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Muscling Into the Elite

After a Big Freshman Year, RPI's Croxton Adds Bulk

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, October 2, 2003

TROY - Kevin Croxton was an impact player for the RPI hockey team as a raw, gangly freshman last season.

Fifteen goals, 15 assists and nearly 15 pounds later, Croxton could be one of the top forwards in the Eastern College Athletic Conference this season.

"All muscle," said a broad-smiling Croxton, who reported back at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. "I think all the guys were really motivated this summer after how the season finished last year, even though we did beat Union in the first round. All the guys came back in real good shape."

Croxton was one of the few bright spots in RPI's 12-25-3 season (4-15-3 ECAC). He and 2003-04 co-captain Ben Barr were the only players who scored goals in double figures. Croxton was the first freshman to lead RPI in scoring since Craig Hamelin scored 21 goals and 40 points in the 1991-92 season.

"You can tell he's put on some muscle and he's stronger," coach Dan Fridgen said of the Calgary native. "It looks like his skating has improved. He's worked on that as well. He's very exciting from the blue line in from an offensive perspective."

Four of the club's top five scorers return from last year, but Croxton is likely to be the marked man around the ECAC.

"I'll just try not to get frustrated," said Croxton, who shrugs off any notion of a sophomore jinx. "Even if they are going to play me a little tighter or stronger or know that I'm out there. If you get the extra hack or the extra hook, you've just got to play through it and keep going."

Fridgen knows he has a scoring threat every time Croxton takes a shift.

"He's coming back and he wants to lead," RPI's 10th-year coach said Wednesday at media day. "You just see it on the ice. He's really worked on his game over the course of the summer, and he looks better than he did last year."

Croxton said he'll leave the direct leadership to captains Barr and Scott Basiuk, but he hopes to play a role in the team's comeback from an 11th-place ECAC finish.

"We have two real good captains, so I just want to lead by example," Croxton said. "I just want to do my work on the ice and at practice, and hopefully that will set a little bit of an example for other guys."

The Engineers were outscored by an average of a goal per game (134-94) last season, a major turnaround from the previous season when they won 20 games and scored 120 goals.

"Obviously we're going to have to shoot the puck more," Fridgen said. "We're going to have to put ourselves into a position where everything goes at the net and we're going to try to get some ugly ones instead of just the ones that look pretty."

Croxton expects to get a lot more help this season on the offensive end.

"We've got a lot of guys that are coming back this year (including 11 forwards), and even in practice you can tell we're going to have some guys out there that are going to put up some big numbers this year," he said. "We'll take all the goals we can get."