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Engineers' Cullen Knows Much is Expected of Him

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 3, 2008

TROY - Patrick Cullen is one of the top hockey recruits at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of the past six-seven years.

The Washington native is well aware of that fact.

And, having been placed on the team's top forward line with the team's Nos. 1-2 scorers, Tyler Helfrich and Chase Polacek, Cullen knows that RPI coaches expect him to produce offensively.

That early move to the top line hasn't worked out well. Though he scored the Engineers' first goal this season, he's made mistakes, was dropped to the second line and was even a healthy scratch in one game.

Still, with three points in five games (1-2-3), Cullen is tied with Polacek for second on the team in scoring. And he plays with Polacek and Helfrich on RPI's top power play unit.

He looks at it as more of an opportunity, however.

"It's a good chance for me to step in right away, to get an opportunity to play with two great guys. I'm pretty excited about that. If I can do what I do best out there, I think we can have a pretty good line and hopefully get some goals."

Cullen spoke of his first five games as a collegian.

"It's been up and down so far," he said. "I had a rough weekend one week."

Cullen was beaten up ice by his opposite forward a couple times and left the defensive zone early on a couple more occasions. Make no mistake, whether he's on Polacek's line, playing with Matt Angers-Goulet and Andrei Uryadov or on a different line, he remains an essential part of the RPI attack.

Cullen has racked up good or better goal-scoring numbers at nearly every level of hockey he's played. He was asked if he considers himself a pure goal-scorer.

"Well, I love to score goals," he said. "But I don't want to think that's just all I do. I want to be good defensively and things like that. But yeah, I definitely love to score some goals here and there."

Cullen describes his snapshot as "probably my best asset."

He demonstrated that with a game-tying snapper early in the third period of RPI's annual Red-White Intrasquad Scrimmage.

"And a one-timer," he added. "Other than that, I think I need to work harder in the defensive zone and a little more in the corners. But working with Coach (Seth) Appert and Coach (Shawn) Kurulak and Coach (Jim) Montgomery has really helped me in the last week. So, I think I'll show an improvement there this year as well."

Last season, in a rugged Junior A League, the United States Hockey League, Cullen's production fell way off to just eight goals and 18 assists in 58 games.

"It was a tough year," he said. "Coming from where I played two years ago, Tier 3 Junior A to Tier 1 and the team (Indianapolis Ice) was really deep. I was playing third line mostly. One week, you'd be playing first line, then following week you'd be playing fourth line, it was so up-and-down. But that was good to see a little adversity there. I hadn't really faced anything like that before, first time away from home. And I played with a lot of real good kids there and I didn't really get it going (offensively) until after Christmas."

"It was a little tough for me, so yeah, I guess you could say it was a disappointing year," Cullen added, "but at the same time I learned a lot of stuff off the ice and learned a lot of the game mentally."

"Those who read too much into Patrick's numbers last year are in for a very pleasant surprise," Appert said.

In the Atlantic Junior Hockey League in 2006-07, Cullen scored 46 goals with 39 assists in 63 games.

The 6-foot-0, 190-pound winger said he wasn't at all distracted last season by his impending arrival at RPI.

"No, not really," he said. "When the coaches came out (scouting), I really loved it. I think when Monty came out, I think I had two points and the game-winner. Stuff like that got me going (emotionally). But, you can't look ahead to anything, you have to focus on the present."

Back to the notoriety that preceded Cullen to Troy. He must feel some pressure to succeed immediately; to not live up to his billing and disappoint RPI coaches, teammates and fans.

"Ah, you always have that in the back of your mind but at the same time, you know they wouldn't have brought you in and been talking about so much if they didn't think you didn't have something, so that's comforting. But at the same time, I haven't proved anything yet and I have a lot to prove. Every game this season will be a big push in terms of what I have to do and what I have to prove."

Both right winger Helfrich and centerman Polacek are excited by Cullen's presence, whether or not he plays on their line.

"Hopefully, we'll give Patty some good leadership here and a good path to follow and hopefully he can produce right away," Helfrich said.

"He's got awesome ability," Polacek said of Cullen. "Hopefully we can help him show that."