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Engineers End Three-game Skid

Graham Records Four Points in Home Victory

By Tim Wilkin

Albany Times Union, January 4, 2003

TROY - Outside, it was a lousy Friday night. Inside Houston Field House, it was just fine, thank you.

The RPI hockey team ended nearly a month of frustration with a 5-2 non-conference win over Minnesota-Duluth.

There were 2,554 tickets sold for this game but the weather kept most people away. There were actually 464 brave souls who decided to spend the snowy night with the Engineers.

"I give the fans that showed up a lot of credit," said Engineers coach Dan Fridgen. "It's pretty ugly outside. I have to thank the fans for sticking with us."

The Engineers (8-11-1) got two goals from freshman forward Kevin Croxton and a goal and four assists from Nolan Graham.

The offensive outburst from that line (Ryan Shields also had a goal and assist) helped halt a three-game losing streak for RPI, which hadn't won a game since beating Union 4-2 on Dec. 7.

Croxton has a team-leading 10 goals and has at least one point (6 goals, 6 assists) in seven of his past eight games. This was his fifth multiple-point game this season.

"We have had a lot of guys who have been going through some tough times," said Croxton. "But we have the guys who can score."

Graham, who hadn't scored a goal in his past 13 games, had the Engineers' first five-point game since Nov. 18, 2000, when Matt Murley had four goals and an assist in a 9-2 win over UMass.

"I've been expecting a little bit more from myself," Graham said. "When we find the offense as a team, we're going to be alright."

Croxton's first goal, at 18:54 of the second period, proved to be the game winner. With the Engineers leading 2-1, he skated down the left side with a Bulldog defender glued to him. He was able to ward him off and got the puck past goalie Issac Reichmuth.

Croxton's second goal came on a power play at 10:28 of the third period. He had an assist on RPI's final goal - an empty-net score from Nick Economakos - as did Graham.

RPI scored first, 31 seconds into the game, when Shields' shot from the left circle clanged off the post and got past Reichmuth. The lead didn't last long.

Minnesota-Duluth (8-7-4) got an even softer goal at 2:50 when Junior Lessard's lazy shot from 15 feet out skimmed low along the ice and got past RPI goalie Kevin Kurk, who was stellar for much of the night, stopping 32 of 34 shots.

Graham broke the tie at 14:39 when he picked up a loose puck in the RPI zone and rifled a slap shot into the net to give the Engineers a lead they would never give up.

"I was never looking at losing our last three or four of our last five," Fridgen said. "I just wanted to get back on track. It was real important for us to get it going again after the disappointing loss to Princeton (4-3 in the consolation of the RPI tournament)."

Notes: RPI played without assistant captain Carson Butterwick, who sat out after taking stitches to his face during last weekend's Princeton game.