By Joe Gladziszewski
Hockey League Notebook
Kirk MacDonald, who has gained 25 pounds since Jan.
1 as he recovers from his fight with cancer, expects
to be back on the ice next season.
The annual Big Red Freakout! is upon us once
again and it couldn't be more inappropriately titled when
you consider the circumstances affecting the Rensselaer
hockey team this season and the events surrounding Saturday's
game against Brown.
A slang dictionary tells us that the verb
"freak out" means to become agitated with strong
emotion. A scary movie, a loud noise, something missing
in your home – those are some simple things that could
cause you to freak out.
So it would be perfectly normal to get especially
freaked out when faced with news that you or someone close
to you has been stricken with cancer. As you know, that's
the news that RPI's Kirk MacDonald received in April. What
we've learned about MacDonald and the Engineers in the 10
months since his diagnosis is that they're not afraid to
take on a challenge and show poise in the face of adversity.
"There's no sense in dwelling on it or
being negative. Everybody just kept trying to be upbeat
and we realized that you have to move on," MacDonald
MacDonald is back to full strength and is
working toward his return to the ice next season. He has
gained 25 pounds since the start of the calendar year and
is building toward putting on another 20 pounds to regain
his playing weight of 203 pounds for his senior season.
It has been a challenge to watch the Engineers struggle
at times since he has returned to Troy, but MacDonald has
seen the team grow during a five-game winless streak.
The challenge that the team faced in dealing
with MacDonald's cancer treatments set the stage for a challenging
season on the ice. Already having lost the services of MacDonald
for the season, other injuries to important players like
Kevin Croxton, Brad Farynuk, and Kevin Broad put a strain
on RPI's young forwards and defensemen. The Engineers have
been able to dress only five defensemen for some games this
year. In dealing with those injuries, the young players
gained experience and grew to improve in Division I hockey.
Now, the team is returning to health in time for the stretch
Throughout the season, one of the fundraising
activities that the team has participated in is accepting
donations as players shave have their heads shaven following
home contests. This weekend's shavings will shear senior
Keith MCWilliams on Friday night after the Yale game and
Kevin Croxton and MacDonald himself following Saturday's
Freakout! game against Brown.
Saturday's events may cause two strong memories
to come rushing back from the last year. In the 2005 Freakout!
game, also against Brown, MacDonald scored the game-winning
goal with 8.3 seconds remaining to give RPI the victory.
After this week's game, MacDonald's baldness will closely
resemble his appearance after undergoing successful chemotherapy
treatment on his cancerous cells.
The shaving of the heads of MacDonald and
Croxton will take place on a night when more than 5,000
fans are expected to be in attendance and if everyone in
attendance donated one dollar, it would nearly double the
funds raised thus far. MacDonald reports that the team has
raised almost $7,000, all of which will be donated to the
Lance Armstrong Foundation. Matt Pettinger of the Washington
Capitals, a close friend of MacDonald, has donated a Capitals
jersey autographed by everyone on the current roster including
Alexander Ovechkin. Raffle tickets will be sold before and
after the game on Saturday at the Ice House event, and the
winner will be drawn there.
MacDonald has no doubt that the fans and alumni
will continue to be generous and supportive this weekend
as they have been all year long, as the team increases its
fundraising effort during the most cherished weekend on
the RPI hockey calendar.
"The support has been great," he
said. "They gave me the option on how I wanted to address
this and it was easier to get it out there from the beginning."
In dealing with a personal ailment as a public
figure, MacDonald has courageously led the way by being
forthcoming and taking on cancer and the recovery process.
He set an example for everyone touched by the situation
that no matter what you face in life, it's nothing to get
freaked out about.
SEEN AND HEARD
IN THE ECACHL
Good old Uncle Mo: It's February
and that means that it's time to build momentum toward the
playoffs or turn things around. Several ECACHL teams are
experiencing streaks and slumps.
Dartmouth and Cornell have done good work.
The Big Green are 6-0-2 in their last eight ECACHL games.
The Big Red are 11-1-3 over their last 15 games. They are
the two hottest teams in the league and it's not wrong to
look forward to their meeting at Lynah Rink on Feb. 17.
Joining those teams with positive momentum
are Quinnipiac and Princeton. Those travel partners combined
to win all four games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson
on the weekend. The Bobcats prepped for the North Country
foes by winning three of four non-league games against RIT
and Niagara. Princeton dropped its first game back from
an exam break rattled off those impressive wins and carried
a four-game ECACHL winning streak into this weekend's games
at Harvard and Dartmouth.
On the other side, Brown is winless in seven
games, Clarkson has one win in its last eight, and RPI is
0-4-1 in its last five.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Dartmouth (Fri.)
Princeton at Dartmouth (Sat.) It's never a bad time to head to New Hampshire,
and these games give fans a chance to see where teams
stand in mid-February. When Dartmouth made the trip
down to Connecticut and New Jersey on the first weekend
of November, the Bobcats and Tigers won both games.
Those two teams are playing well again, and Dartmouth
is playing its best hockey of the season and has revenge
While You’re There: Extend
the stay and check out the Beanpot on Monday in Boston.
Harvard plays at 5 p.m. against Northeastern, but
you already knew that.
ECACHL won its second straight Commissioners' Cup
when Yale defeated Connecticut on Sunday afternoon.
The league accumulated 14 points with a 7-4-0 record
in 11 games. Joining Yale as victors in this year's
games were Union, Clarkson, Rensselaer, Colgate, Quinnipiac,
this year, the Quinnipiac Bobcats appeared in this
space for teasing us with early success (Are they
teasing us again?) before losing eight of nine games.
It's only fair to send Clarkson and St. Lawrence
to the sin bin this week for doing much of the same.
The Golden Knights and Saints were knocking on the
top 10 in the national polls, but have fallen out
of the rankings altogether.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• After allowing four goals and getting
yanked in a loss at Dartmouth on Jan. 28, Union goalie Kris
Mayotte is back in form. He has allowed just four goals
on 82 shots in the last three games for a save percentage
of .951. Union has two wins and a tie in that stretch.
• Syracuse-based writer Lindsay Kramer
writes the AHL Notebook for NHL.com. Kramer took a break
from his AHL coverage and attended last week's Colgate-Cornell
tilt at Lynah, and still had time to detail ex-Dartmouth
player Hugh Jessiman's season of growth in minor-pro
• Another article penned by Kramer has
a different story to tell, that former
Harvard player Brett Nowak is retiring from professional
hockey after he was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer,
the same ailment that hampered Kirk McDonald. Best wishes
to Nowak in his recovery.
• Harvard has lost eight consecutive
first-round games in the Beanpot after this week's 5-3 loss
to Boston University.
• Quinnipiac is now 2-0 when wearing
its gold-colored alternate sweaters after Saturday's win
over St. Lawrence.
• In Dartmouth's Friday night win over
Yale, the Big Green trailed 3-0. It marked the first time
that Dartmouth had won a game in which they didn't score
the first goal.
• Brown's designation as the opponent
for the Big Red Freakout! in Troy this weekend marks the
eighth time in 29 years that Brown will be the visiting
team during the game. Fans always receive a promotional
item at the Freakout! and in the early days, noise-making
devices such as bells, rattles, and horns were given out.
The game against Brown in 1987 changed that as the noise
generated had such an impact on the game that the NCAA prohibited
noise making devices from being distributed in future years.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report.