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RPI Thrilled to Play in Pro Arena

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 29, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - usually, college hockey players have to at least reach their conference tournament semifinals to get to play in a National Hockey League arena.

Rensselaer Polytechnic and three other teams will enjoy that rare treat tonight and Friday in Ohio State University's Ohio Classic at the 17,500-seat Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Engineers (8-6-3 overall), who attended the Blue Jackets' game with Anaheim on Wednesday night, face second-ranked Miami (12-2-2) in today's 5:05 p.m. opener.

Holy Cross (9-3-1) battles host Ohio State (9-6-2) at 8:05.

"They're excited," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said of his players. "This is a big-time (arena)."

"It's exciting, we've been looking forward to it for a while," said junior left winger Kevin Broad, who recalled playing at Calgary's Saddledome in youth hockey.

"It was the morning after the millennium (Jan. 2, 2000) in Calgary, in front of six people, a consolation game," he said. "It was interesting. We won it, though."

Slovakian native and senior defenseman Alexander Valentin will step onto an NHL arena in uniform for the first time tonight.

"Yeah, I'm pumped," he said. "Thought about it all week."

As youngsters in youth hockey, many RPI players, Kevin Croxton, Andrew Lord and Chris Hussey among them, have played in between periods of NHL games.

Others though, such as senior tri-captain Brad Farynuk and sophomore Jordan Alford, never have.

"I'd love to," said Alford, who's currently relegated to a backup role.

"I'm looking forward to it," Farynuk said. "(But) I try to go out and block everything out — unless you're in a (raucous) crowd like (at) Cornell — and just focus on what I have to do."

"That my be a little tough (tonight)," Farynuk admitted.