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Croxton Stumps for No Slump

By Brian Bouyea

Troy Record, October 8, 2003

TROY - Kevin Croxton has heard a particularly dreadful two-word phrase several times in the past few weeks.

"Sophomore slump."

"Yeah, it's been brought up to me, but I don't believe in curses or jinxes," Croxton said. "If you work hard and play your butt off then things will be fine. I'm not going to get caught up in any superstitious stuff."

Croxton turned in a sensational freshman season for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team a year ago - and now he wants to take his game to an even higher level.

Taking a step backwards is the furthest thing from Croxton's mind.

Croxton, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward says he expects to be an even better player than he was as a freshman when he was an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference All-Rookie selection.

That's going to be a tall order considering the Calgary, Alb., native led the Engineers in scoring with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) last year.

Croxton, however, has returned to Collar City bigger, stronger and faster to help RPI reverse its 2002-03 fortunes.

The Engineers finished 12-25-3 (4-15-3 in the ECAC) last year, and that dreadful record served as a motivator for Croxton in the offseason. He is 15 pounds heavier and says the added bulk has sapped none of his speed. If anything, he is faster than a year ago.

"All muscle," Croxton said. "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 (of the ECAC Tournament). We don't want a repeat of last year."

RPI head coach Dan Fridgen is impressed with Croxton's offseason progress.

"He's come back and he wants to lead," said Fridgen, who is entering his 10th season leading the Engineers. "You just see it on the ice. He's really worked on his game and his strength over the course of the summer ... and he looks better than he did last year."

Croxton knows he won't sneak up on anybody this year, as his name is now known throughout the ECAC. That's where the added strength will help the most, he figures.

"Even if they are going to play me a little tighter or stronger I'm not going to get frustrated," Croxton said. "If I get the extra hack or the extra hook, I'm just going to play through it. I think that extra strength will help in those situations during the year."

Fridgen says Croxton will again be the offense's focal point.

"He's very exciting from the blue line in from an offensive perspective. We expect big things from him, as we did a year ago," Fridgen said. "It looks like his skating has improved to compliment all his other talents. He's a big impact player."

RPI was chosen 10th in the ECAC preseason coaches' poll and was tabbed 11th by the media.

Croxton believes the Engineers are capable of proving their doubters wrong.

"We've all seen the polls and we're anxious to show we're a better team than that," he said. "It's time to go out and demonstrate how much we've improved. Our expectations are a lot higher than what all the outsiders have been saying."