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Fresh Face a Hit at RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 6, 2002

TROY - Brad Farynuk has always wanted to be the best he could be at any undertaking he chose.

That's why he played rugby in high school.

That's why he chose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to further his education.

The freshman defenseman has been a pleasant surprise for the Engineers thus far, currently tied for the team lead in scoring with 10 points (two goals, eight assists).

He's teamed with his defensive partner and team captain Danny Eberly to expertly headman the RPI power play.

Farynuk grew up in Enderby, B.C., where most - but not all - young guys play hockey.

"I really didn't have any role models who (compelled me) to play hockey," he said. "Neither of my parents played. The closest I had was a cousin who went to Alaska-Fairbanks on a scholarship. But I think it was part of a growing-up thing and something I learned to like since I started playing floor hockey in my basement."

Growing up in a small town, rather than Vancouver or Victoria, had its advantages.

"You have lots of opportunities to play," he said. "You knew the rink attendants and if you wanted to go down to the rink at 9 o'clock in the morning, they'll let you on the ice. It was pretty hard not to want to play."

Farynuk scored goals and watched a lot of hockey from penalty boxes during his younger days.

He may have developed an added dose of aggression from another sport.

Farynuk caught the eye of his high school rugby coach, who started the program during Farynuk's ninth-grade year. The coach hounded Farynuk constantly.

"He was a very inspiring coach," Farynuk said. "He'd stand out in the hall and he'd say, 'You know, Brad, I think you could play rugby. You'd make a good stand-off.'"

"And ... nobody in the school knew what that position was," he said. "He was just recruiting a bunch of us and he was very inspiring."

Finally, Farynuk relented.

"Quite honestly, I think rugby is by far the best fitness sport I've ever played," he said.

Fitness?

"Meaning, every part of your body has to be strong, and it starts from your neck, all the way to your toes," he said. "And you're running full out for 90 minutes."

And is the physical contact every bit as brutal as it's perceived?

"Yeah - it really is a grueling sport," Farynuk added.

The occasion to play American football never really presented itself to Farynuk, but he says he never developed much of an interest in the game because "I always thought there were too many whistles."

Farynuk averaged more than one penalty minute per game in juniors on a couple of occasions, but thus far at RPI, he has just six minutes in 15 games.

He can dish out the physical stuff and is tough around his own net, but he knows his biggest skills are up the ice.

"I think, obviously, I put myself in the role where I like to be an offensive defenseman," he said. "But at the same time, my key goal is to be as strong as I can be in the defensive zone. I think that my offensive side of my game outweighs my defensive game. So, I want to improve there more than anywhere else."

Farynuk says he needs the most work on "just quickness and getting your body into position in the defensive zone. Just overall defensive awareness ... you can never be too aware of what's going on in your own zone and keeping the puck out of the net."

Farynuk considered attending the University of British Columbia's engineering school, but the chance to learn and play at RPI was too good to pass up.

"I've always been one of those guys who wants to be the best that he can at everything. My parents had a big part in that. With school and athletics, it's pretty tough to beat RPI."

After a recent game, Farynuk took over the team lead in scoring (he now shares it with freshman right winger Kevin Croxton). He said at the time, "I can't really fathom that."

"Honestly, I was shaking, it was so exciting after our first game of the season in Wisconsin (a 5-1 victory)," he said. "I just wanted to come in here and do the best I could ... but I never expected I'd be given the opportunity to play as much as I do, or play with our captain (Eberly). I think the coaches have given me a great opportunity to step in and show what I can do. But it's really been overwhelming."

If someone had told Farynuk in preseason that two freshmen would be leading the team after 15 games, "I sure wouldn't have picked myself as one of them," he said.

"Probably Kevin and (Mark) Yurkewecz."

Rensselaer fans love what they've seen from Farynuk this far.

"I've met some alumni and season-ticket holders," he said. "I've been brought up to believe that you play for your team and for yourself and not for the - in this case - thousands of fans.

"But at the same time, this hockey program doesn't operate without the great fan support. The atmosphere they create in the building is great."