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RPI Sweeps Away No. 5 St. Cloud

By Mike MacAdam

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 23, 2003

TROY - After two games against St. Cloud State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is on Cloud Nine.

The Engineers polished off a 2-0 weekend with a 2-1 victory over the fifth-ranked Huskies, the first-place team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, at Houston Field House on Saturday night.

With the victory, compliments of Kevin Croxton's power-play goal at 9:42 of the third period, Rensselaer is 6-3-2 overall and 4-0-2 at home. The Engineers have lost just once in their last nine games.

"This was probably one of the best weekends I've seen out of an RPI team in a long time," said Dan Fridgen, who is in his 10th season as Rensselaer head coach. "Both nights were a total team effort, just doing the little things to be successful."

The Engineers have made gritty, defensive-minded play their trademark this season, and the victories have followed.

St. Cloud State scored the pretty goal you'd expect from a speedy, highly skilled team from the WCHA, on Mike Doyle's wrist shot just under the crossbar from a very tight angle for a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Defenseman Matt McNeely tied it at 4:58 of the second, cutting in from the right corner and slipping the puck past Tim Boron. After Croxton gave Rensselaer a 2-1 lead off a rebound that he chipped off the post and Boron into the net, the Engineers weathered the final push by St. Cloud State.

In the final minutes, Ben Barr and Cody Wojdyla combined to kill about 30 seconds by kicking the puck around in the corner, and freshman Kevin Broad singlehandedly knocked off another 40 seconds by playing keepaway with his feet in the same corner.

With less than 30 seconds left, three RPI players piled on top of each other to block a shot from the point, and another player cleared it.

"Cornell does that to us all the time. They get up a goal, and you can't do anything, because they're just so disciplined," Croxton said. "It's frustrating. You saw how frustrated St. Cloud was when he [Broad] was down there working that corner."

"They're known as a defensive squad within the WCHA, but I still don't think they were used to the ECAC tight D and getting a couple of scoring chances here and there."

"They had a tough time getting their goaltender off the ice [for an extra skater], and that's nothing but hard work and determination," Fridgen said. "You've got a guy like Broad doing it, and you've got a guy like Croxie, who'd love to take it to the net, doing it. He's just doing what needs to be done for the sake of the team, as opposed to the individual accolades."

Rensselaer can't get too comfortable, though, with road games against UMass-Lowell and New Hampshire coming up.

"We still have to know that we're a hardhat and lunchpail kind of team," Croxton said. "Nothing fancy, just come to work every day and take care of our own zone first. We can't go out thinking we're going to beat teams, 9-7. It's not going to happen."