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Juggling Lines Finally Starting to Pay Off for Engineers

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 10, 2002

TROY - Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen has been searching all season for the right line combination that will be an offensive force.

He may have finally found a winner in the Mikael Hammarstrom-Ryan Shields-Kevin Croxton line.

The trio had a breakout game Saturday in leading the Engineers to a 4-2 ECAC win over Union. They will be together again tonight at 7 when the Engineers host 14th-ranked Boston University in a non-conference at Houston Field House.

Croxton, a freshman right wing, had a goal and three assists against the Dutchmen. Shields, a junior left wing, scored twice, including the game-winner that snapped a 2-2 tie in the third period, and added an assist. Hammarstrom, a junior center, assisted on Shields' tiebreaking goal.

Fridgen had two-thirds of the line together at different times during the season. He had Shields on the right side with Hammarstrom for a few games, then had Croxton on the right wing with Hammarstrom.

The trio was put together during RPI's game at Brown on Nov. 29. It paid off when theyhelped the Engineers tie the Bears, 1-1. Shields, on assists from Hammarstrom and Croxton, scored the game-tying goal 52 seconds into the third period.

"Whenever you're not scoring goals, you tend to move guys around," Fridgen said. "I just put them together from the perspective that Ryan needed to pick up his game a little bit. You kind of run the gamut with everybody. That's part of finding combinations, looking for that right chemistry. These guys have seemed to hit it off."

They remained together on Nov. 30 at Harvard. Although Croxton was the only one of the three to get a point in the game, assisting on Danny Eberly's power-play goal, a chemistry was developing.

"We kind of clicked right away," Shields said. "We had a good week of practice together. It seems like we always kind of know where each other is on the ice. So it's real nice to play with two other guys who you feel comfortable with on the ice."

Croxton has been on a roll. He has picked up at least one point in three straight games, and seven of his last eight. His four-point effort against Union is a career-high.

"Things are just starting to jell between us," Croxton said. "You've got a feel as to where each other is going to be. [Saturday], it all came together for us."

Fridgen said Hammarstrom is a good complement to Croxton and Shields.

"He sees the ice well," Fridgen said. "He's capable of moving the puck."

The Engineers (7-8-1) meet the Terriers (8-6-2) for the second time this season. BU, which is in fourth place in Hockey East, beat RPI, 5-1, in the Ice Breaker Tournament championship game Oct. 12.

The Terriers ended a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Massachusetts.

"It's going to be a good measuring stick to see how far we've come as a team because we played them the second game," Fridgen said. "They were going pretty well. It didn't seem like their second game at all. I think both teams have had peaks and valleys, to this point. Obviously, they're a more experienced team than when we last saw them, and so are we. We're looking to put that experience to good use."