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Engineers Head North to Alaska

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 12, 2005

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute defenseman Jake Luthi is going home to Alaska for a few days. And he's taking his team with him.

Luthi and the Engineers were to board United Airlines flight 7669 at Albany International at 6:20 this morning and will arrive in Anchorage at 3:40 p.m. Alaska time, which is 7:30 eastern time.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the Engineers will compete in the Nye Frontier Classic tournament at the University of Alaska-Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.

They'll face the host Seawolves at 12:05 a.m. (EDT) late Friday night in the non-bracketed tournament, then battle Michigan Tech at 8 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday.

Luthi, a junior, grew up in Palmer, Alaska, a town of about 5,000 located 28 miles east of Anchorage.

Rensselaer athletic director Ken Ralph, an Alaska-Anchorage grad and former standout swimmer for the Seawolves, was working on scheduling the Engineers for a future Nye Classic berth when RPI coaches were recruiting Luthi out of the United States (junior) Hockey League.

"When I got here," Luthi said on Tuesday, "they said something like this might be in the works. Once it was done, I've been thinking about it; now it's here. I'm excited."

Luthi travels to Anchorage, population 260,283 dozens of times per year.

"It's the city back home," he said. "You go see a movie, you go to Anchorage. You go shopping, you go to Anchorage."

Since the Engineers will have two nights in town before their games - though tonight could be cut short by some jet lag - other players have asked Luthi about the city's night life.

"It's a little different up there," he said, "especially in the summer when you have sunlight all the time and in the winter when you have darkness most of the time."

"I'm sure there aren't as many places to go as there are in Albany," he said.

"Thursday, we might do some sightseeing," Luthi said. "The guys want to see a lot. A glacier cruise might be fun for the guys."

Some players, parents and RPI fans plan to take a tour boat on Thursday.

Luthi said sunrise and sunset for the Anchorage area this week will be similar to this area; no midnight sun or near all-day darkness. He says when he's home during the winter on semester break, it's easy to sleep most of the day.

"It would be neat if it was still sun all day or dark all day," he said. "Sometimes, when I'm home in the winter, I wake up late in the morning and it's still dark."

Other players have eagerly been looking forward to the trip.

"Alaska's a place you don't get to go very often," said RPI sophomore left winger Jonathan Ornelas, a Toronto area native.

"It might be a once in a lifetime thing," Ornelas said. "I'm definitely going to try to get out and see as much as I can."

Like most Division I college hockey players, Ornelas traveled extensively during his junior hockey career but he said not only has he never been near Alaska, but never far in the Midwest.

"I don't think I've been west of Michigan," he said.

"It'll be a great experience," said senior winger Chris Hussey, a Minnesota native.

"I just want to see it," said freshman center Mathieu Angers-Goulet of Quebec. "It'll be quite an experience."

Luthi has several dozen family and friends coming to the games.

"He's already hit us for tickets," Angers-Goulet said.