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After Rocky Start, RPI's Cullen Starting to Hit His Stride

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 13, 2009

Patrick Cullen had a good freshman year for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last season.

The forward was the team's second-leading scorer with 10 goals and 14 assists, including eight goals and nine assists in 22 league games. Cullen was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Rookie team.

But Cullen's sophomore season got off to a very rough start. He failed to get a point in his first eight games.

Cullen snapped out of the sophomore jinx last weekend. He had a goal and an assist in RPI's 5-2 win over sixth-ranked Yale, and had an assist in a 3-1 victory over Brown.

It was a big relief for Cullen to get his first points of the season.

"It felt good," Cullen said. "I thought it was more important for us to get those two wins. It felt good to get a couple in there."

Despite the rough start, Cullen wasn't concerned.

"I was getting my chances, so I wasn't too worried about it," Cullen said. "If I wasn't getting chances, I would be a little worried. I had a couple where I didn't bear down, or maybe the puck jumped."

RPI coach Seth Appert said it was just a matter of Cullen getting back to basics, namely working hard.

"He got rewarded for playing harder," Appert said, "and he got rewarded for going to the net, stopping in front, having good habits and he needs to continue to move down that path to being [a better player]."

"Throughout most of his life, he's been a skill guy. He's still a skill guy, but he needs to be a power forward with a good stick. That's what he needs to continue to evolve into."

LOCAL UPDATE

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

- Quinnipiac senior forward Mike Atkinson (Kinderhook) had a natural hat trick in the Bobcats' 5-2 win over Clarkson last Friday.

- RPI senior defenseman Laura Gersten (Queensbury) had three assists in last Friday's 10-4 triumph over Colgate. The next day, Gersten scored the Engineers' only goal in a 3-1 loss to Cornell.

HIGGS TO RPI

Brock Higgs, a forward for the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, has made a verbal commitment to RPI for next season.

The 17-year-old Higgs, who is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, had originally committed to Canisius. He had 28 goals and 30 assists in 49 games for the Voyageurs last season. He was even better in the postseason, getting 22 goals and 17 assists in 25 games as the Voyageurs won the OJHL title and reached the Royal Bank Cup tournament, which is Canada's Junior "A" national championship.

Higgs is off to a good start this season, with eight goals and 15 assists in 15 games.

OVERTIME MADNESS

Union's 3-3 tie last Saturday against Yale marked the Dutchmen's fourth straight overtime game, tying a team record, and marked the first time that has happened in the regular season.

The last time the Dutchmen played four straight overtime games was Feb. 26-Mar. 6, 2005. Union closed out the regular season with a scoreless tie with Princeton, then played three overtime games against Clarkson in the ECAC Hockey tournament first-round series. Union lost two of the three games.

SHORT-HANDED MADNESS

Union allowed just one short-handed goal last season, and that didn't come until Game 3 of the ECACH tournament quarterfinals March 15, when Princeton's Lee Jubinville scored it.

So,it was surprising to see the Dutchmen give up two short-handed goals in one period in last Friday's 3-3 tie against Brown. Aaron Volpatti and Harry Zolnierczyk scored less than two minutes apart early in the second period.

It was the first time in five years that Union allowed two short-handed goals in a game. Yale did it to the Dutchmen on Nov. 20, 2004, at Ingalls Rink.

Zach Meyer and Christian Jensen scored the short-handed goals for the Bulldogs, but the Dutchmen won, 5-2.

OFFENSES ROLLING

ECAC Hockey teams are scoring goals at a good clip so far this season. In fact, the league has the top three scoring teams in the country.

Cornell leads the way, averaging 4.67 goals per game. That will come as a surprise to many, since the Big Red is known as a stingy defensive team. Last year, Cornell was tied for 40th with Army in scoring with a 2.56 goals per game average.

One reason the Big Red have been an offensive force in the early going is their power play. Cornell is 8-for-18, for a national-best 44.4 percent efficiency.

Quinnipiac is second with a 4.14 goals per game average. Harvard is tied for third with Colorado College with an average of four goals per game.

Union is 12th in the country (3.56 average), and RPI is 36th. (2.6)

SHOW RETURNS TONIGHT

The second season of the "Capital Region College Hockey Report" returns tonight at 6:30 on TIme Warner Cable Sports channel 3.

Capital News 9 sports director Joe Calderone and former RPI coach Dan Fridgen return to co-host the show.

BOOK SIGNING

For RPI and Union fans making the trip to the North Country this weekend and looking for something to do Saturday afternoon, The Sports Network NHL analyst Bob McKenzie will be signing copies of his book, "Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent" at 1 p.m. at the Brewer Bookstore on the St. Lawrence campus.

McKenzie's son, Mike, is a senior forward for the Saints.