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Tournament Atmosphere Appeals to RPI

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 3, 2007

If you thought Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was loaded with regular-season tournaments this year, wait until next season.

The Engineers, who played in three tournaments this season, will participate in four next year. Two of the tournaments will take place in the Capital Region. RPI plays in the Governor's Cup Oct. 26-27 at the Times Union Center (formerly known as Pepsi Arena), and its own holiday tournament Nov. 23-24 at Houston Field House.

The other tournaments will be the season-opening Icebreaker in October, and a trip to Tampa, Fla., for the College Hockey Classic Dec. 29-30.

"I love playing in tournaments," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "It's a very good opportunity for your program to potentially try and compete for a championship. Those games, like the one we played at the Pepsi Arena earlier this year, prepare you for big games down the stretch, whether that's in league play or playoffs. Playing in those kind of games, where one play could be the difference between you bringing home a championship or losing a championship, are great experiences for our student-athletes to go through."

The Icebreaker would appear to be the most intriguing and prestigious of the four tournaments, as the field also includes Boston College, Michigan and host Minnesota. Between the four teams, there are 18 NCAA titles. Michigan has an NCAA-best nine, followed by Minnesota with five and BC and RPI with two each.

"It's a high-class field," Appert said. "It's a field where there's a tremendous amount of championships between the four schools. To be in that field and have a chance to compete against those teams will be great for us next season."

The only known matchup for RPI in any of the tournaments is in the first round of the Governor's Cup, as the Engineers will face Union. The other game is expected to be Colgate against St. Lawrence. The Saints' participation is expected to be announced soon by the ECACHL.

The other teams in the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament will be Notre Dame, St. Lawrence and Vermont. Notre Dame will join RPI in Tampa, along with Colorado College and Massachusetts.

Tournament games can be more interesting than a typical non-tournament non-leaguer.

"They seem to be more meaningful," Appert said. "They aren't, but they seem to be for student-athletes. They get a little more excited for tournament games than they do for regular non-conference games. To play in three very good ones that we did this year, and to follow that up next year with four high-quality tournaments is exciting for our program."

DROUGHTS END

When RPI junior forward Jonathan Ornelas tipped Peter Merth's shot past Union goalie Justin Mrazek in the third period of Saturday's Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup, it not only was his first goal of the season, it also snapped a 28-game goalless drought.

Ornelas, who scored a careerhigh 13 goals last season, hadn't put a puck in the net since last Jan. 20 against Brown.

That goal also stopped RPI's scoreless streak at 155 minutes, 42 seconds. The Engineers hadn't scored a goal since Matt Angers-Goulet's tally against UMass-Lowell at 11:12 of the first period on Dec. 16.

Also ending a long goalless skid was Union's Torren Delforte. He hadn't scored in 17 straight games before scoring the game's first goal against RPI. Delforte's last goal came March 3 against Yale.

TOURNEY WRAPUPS

It was a pretty good weekend for ECACHL teams in tournament action.

Of the nine teams that participated in Christmas tournaments, four reached the championship round, and two won titles.

Clarkson captured the Badger Showdown in Madison, Wis., becoming the first ECACHL team to win the title in the tourney's 18-year history.

The Golden Knights roughed up the host Badgers, 6-2, in Friday's semifinal. Tournament MVP Nick Dodge had a hat trick to lead Clarkson over the defending NCAA champions.

In the championship game, Clarkson edged Lake Superior State, 3-2. Shea Guthrie's goal with 5:26 left in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie. South Glens Falls native Shawn Weller had a goal and an assist.

It was Clarkson's first holiday tournament title since 1995.

In its fourth tournament of the season, Colgate won a championship. The Raiders beat Connecticut, 3-1, in Saturday's UConn Hockey Classic final.

Goalie Mark Dekanich stopped 27 shots. He had 35 saves in Friday's 5-2 victory over Northeastern, and was named tournament MVP as Colgate captured its first tourney title since winning the 1999 Syracuse Invitational.

St. Lawrence dropped a 4-2 decision to North Dakota in the Ledyard Bank Tournament final Saturday at Dartmouth.

St. Lawrence reached the final by beating Boston University, 4-3, on a penalty shot by Mike McKenzie in overtime.

Cornell lost to Maine, 6-3, in the Florida College Classic final Saturday. Teddy Purcell led the Black Bears with two goals and an assist.

The Big Red reached the final by beating New Hampshire, 5-2, Friday. Raymond Sawada paced Cornell with two goals and an assist.

In addition to Union at the Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup, finishing third in their respective tournaments were Brown (Denver Cup) and Harvard (Great Lakes Invitational).

RPI RECRUITS

RPI recently added two recruits, one for next year and the other for the 2008-09 season.

The player coming next season is Scott Halpern, a forward for the Bay State Breakers of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Halpern is sixth on the team in scoring with eight goals and 12 assists in 24 games. Last year, he had 20 goals and 15 assists in 44 games.

Joining RPI in 2008 will be 6-2, 195-pound forward Justin Smith of the EJHL's New England Junior Falcons. He is the Falcons' No. 4 scorer with 10 goals and 10 assists in 29 games. Smith had a four-goal, one-assist effort against Bridgewater on Oct. 1.

LOCAL UPDATE

Here is a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region who are playing outside the area are doing at the start of the new year.

Weller is fourth at Clarkson in scoring with eight goals and nine assists in 19 games. He is fourth on the team with four power-play goals.

Boston University junior forward Peter MacArthur (Clifton Park), who scored a goal in the St. Lawrence loss, is the team's third-leading scorer with six goals and seven assists in 16 games. He has a team-high three power-play goals.

New Hampshire sophomore goalie Kirk Manke (Clifton Park) made his collegiate debut in Saturday's Florida College Classic consolation game against Western Michigan, but it wasn't memorable. He allowed two goals on two shots in the final 3:51 of the game, but UNH won, 5-2. Manke's goals-against average is 31.17.

Army junior forward Ken Porter (Delmar) has played in just one game this season, Nov. 24 at Union. He started the game, but didn't record a point.

Niagara freshman forward Trevor Foster (Clifton Park) has played in three games, and doesn't have a point.

St. Lawrence senior defenseman Abbie Bullard (Queensbury) has two goals and five assists in 20 games. Both of her goals have come on the power play, and one of them was a game-winner. She leads the team with 42 penalty minutes.

St. Lawrence freshman forward Tara Akstull (Clifton Park) has three goals and six assists in 20 games. She has one game-winning goal.

Brown senior defenseman Lauren Deeb (Menands) has one assist in 14 games.

Quinnipiac senior forward Kelly Rider (Glenmont) doesn't have a point in seven games.

Boston University sophomore forward Kelly Wiart (Queensbury) has six goals and two assists in 18 games. She has two power-play goals and two game-winners.

Maine senior goalie Rachel Gettings (Watervliet) is 2-2-1 in six games with a 3.29 goals-against average.

Vermont freshman defenseman Melanie Greene (Queensbury) has a goal in nine games.