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Rensselaer Puts Up Its Shields

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 8, 2002

TROY - Rensselaer was desperate for a win, especially against Capital Region rival Union. The Engineers had a four-game ECAC winless skid, and they were 0-2-2 in their last four meetings against the Dutchmen.

For the Engineers to beat the Dutchmen, they needed to play their best game of the year.

They did that, thanks to the line of left wing Ryan Shields, center Mikael Hammarstrom and right wing Kevin Croxton. The trio combined for three goals and five assists Saturday, lifting the Engineers to a 4-2 ECAC victory over the Dutchmen at Houston Field House.

Shields scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period. Croxton had a goal and three assists, and Hammarstrom assisted on the game-winner.

"They came up big tonight," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "I thought we had a real good solid team effort tonight from [goalie Kevin] Kurk, right out onto the 'D' [defense] and right on out to the forwards. We finally played a complete 60 minutes of hockey."

Union coach Kevin Sneddon was disappointed with his team's play. The Dutchmen (3-3-1 ECAC, 6-6-3 overall) had the better offensive talent than the Engineers (2-4-1, 7-8-1).

For some reason, however, they didn't have the heart.

"I thought their whole team played well," Sneddon said. "We did some good things. But bottom line for the 60 minutes, I thought we were outworked, outhustled and outmuscled, probably more than anything. I give a lot of credit to RPI for that."

With the scored tied at 2-2 in the third period, Hammarstrom carried the puck down the right wing into the Union zone. He sent it to Croxton in the slot. He got his stick on the puck, pushing it towards the net. Union goalie Kris Mayotte wasn't expecting the shot, but he made the save.

"I just stuck my stick out," Croxton said. "I was fighting to get to the net. I didn't even see where it hit him."

The rebound came out to Shields, who put it past a startled Mayotte at 10:24, giving RPI a 3-2 lead.

"[Croxton] threw it real quick, so it caught him off guard," Shields said. "One of their guys fanned over the rebound, and it landed on my stick. I don't think he knew I had it. I shot it as hard as I could."

Shields iced the win with a great effort with 49.6 seconds left.

Mayotte was pulled for an extra attacker with a minute left. Croxton dumped the puck into the Union zone, and it slowly rolled to the goal. Shields and Union defenseman Matt Vagvolgyi battled to get to the puck. Shields won it, poking the puck into the empty net.

"They wanted it more tonight," said Union captain Nathan Gillies, who had two assists. "They showed it. Plain and simple, they outworked us and they deserved to win."

RPI had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, thanks to goals by Croxton and Vic Pereira. Each time, Union came back to tie. Randy Dagenais made it 1-1 on a power-play goal 28 seconds into the second period. Joel Beal tied it, 2-2, at 2:45 of the third.

Neither time, however, did Union seize the momentum.

"One of the things I mentioned to them that I thought we did a very good job of handling was the switch of momentum where they got the equalizers both times," Fridgen said. "We didn't get rattled. We kept our composure and just continued to chip away at things, and we got a couple of bounces."