TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer Engineer coach Dan Fridgen was talking with Rochester Institute of Technology coach Wayne Wilson and his assistant, Brian Hills, before Saturday’s game at Houston Field House.During the conversation, Fridgen kiddingly told Wilson that the first team to 10 goals wins. Who knew Fridgen would turn out to be so prophetic?
Thanks to Kevin Croxton’s first career hat trick, the Engineers did indeed get to double digits and pulled out a wild 10-7 non-conference win.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a ‘W’,” Fridgen said. “I knew they could score goals. Just in [looking at] the scouting reports, they’re one of the better teams that other teams have faced. They keep coming at you. I was just disappointed in the way we didn’t take care of our end of the rink.”
The last time RPI (8-6-3) scored 10 goals in a game that counted was Nov. 20, 1999, a 10-2 victory over Holy Cross. The Engineers beat Ottawa, 13-3, in an exhibition game two months ago.
“We haven’t been in one of these games this year,” Wilson said. “Thankfully, we haven’t been in one where we’ve been blown out.”
The CEO Line of Croxton, Oren Eizenman and Jonathan Ornelas combined for five goals and eight assists. The trio has contributed 33 goals and 39 assists this season.
“We’ll take it and move on. What can you say?” Croxton said. “It probably wasn’t the textbook way to do it, but a win’s a win. It’s better than losing to them.”
Croxton’s hat trick was the first by an RPI player since Nick Economakos did it against Holy Cross Feb. 5 of last season. Croxton scored his first two goals on breakaways against goalie Louis Menard, who was making his first collegiate start and gave up all 10 goals, and then got his third at 12:37 of the second period. Before going out on that shift, Eizenman asked him on the bench if Croxton ever had one.
“You probably jinxed me on that one,” Croxton told Eizenman.
With the way both teams were playing defensively — badly — it wasn’t going to be a problem for Croxton to complete his hat trick. The teams traded goals in the first period, with RIT (5-11-1) taking a 3-2 lead. Goals by Croxton, Ornelas and Scott Romfo in a 3:43 stretch gave RPI a 5-3 lead. Wilson called a timeout after Romfo’s goal.
“We told them, ‘Just relax. You’re going to make mistakes. Let’s regroup here’,” Wilson said.
Sure enough, RIT did. The Tigers scored the next three goals, the second of which chased starter Jordan Alford from the game, and took a 6-5 lead. But back came the Engineers. Croxton’s third goal of the game tied it at 6-6 with 7:23 left in the second. Andrew Lord snapped the tie when he tipped in an Ornelas shot past Menard for a power-play goal with 1:14 remaining.
“I don’t think I’ve been involved in a game where there have been so many momentum switches throughout the course of the game,” Fridgen said.
Croxton set up Dan Peace 41 seconds into the third period for his first collegiate goal. It proved to be the game-winner when Steve Pinizzotto scored his second goal of the game at 7:11. Eizenman made it 9-7 at 10:51, and Chris Hussey fired the final goal in with 1:10 left.
“We scored some goals, and we got some great performances out there,” Fridgen said.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.