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Croxton Saves RPI in End

Freshman Scores Twice in Third Period of Win

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, November 10, 2002

TROY - RPI was desperately looking for somebody to put the puck into the net Saturday night, and the Engineers finally found their man in freshman Kevin Croxton.

The forward from Calgary scored twice in the third period as the Engineers overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat St. Lawrence 2-1 and avoid an ECAC home sweep on the first weekend of the league season.

The Engineers went more than 87 minutes without lighting the lamp, going back to the 15:44 mark of the first period in Friday night's 2-1 loss to Clarkson, before Croxton scored his first collegiate goal at 3:10 of the third period. Little more than four minutes later, the 6-foot-3 rookie scored his first game winner.

RPI coach Dan Fridgen said that while he was happy to get the win, he was even more pleased with the effort of his players.

"I thought we played 120 minutes real hard this weekend," said Fridgen of the two tough home games. "Whether tonight would have ended up in a 1-0 loss, again I was satisfied with the work that those guys were putting out."

Croxton, a high-scoring front-liner in junior hockey in Alberta, picked a good night to score his first goals in nine games.

Matt McNeely fed Croxton, who had a step on the defense and skated in alone on SLU goalie Kevin Ackley to tie the game with his first goal. His backhander from the left slot went top shelf and Ackley was too late.

"It was nice to get the first one out of the way at least," said Croxton, who scored 86 points in 62 games last year for the Camrose Kodiaks. "McNeely made a great play. (Conrad) Barnes was winning draws all night. He got it back to McNeely and he just made a great play to set it up. I got a lucky bounce on that one. It found a hole and went in."

The game winner came off a St. Lawrence turnover. Keith McWilliams, another freshman, picked off an errant pass just inside the SLU blue line and fed it across ice to Croxton. He shrugged off a defenseman and tucked the puck in at the right side of the crease at 7:26 for a 2-1 lead. The RPI defense did the rest.

"On the second one, McWilliams just made a great play," Croxton said. "It was a good play by him all around. I was in the right place at the right time."

It was just McNeely's second point in nine games this season, but certainly a big assist.

"I saw Croxton, so I was just lucky it got there," McNeely said.

St. Lawrence got on the board at 15:33 of the first period when Jim Lorentz banged a backhander top shelf into the right corner of the net, the score coming moments after teammate Blair Clarance fanned on an open-net opportunity on the same power play.

It was all the Engineers would give up as they killed off five of the six power plays. They could have made life a bit easier on themselves, but failed to convert on six power-play opportunities of their own.

"It's just good to get the win and a split this weekend," Croxton said.

Nathan Marsters was solid in goal for the Engineers (5-5, 1-1 ECAC) with 34 saves. The Engineers won despite being outshot in every period and forcing Ackley to make only 15 saves for SLU (2-6-1, 1-1).

"We had some quality chances that didn't get to the net," Fridgen said. "I was talking to (SLU) coach (Joe) Marsh after the game and he said this was the best game they as a team have played thus far. So I thanked him for saving it for us."