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Engineers Depend on Polacek's Stick

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 6, 2009

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forward Chase Polacek has quietly made his way up the list of scoring leaders in ECAC Hockey. Despite that, the sophomore isn't very happy with the way he is playing heading into this weekend's home-and-home series with Capital Region-rival Union.

"I know what I need to do better," Polacek said. "I need to start playing better, defensively. That's where I've been struggling. The offense will always come."

Polacek is the Engineers' leading scorer with seven goals and 18 assists. His 25 points is sixth in ECACH overall scoring. Polacek is second in scoring in league games with five goals and 13 assists. He is three points behind Quinnipiac's Bryan Leitch.

"I expect a lot out of myself," said Polacek, who was named to the ECACH all-rookie team last season. "I go out there and work hard. With the hard work, that's where the points come."

Polacek leads the Engineers with four power-play goals, and three game-winners. His last game-winner came two weeks ago, when he scored nine seconds into overtime to help RPI beat St. Lawrence, 7-6.

"We probably count on him as much, or more, than any other sophomore in the league, if not the country," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "He penalty-kills, he plays on the first power play, he centers our top offensive line and is really relied upon in every situation."

Appert wants Polacek to play aggressively every game.

"The last couple of weekends, I don't think he's been at his best," Appert said. "We need him to be stronger. We need him to be more committed to be a physical player."

Caffaro, Day on list

Voting is underway for the NCAA Frozen Four Skills Challenge, and two Union players are on the list - defenseman Lane Caffaro and women's goalie Lundy Day.

To vote, go to http://www.ncaa.com/frozenfourskllschallenge. Voting runs through Feb. 18.

The skills challenge will take place April 10, the off day of the Frozen Four, at the Verizon Center in Washington.

No RPI players made the list.

UNION RECRUITS

The Dutchmen have landed two more recruits, one for next season and one for 2010-11.

St. Louis Bandits goalie Keith Kinkaid will be joining the Dutchmen next season. He has a 22-4-4 record with 1 .98 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and five shutouts.

Berkshire School forward Kevin Sullivan will be coming to Union the following season. He is the team's second-leading scorer with 12 goals and 15 assists in 23 games.

Season over

Union freshman defenseman Carl Ekstrom won't get to play a game this season.

Ekstrom, who didn't arrive at school from his native Sweden until the end of the first trimester, is scheduled to have hip surgery to clean out some bone chips. He had been practicing with the team, but hadn't gotten in a game.

He is expected to get a medical redshirt, and have four years of eligibility.

AWARDS LIST

Twenty-one players have been nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. Two of those players are from the ECACH - Colgate junior Ethan Cox and Yale senior Crysti Howser.

The other nominees are Ryan Adler (senior, Hobart), Andrew Brolsma (senior, Castleton State), Joe Charlebois (senior, New Hampshire), Cody Chupp (junior, Ferris State), Greg Copeland (senior, Marian), Rachael Drazan (senior, Minnesota-Twin Cities), Missy Elumba (senior, Northeastern), Eric Greene (senior, SUNY-Plattsburgh), Caitlin Hogan (junior, St. Cloud State), Trevor Hyatt (senior, Alaska-Fairbanks), Jerad Kaufmann (senior, Nebraska-Omaha), Jacques Lamoureux (sophomore, Air Force), Kyle Laughlin (senior, Providence), Jeff Lerg (senior, Michigan State), Patrick McCarthy (senior, Babson), Brian Moore (junior, Bowling Green), Todd Sheridan (junior, SUNY-Brockport), Brandon Vossberg (junior, Denver) and Dagney Willey (junior, Minnesota).

The finalists will be announced later this month. The winner will be named April 10 at the Frozen Four in Washington.

Four ECACH players are among the 16 semifinalists for the Walter Brown Award, which goes to the best American-born college hockey player from New England. Those players are Yale junior forward Sean Backman, Dartmouth sophomore forward Adam Estoclet, Quinnipiac senior forward David Marshall and Brown junior goalie Sam Rosen.

The other semifinalists are Kory Falite (UMass-Lowell junior forward), Benn Ferriero (Boston College senior forward), Matt Gilroy (Boston University senior defenseman), Ryan Ginand (Northeastern senior forward), Chris Higgins (Boston U. senior forward), Peter Lenes (Vermont senior forward), Louis Liotti (Northeastern senior defenseman), James Marcou (Massachusetts sophomore forward), Dain Prewitt (Bentley senior forward), Matt Taormina (Providence senior defenseman), James van Riemsdyk (New Hampshire sophomore forward) and Joe Vitale (Northeastern senior forward).

The winner will be announced in late March.

LOCAL UPDATE

Here's a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region did over the past week.

-- Quinnipiac junior forward Mike Atkinson (Kinderhook) had a goal and an assist in the Bobcats' 5-1 win over Brown last Friday.

-- RPI junior defenseman Laura Gersten (Queensbury) picked up an assist in the Engineers' 8-4 loss to Dartmouth last Friday.

-- Boston University senior forward Nicki Wiart (Queensbury), who missed most of last season after having surgery to repair her kneecaps, played in three consecutive games in the past week. She didn't pick up any points in two games against Vermont last weekend and Tuesday against Harvard in the women's Beanpot tournament.

"Nicki had to overcome another setback at Christmas when she was forced to wear a boot for about two weeks," BU coach Brian Durocher wrote in an e-mail. "She is now skating with some pain, but doing a nice job of fighting through the pain. Her first three games have been solid, with a couple of good solid scoring opportunities being produced. We all hope that her timing, confidence and game-like conditioning continue to improve as we hit the stretch run and playoffs."