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RPI Gives Dutch Treat

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 10, 2004

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's recent slump is over, while Union's still has its tight grip on the team, as the Engineers sent the Dutchmen to their eighth straight defeat Friday night at Houston Field House. It was a case of kicking a struggling team when it's down, as the Engineers, while not totally dominant, were in complete control throughout, winning 5-1.

Kirk MacDonald gave the reeling Dutchmen a dose of early-and-late with first-period goals at 1:26 and 19:37, reaching the 10-goal mark this season with his breakaway tally late in the period. Freshman Kevin Broad also scored a breakaway goal on one of the prettiest headman passes of the season from defenseman Scott Romfo. Kevin Croxton netted his eighth of the season, and defenseman Matt McNeely rifled in his fourth - each on a power-play, as the Engineers' power play units snapped from their doldrums with three tallies in eight tries. And the offense overall has generated nine goals in the past two games after totaling three in the previous three contests, all one-goal defeats.

The victory was the second straight for the 10-8-2 Engineers after a 1-5 stretch and it improved them to 5-3-1 in ECAC, the conference's fourth-best record. Union, which began the season 7-2-3, dropped to 7-10-3, 2-6-1 within the ECAC.

"We played hard for 60 minutes ... and I thought the guys came out and for 60 minutes stayed real focused," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. The goals were nice to have but don't forget the Engineers' defense, which held Union to 22 shots - the fifth straight game RPI held to opposition to 25 or fewer shots on goal. "That's the way the puck bounces sometimes and that's sometimes a cyclical team," Fridgen said of the output.

Rensselaer goalie Nathan Marsters faced few quality shots, but had little chance on Jason Visser's goal off a pretty Joel Beal pass to the lower slot. The Engineers' defense and backchecking were again solid. Rensselaer has permitted just five goals in its past four games.

"That's something we've been concentrating on, especially with our forwards coming back hard and supporting (defensemen) in the defensive zone," Fridgen said. "It's been working well. There were a couple of missed cues out there but I thought overall we did a real good job of making sure we cleared guys from in front of the net and keeping shots to the outside."

Union rookie coach Nate Leaman was visibly disappointed in his team for having "no fire and not a lot of heart. "We didn't compete," he said. "We gave up easy scoring chances and then took some bad penalties and we got just what we deserved.

"When you don't bring it (heart) in Division I," Leaman added, "you're going to get whipped. I thought we learned that at UNH (a 9-1 defeat)."

On a power play early, Croxton skated behind the net and fed MacDonald with a bang-bang pass-and-chip shot.

"Great pass by Croxy," MacDonald said. "We've been working on that a lot in practice. He makes the goalie come across and feeding it back to me. I just had an open net. He (Union goalie Kris Mayotte) didn't have a clue where it was."

After Mark Yurkewecz blocked shot in the RPI zone as a Union power play ended during the final minute of the period, McNeely slipped the puck to Ben Barr, who sent MacDonald in alone.

"Great play by Yurk, too dropping down to block the shot and start the play," said MacDonald, who put a low shot between Mayotte's legs. "And Benny made a great feed to me on the breakaway and I just buried my chance."

Even nicer to watch was Romfo's feed to Broad, which came at 16:43 of the second, five and one-half minutes after McNeely's power play goal - with a nice screen from Tommy Green in front - restored the lead to two goals at 3-1. "It kind of caught me off guard," Broad said. "I was just breaking out and it was a real good heads-up play by Romfo. It was right on my tape. I thought I'd go upstairs with my forehand but I thought their backchecker might be gaining on me and I didn't want to raise my stick off the ice." So, Broad slipped a backhander through the 5-hole.

The Engineers won't have much time to savor, and the Dutchmen don't have to dwell long; the two rivals meet again tonight (7 p.m.) at Union's Messa Rink.