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Fourth Line Comes Through for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 20, 2003

It had been a long time since Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach Dan Fridgen could put a fourth forward line who had the ability to get goals on any shift.

As of last weekend, he did.

Fridgen took this year's top recruit and arguably the most skilled forward on the team - Oren Eizenman - and put him on the fourth line.

Neither Vic Pereira at left wing or Mikael Hammarstrom on the right is a big goal-scorer but with a center such as Eizenman, each can be dangerous.

Eizenman began the season centering the team's top line but his defensive zone play has been less than stellar. He still has a minus-5 plus-minus rating.

"It was just a situation where I thought the other lines were going well and I put (the above trio) together during the week. I thought they played well throughout the week and I just stuck with it come game time."

Eizenman, a Toronto native, has two goals and three assists in nine games and is capable of much higher numbers. He'll take the same approach on the fourth line as he did on the 'A' line.

"I'll do whatever coach asks me," he said. "I don't feel any pressure (to produce big offensive numbers). I just want to do my best and help the team however I can."

Pereira (5 goals, 8 assists in 58 career games) doesn't get a lot of shots on goal but when he puts it on net, he can knock a goaltender over. Hammarstrom (7-21-28 in games) has as good of hands as any RPI player. With Eizenman, they could easily chip in with some goals.

"Yeah, you have some offense on that line," Fridgen said. "Vic has really picked his game up and Mikael ... I thought they were the ones who sparked us at times."

Eizenman's line had a pair of assists in the 7-1 victory over Vermont, then Hammarstrom had a big chance to win the Dartmouth game (which ended 1-1) but a rolling puck forced his backhander to an open net to go wide.

"With the way the other lines were working together, it gave me the opportunity to put an offensive guy down there while he's concentrating on playing defensive hockey as well. And like I said, in both games, they did an outstanding job for us."

Black jerseys: Many RPI players enjoyed wearing the black jerseys against Vermont and would like to wear them again on the road. That, though, would mean another order to the supplier, since the Engineers auctioned off the shirts and gave them to the highest bidders after the game.

"I like them. They looked pretty sharp," co-captain Ben Barr said of the shirts, which had a large measure of red trim. "It was fun to change things up a little bit and it was probably fun for the fans."

Rensselaer plans to have the same Black Friday promotion in upcoming seasons, wearing the black shirts for the ECAC home opener.

Some, though, believe that next year, all college conferences will make the switch to dark shirts for home teams, meaning the Engineers could wear the black sweaters whenever they wanted.

Balanced scoring: After the outburst against Vermont, all but three RPI skaters have at least one point.

Other than freshman Jake Luthi, who's played in just two games, the only other Engineers not on the score sheet are fellow defensemen Keith MCWilliams (2-6-8 in 29 games last season) and Scott Romfo (2-2-4 in 31 games).