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Capital Skates Trophy Again Up for Grabs

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 26, 2007

This weekend, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union will be battling to bring home the Governor's Cup.

Three months from now, the two teams will be competing for the Capital Skates trophy. And tonight's Governor's Cup semifinal between the Capital Region rivals could be a factor in who gets the Capital Skates trophy.

After lying in the closet of Union coach Nate Leaman's office for the last few years, the Capital Skates trophy will be presented to the winner of the two-game ECAC Hockey series between the Dutchmen and Engineers. The teams play Jan. 18 at Messa Rink, and Jan. 19 at Houston Field House.

If the teams split those two games, then tonight's Governor's Cup match will be the tiebreaker in determining who gets the Capital Skates trophy.

"I've looked at it a number of times," Leaman said. "It's something I've kind of wanted to get going. I'm glad Seth [RPI coach Seth Appert] wants to get it going again. I think it's going to be a good thing."

The Capital Skates trophy went to the winner of the Capital Skates Classic, the early season non-league game the two colleges played from 1996-99. The Dutchmen won the first one, and the Engineers took the next three. But low attendance and the move of the tournament from the Knickerbocker/Pepsi arena (now Times Union Center) to the Glens Falls Civic Center, doomed the event.

After the demise of the Classic, the trophy was awarded to the season series winner. It ended up with the Dutchmen after they won the season series in 2000-01 and 2001-02, when Kevin Sneddon coached the team. But there was never any fanfare, nor an on-ice presentation to mark the occasion. After Sneddon left to coach Vermont in the summer of 2003, the trophy stayed in the closet, gathering dust.

But the dust has been wiped off, and the trophy will be seen again when the final buzzer sounds at RPI on Jan. 19.

"It's always good for a rivalry to have something to come along with it," Appert said. "Both Nate and I are very public and open about the fact that our rivalry is extremely important to our programs. It's a rivalry that's been enhance with the job Nate and staff has done in elevating their program, and obviously we're just trying to keep up and get our program back to the level that we believe it should be in the ECAC.

"We're excited about the continued rivalry with Union, excited having a trophy attached to it, like our football programs do. Our football game is huge on both of our campuses. It's a huge moment in our student-athletes' careers. We're trying to do something to elevate the status of our rivalry, as well."

RPI TV SCHEDULE

Time Warner Cable announced Thursday that it will televise five RPI home games this season.

The games are Dec. 15 against Miami (Ohio), Jan. 11 against Cornell, Jan. 19 against Union, Feb. 1 against Quinnipiac and Big Red Freakout night Feb. 2 against Princeton. All games will start at 7 p.m.

John Hennessy, the former River Rats and New Jersey Devils play-by-play announcer, will call the games. Ex-RPI forward Kevin Broad will be the analyst.

HIP CHECK

The hip check has been a lost art in hockey. Players don't seem willing to use their hips to knock players down.

But RPI fans were treated to not one, but two hip checks in last Saturday's game against Sacred Heart. Freshman defenseman John Kennedy delivered one in the third period.

But the best one was delivered by another freshman defenseman. Bryan Brutlag caught Sacred Heart defenseman Reade Wolansky with the perfect hip check. He got down low on Wolansky, who tumbled to the ice. The sellout crowd of 5,049 went crazy.

"He's a very, very high-end competitor," Appert said. "He got into a tussle. He had a good hit earlier in that shift, and the guy went after him. He got mad. He stepped up and launched the guy. I thought it was great. It shows great initiative, and confidence and moxie by an 18-year-old."

SULLIVAN TRIBUTE

ECAC Hockey assistant referee and Troy native Kevin Sullivan said he was touched by the tribute given to him by ECAC Hockey last Saturday.

Sullivan was honored before RPI's game against Sacred Heart. It was his final game as a men's official. He has been an official for 20 years. Before that, Sullivan was an assistant coach with the Engineers from 1981-87, and was part of RPI's 1985 NCAA championship team.

Referee Peter Feola, who worked several games with Sullivan, returned to his former role as an assistant referee for Sullivan's finale. Niskayuna resident Alex Dell was the referee.

"It was a special day," Sullivan said. "I'm very thankful to the league, and Steve Hagwell, [supervisor of officials] Paul Stewart and [senior supervisor of officiating development] Billy Stewart for giving me this opportunity to go out like this."

COMEBACK WIN

It appeared St. Lawrence was on its way to its second win this month over rival Clarkson last Saturday. The Saints, who opened the season Oct. 7 with a 3-2 non-league win over the Golden Knights at Appleton Arena, went into Cheel Arena and took a 3-0 lead after the fi rst period.

But Clarkson coach George Roll kept his cool in the league opener for both teams.

"We were positive with them," Roll said. "We actually played a very good first, but made two defensive mistakes on one-on-ones that cost us goals, and [we] gave up a power-play goal. So, we did not panic. If we got the next one, we knew we were back in the game."

The Knights not only got the next goal, but scored four straight. They held onto the 4-3 lead, until the Saints' Charlie Giffin scored with 37.8 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

But Shawn Fensel's holding penalty 35 seconds into OT gave the Knights a power play, and they took advantage. Chris D'Alvise scored 51 seconds later to give the Knights a dramatic 5-4 win.

AKSTULL CONNECTS

St. Lawrence sophomore forward Tara Akstull (Clifton Park) scored her first goal of the season in the Saints' 3-2 loss to Connecticut last Friday. The next day, she had a goal and an assist as St. Lawrence beat Providence, 8-0.