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Engineers Earn Weekend Split

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 10, 2002

TROY - Scoring goals.

It's going to be a problem for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from time to time in this rebuilding hockey season, but the Engineers won one Saturday night with defense and goaltending, scoring two third-period goals to beat St. Lawrence, 2-1.

The sluggish RPI attack appeared headed for a second tight defeat in two nights before freshman right winger Kevin Croxton scored a pair of huge goals to spark the comeback.

And while defensemen have made major contributions to the Engineers' goal-scoring thus far this season, two-blue liners made big plays to set up both of Croxton's goals.

The victory evened the Engineers' ECAC record at 1-1-0 -- and kept them out of the conference basement -- and brought their overall mark even as well at 5-5-0.

Nathan Marsters returned to the RPI nets, charted 34 saves on 35 shots and posted his second win.

"I thought we played real hard," said Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen. "In between the second and third (periods), we had a nice chat in there and I was thinking (and told the players) it would be sad to come away from the weekend (with two losses) and only allow two goals in the two games."

"I thought we (did) a great job defensively," Fridgen said. "Nathan played very well tonight when they did get shots through and we had a freshman step up in the third period and get a couple of goals for us when we needed it. That was a great team."

The Engineers overcame not only the disappointment of the bitter 2-1 loss to Clarkson Friday night, but also the frustration of not capitalizing on some Grade-A scoring chances earlier in Saturday night's game.

With the score tied at 1-1, freshman defenseman Keith McWilliams did an outstanding job of forechecking, picking the pocket of St. Lawrence's Jimmy Ball and then -- with Ball all over him -- firing the puck across ice to Croxton.

The freshman winger from Calgary lifted the puck past Kevin Ackley as the St. Lawrence goalie was sliding across the crease.

"McWilliams made a great play. I was just at the right place at the right time, but it was all him. Took it wide, shoveled it to the net," Croxton said.

Earlier in the period, sophomore defenseman Matt McNeely outdueled two Saints for the puck near the RPI blue line and sent Croxton in alone. Croxton went in on his backhand and lifted the puck over Ackley.

It as RPI's first goal in nearly 87 minutes and the boost it gave the Engineers was noticeable.

"It was huge, unbelievable," McNeely said. "Especially since (Friday) night we couldn't get that key goal (in a 2-1 loss). Tonight, someone had to step up and we were lucky to have Croxton."

The Saints (0-2-0, 2-6-1) broke a scoreless tie with 4:27 remaining in the period.

Jim Lorentz was left open just outside the goalcrease and put a 2-foot back-hander past Marsters.

The Engineers had some super scoring chances on odd-man rushes, but couldn't convert.

Eric Cavosie walked down the right slot on a pretty feed from Croxton early in the first period but he flipped it over the crossbar.

In the second period, Vic Pereira set up Mikael Hammarstrom, whose chip shot hit Ackley in the pads.

Hammarstrom had a much better chance later -- the best opportunity of the game for RPI. Ben Barr put one right on Hammarstrom's stick from right wing on a shorthanded 2-on-1, but with a half-open net, Hammarstrom shot high off the endboards.

And Ackley kicked out a rebound of a Ryan Shields blast from the left circle, but jumped on it just before Pereira could pop it in.

During the second intermission, Fridgen told the Engineers not to get discouraged -- and to keep shooting.

"(I told them), 'Hey, let's not get frustrated, let's just keep shooting, we're creating opportunities. I know it's frustrating but we can't lose our focus and when you shoot the puck, shoot it to put it in the back of the net.'"

"We need to focus on the 4x6," Fridgen said.

Defenseman and captain Danny Eberly had a key shot block of Rich Peverley's rebound try -- he had plenty of net to shoot at -- with 15 seconds left.

"I help Nate out, he helps me out," Eberly said. "And it was a huge win."