 'go' player. He's better systematically and he plays with a little more intensity to get the puck back. In college hockey, your opponent isn't going to give you the puck. The only ways you're going to get the puck is through hard work and effort. But he's gotten the puck on his stick more often because he's uses his linemates better."

The St. Petersburg native says, "I'm still an offensive player but I've been working hard on the defensive side of the game, trying to become a complete player."

Uryadov, in the final 10-12 games of last season and this season, has displayed some fine puck-handling skill that weren't so evident previously.

"That's something that I've always been pretty good at but again, being able to do that effectively at this level has taken some time. I really like skating in open space and drawing (defenders) to me and making a nice pass to a teammate."

He's also become a much more physical player, becoming one of RPI's better body-checking forwards.

"I think it's a combination of things," he said. "I began to realize about the middle of last season that when I was successful, it was when I was forechecking, playing the body in the offensive zone, backchecking, playing hard in all three zones. I would be getting the puck more often when I was doing those things. When I was playing physical, I was more productive on the scoreboard."

"And I think the other thing is just (physical) maturity," he said. "Once your body gets used to the added strength it gives you confidence to hit guys the same size as you, even bigger than you and you become more effective at it."

Uryadov leads the Engineers in points after 16 games with 15 (6-9-15) and is tied for the lead in goals.

He was asked it that surprises him, since the top three scorers from last season (he was fifth with an 8-13-21 scoring line) all graduated.

"Well, I don't even look at it that way," he said. "It doesn't matter who scores. If a guy on my line can get a goal because I give him a nice pass, great. Points are a tricky thing. It's the other areas that matter most. If you're playing hard, doing the things you need to do in all three zones, the goals and assists will come and I know that if my line is producing points, we have a better chance to win."

"But if the other lines are scoring, that's great, too," he said. "As long as we're winning, it doesn't matter, because (winning) is why we're all out here."

Then there's Rensselaer's power play, dead last in efficiency among the nation's 59 D-I school's at a dreadful 5.4 percent (4-of-74). Uryadov quietly admits he feels somewhat responsible for getting the power play going and even though the puck movement has been much better lately than one month ago, the frustration of such rare success hasn't lessened.

"We struggled early on and the progress has been very slow," he said. "But we're coming. We've been getting used to the guys we have out there. It's not the technical stuff or the execution (that's the problem), because we have guys who can make plays and get some goals."

"One thing," he continued, "is that we often were too loose on the power play, thinking, 'OK, we have a man advantage, we can relax a little. That won't help you score. Lately, we've been much more aggressive about getting the puck back when we lose it, going in the corner for it and re-cycling before (opponents) can clear it."

"And we've been focusing more on being more assertive and using the man power advantage."

Uryadov will be out there to see to it.