SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — After missing the last four games with an injured left ankle, senior forward Kevin Croxton made an inspirational return to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute lineup.
But it was Union senior forward and co-captain Scott Seney who provided his team with an emotional lift.
Seney had a goal and made a nice individual play to set up Jonathan Poirier’s tying tally late in the second period, and freshman forward Chris Potts scored 15 second later, giving the Dutchmen a 3-2 ECACHL victory over the Engineers before a sold-out crowd of 2,284 at Messa Rink.
The two teams meet again Saturday at 7 p.m. at Houston Field House.
The win moved Union (6-6-3 ECACHL, 13-11-5 overall) into sixth place, one point ahead of Yale, which dropped a 6-4 decision to Dartmouth. RPI (5-7-3, 11-14-3), which has lost four straight,
is tied for eighth with Clarkson, 6-1 losers to Quinnipiac.
Croxton, who injured the ankle when he was hit by a puck in a Jan. 7 game against Harvard, said Wednesday that he doubted that he would be ready to play. But after practicing Thursday, he felt good enough to try and play.
Early on, Croxton was used on the power play. As the game progressed, he took more even-strength shifts. In the third period, he was reunited with fellow CEO linemates Oren Eizenman and Jonathan Ornelas.
“I didn’t feel that bad,” said Croxton, who went down early in the third after Union defenseman Bryan Campbell slashed him on the ankle, but stayed in the game. “It’s more of a mental thing to come back from that kind of injury. I just wanted to take it slow.”
Croxton, who had an assist, nearly scored the game-tying goal with 32 seconds left in the third period. With RPI on the power play and goalie Mathias Lange pulled for an extra attacker, Croxton sent a shot to the net from the left point. The puck hit a Union defender near the net, but it didn’t get past goalie Kris Mayotte.
“I thought he did a great job, considering the fact that he’s only practiced once in the last three weeks,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “It’s pretty obvious he dedicated to keeping himself in shape.
“He’s better at 70 percent than some of what I had going tonight.” Seney, who had gone five straight games without a point, played one of his best games of the year. He scored a power-play goal
at 5:41 of the second, giving Union a 1-0 lead.
“That was a monkey off my back. I hadn’t scored in a while,” said Seney, whose last goal came Jan. 13 against Clarkson. “I had fun out there. I tried to make as many plays as I could.”
After power-play goals by Keith MCWilliams and Jake Luthi gave RPI a one-goal advantage, Seney went to work. He circled the RPI zone with the puck, going from behind the net to the high slot and to the right side of the net. Just as he was going behind the net, Seney passed the puck out front to Poirier, who put it past Lange at 16:23.
“We had a senior step up and lead us tonight,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “That was extremely important. I thought Scott Seney was the best player on the ice for our team. He stepped up and played a great, great game.”
On the ensuing faceoff, Potts picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated down the right wing and blasted a shot past Lange’s right pad.
“The following shift, coach put our line out there just to get it deep, and get the first shot on net,” Potts said. “We always look to that after scoring a goal to get the momentum swinging fully in our favor.
“I just got my feet moving, and put it on net. It just happened to go in. And that was huge, just to bounce back immediately like that.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in