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Engineers Enjoying Warm-weather Reprieve

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 29, 2007

TAMPA — Virtually every Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey player had been to Florida prior to Friday. Only a couple however, as hockey players.

The rest of them had been here - on both coasts - as, well, vactioners during a certain late-winter week or two.

"Vactioners, very carefully put," laughed RPI senior left winger Jonathan Ornelas.

Every RPI player has played youth hockey in the summertime, but Friday was a first for every player - and tonight will be, too, when the 17th-ranked Engineers battle No. 4 Colorado College in the first round of the Lightning Classic at the St. Petersburgh Times Forum.

"Walking to the rink in shorts and sandels was great," said junior center Matt Angers-Goulet, who's a northern Quebec native used to brutal winters with heavy snow. "Obviousy, this is a vastly different kind of winter (here) and I like it a lot."

"Shorts and sandels," asked junior winger Seth Klerer, "I don't remember every being able to do that."

Junior winger Andrei Uryadov, RPI's leading scorer, had some rough winters as a youth in St. Petersburg, Russia, but he actually has played tournament games in Florida - St. Petersbrugh, quite ironically, during his prep school days at South Kent Prep.

"it was pretty warm," Uryadov said. "It we came here to this rink and actually watched (the Lightning) play."

Ornelas, an assistant captain, was asked if the fine, exhilerating weather will propel the Engineers into stellar play. "Well, we'll find out," he said. "Right now I feel pretty good."

This is the second National Hockey League Arena in which the Engineers have played this season, having lost to Minnesota 4-3 in St. Paul's X-Cel Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

Rensselaer coach Seth Appert says the players don’t hide their enthusiasm to play in a big league arena.

"It's very exciting to them, no question," he said. "When they come into the rink and they walk out to the zam (Zamboni) gate and look up, and they're in awe.

"Our guys pool there money and buy the NHL (TV) package to watch as many games as they can. To play in the same venues, is very exciting to them. All hockey players aspire to be at this level and to get a little taste of it in these types of arenas is a great opportunity for them."

Just three and one-half years ago, Tampa Bay Lightning stars Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and others carried the Stanley Cup around the ice at the same arena in which the Engineers practiced on Friday night and will play tonight.

"I'm a pretty big (Calgary) Flames fan," Helfrich said, "and I'm stll pretty bitter about it" (the Lightning beat the Flames in a seven-game final series).

"But it's cool to know there's history like that in the building," Helfrich added.