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Local Rivals Set for Early Test

RPI, Union Meet Tonight in Tournament

By Pete Iorizzo

Albany Times Union, October 26, 2007

TROY - RPI coach Seth Appert, a former assistant coach at the University of Denver, spent Wednesday evening on the road recruiting. On the ride home, he tuned his car radio to the World Series, to listen to his Rockies play the Red Sox.

He soon changed stations.

"It wasn't much of a game to listen to," Appert said of the Rockies' 13-1 Game 1 loss.

Forgive Appert's lack of enthusiasm. His attention remained much closer to home, where he believes his rejuvenation of the RPI men's hockey program needs to begin -- against his team's local rival, Union.

The two teams meet tonight at 7 in the Governor's Cup, a four-team, two-day tournament held at Times Union Center. The winner advances to Saturday's championship game, where it meets the winner between St. Lawrence and Colgate, who play today at 4.

"We want to be the upper hand in this rivalry," Appert said. "If you can't take care of your backyard, it's tough to worry about other things, in terms of league play or national play. We have a lot of respect for their program and what they've done, but we want to have dominance in this rivalry."

RPI holds a decisive advantage (42-15-8) in the all-time series, but the rivalry tilted in Union's favored the past few years. The Engineers failed to record a regulation win against the Dutchmen in seven consecutive tries before winning 3-2 at Union last year in the teams' final meeting.

The Dutchmen and Engineers played a memorable semifinal game in the last year's Governor's Cup, when they tied before RPI advanced to the title game in a shootout. The Engineers beat Colgate to win the title, and Union fell to Quinnipiac in the consolation game.

The Dutchmen, though, basked in success against what long has been considered the Capital Region's dominant Division I program, in part because it offers scholarships, while Union does not.

"Any time you are able to play well against your rival, I think it's a source of pride," Union coach Nate Leaman said. "One thing is, when I came into the program, we hadn't had a lot of success against them. Obviously we wanted to improve on that. And we have."

Both teams enter this game hoping to build on successes from early this season.

Union, picked to finish last in the ECAC coaches' poll, swept Ferris State in a two-game, season-opening series, despite the loss of last year's leading scorer, Josh Coyle, to injury. Leaman said Coyle, a senior forward, appears unlikely to play this weekend either.

RPI picked up wins over Bentley in the season opener and then Army and Sacred Heart this past weekend. The Engineers also held a three-goal, second-period lead over then-No. 6 Minnesota in the season's second game before losing, 4-3.

Both Union and RPI begin ECAC play following the Governor's Cup, whose games don't count toward the league standings. But players said this weekend figures to set the tone for their regular-season series, a home-and-home that begins Jan. 18 at Union.

"Union is 20 minutes to half an hour away," RPI junior forward Kurt Colling said. "Things are pretty intense. Their program has become pretty prominent, so especially last year our team viewed it as more of a rivalry."