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Engineers Becoming an Offensive Juggernaut?

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 3, 2003

TROY - Suddenly, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has scored 11 goals in two games.

Before you get visions of seeing the Engineers in the ECAC finals at Pepsi Arena, keep things in perspective; six of those goals came against a Army team that is not strong to begin with and who also played poorly in its own zone at Houston Field House last week.

The more recent five goals came against Merrimack goalie Casey Guenther, who has seen much better nights than he did Saturday.

That said, Saturday night's come-from-behind, 5-4 victory at Merrimack, in which RPI defensemen Scott Basiuk, Brad Farynuk and Matt McNeely each beat Guenther with a 50-foot shot, should not be underplayed.

"Any time you came back from 3-0 and win the game, it's a big win," Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen said.

After RPI used the long-range goals to forge a 4-4 tie, they won when the winning goal went about three feet off the skate of senior center Conrad Barnes.

The Engineers continued to have problems "beating ourselves," as Fridgen pointed out.

"We're causing our own problems," he said.

Merrimack's first goal came with just 37 seconds remaining in the first period and resulted from a freshman mistake. Center Oren Eizenman allowed his man to skate right around him, which led to a 2-on-1 in the offensive zone and Brent Gough converted a pretty pass from Matt Johnson.

Tim Reidy banged in a rebound while falling down on a Merrimack power play at 5:09 of the second period and the Engineers looked to be in big trouble seven seconds later, when they didn't get back into the defensive zone quickly enough and Steve Crusco scored for a 3-0 lead.

"We kind of got to standing around in our own end," Fridgen said, "especially after they got that power-play goal. For whatever reason, we softened up."

In addition, the Engineers had trailed 1-0 despite dominating the first period.

"But the guys stuck with it, chipped away and competed real hard," Fridgen said.

Defensemen shine: Since his blue line counterparts Basiuk and Farynuk had beaten Guenther from long range, McNeely was asked if the Engineers had later talked about specifically trying to shoot from the blue line.

"Well, the game plan was to just get it in front of the net for some screens," McNeely said. "I don't know if it bounced off someone, but no, just get it and lucky things can happen."

Kevin Croxton was skating toward the crease at the time.

Perhaps he screened Guenther, who never saw Basiuk's shot, mis-reached for Farynuk's and was tardy on McNeely's.

The Engineers know that defensemen, especially Basiuk and Farynuk, will need to be above the midway point on the scoring sheet this season.

Basiuk and Farynuk each have two thus far, while Blake Pickett (who had a big assist on Farynuk's goal Saturday night) and McNeely have one apiece.

Croxton still searching: With Barnes and rookie Kevin Broad scoring goals, 10 of RPI's 15 forwards have at least one goal.

Croxton, the leading goal-scorer (15) and leading scorer (30 points) last season, is not among them.

A gambling man could have gotten some pretty good odds on that three weeks ago.

Croxton's two assists Saturday gave him six on the season and the six points leads the team in scoring. He's frustrated not to be in the goals column but is far from pressing.

"I'll just keep going hard and help the team in any way possible," he said.

"I didn't see it either": Broad accelerated RPI's rally with his first collegiate goal, banging one off Guenther's glove with 14 seconds remaining in the second period.

His enjoyment wasn't total.

"I was on my way to the ice, going face first (courtesy of a Merrimack defender)," Broad said. "So, I didn't see my first college goal. But that's all right. They don't ask how."

C.J.'s party: While all of the Engineers reveled in the victory, it was extra special for junior center C.J. Hanafin.

He's from nearby Burlington, Mass., played his high school games (at Austin Prep) at Merrimack's Lawler Arena and had 50 names under his on the RPI pass list Saturday night.

"Yeah, I've got about 74 first cousins," he said. "My father (Charles) was one of 11 (children) and my mom (Judy) was one of nine."

"They made some noise," he said of his entourage. "It was fun. And it was nice to have the assist (Broad's goal)."

Merrimack had talked to Hanafin but he says "RPI was always my first choice."

Hanafin's interference penalty led to a goal and a big breakdown on the ensuing faceoff produced another Merrimack goal and RPI trailed 3-0.

"It was great the way the guys banded together and pulled the game out," he said.