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RPI Gets Hustle, Muscle

Paced by Croxton, Shields, Engineers Outwork Union

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, December 8, 2002

TROY - It didn't take freshman Kevin Croxton long to get into the spirit of the RPI-Union hockey rivalry.

The 6-foot-3 forward from Calgary scored one goal and assisted on the other three, including two by linemate Ryan Shields, as RPI outhustled and outscored Union 4-2 in an important ECAC game for both teams Saturday night at Houston Field House.

"I was just happy to pitch in," said Croxton after his first game against RPI's cross-river foes. "It's great to get the win against those guys. It was a little different atmosphere in the room, I'd have to say so. You could tell when the guys came to the rink they really wanted to beat them."

An animated crowd of 3,524 that included many Union fans, watched the Dutchmen twice come back from one-goal deficits to tie the game, only to see the Engineers get the lead for good on Shields' rebound score at 10:14 of the final stanza. Shields outreached Union defenseman Matt Vagvolgyi to push in an empty-netter at 19:10.

"I thought we were outworked, outmuscled and outhustled probably more than anything," said Union coach Kevin Sneddon, who went to basically three offensive lines in the final period. "They wanted it a little bit more. They were a little hungrier."

It didn't start out that way as Union dominated the first period, outshooting the Engineers 12-5, but RPI still managed to get on the board first. Croxton picked up a deflected pass from Shields on the left wing and found an open net at 18:22 for his fifth of the season.

The first period ended with Union on a power play, and it took the Dutchmen only 28 seconds of the second period to make it pay off. Defenseman Randy Dagenais blasted a long drive from outside the right circle that RPI goalie Kevin Kurk never saw.

The Engineers regained the lead in the penalty-filled middle session (nine were called) when Vic Pereira tipped in a long slap shot by Danny Eberly at 9:16 on a power play to make it 2-1, the goal coming after the Engineers had killed off a 5-on-3 for 36 seconds.

But once again the Dutchmen responded and tied it only 2:45 into the third when Beal walked in on the RPI net for an easy goal.

It remained that way until Shields netted the game-winner, top shelf over freshman Kris Mayotte's shoulder.

The line centered by Mikael Hammerstrom accounted for three of RPI's four goals and eight points in all.

"I think they've been playing pretty well since the beginning," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, who improved his record to 13-6-4 against the team he once served as an assistant coach. "They certainly came up big tonight and stepped up, and I thought we had a real solid team effort. I thought we finally played a complete 60 minutes of hockey."

The Engineers needed to do that to shake off the pesky Dutchmen, who had not lost to RPI in their last four meetings (2-0-2). It was also an important league game for both clubs as RPI came into it in 10th place in the ECAC while Union was in sixth.

"They're just overall a hard-working team," said Union captain Nathan Gillies. "Congrats to them. We'll see how it goes in our barn."

The victory was RPI's first league win since a 2-1 victory over St. Lawrence on Nov. 9. Since then, the Engineers (7-8-1, 2-4-1 ECAC) managed only a tie against Brown last weekend.

"They skated real hard, and I thought we were up and it was probably one of the most focused games we've played to date," Fridgen said.

As fate would have it, RPI's next league game is not until Jan. 10 - against Union.