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RPI's Polacek, D'Amigo Earn League Awards

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 19, 2010

ALBANY - The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team may not have made it past the first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament, but two of its players captured major awards at the league banquet Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Junior forward Chase Polacek was named Player of the Year, and freshman forward Jerry D'Amigo earned Rookie of the Year.

Polacek received another honor. He was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. He led the league in scoring with 17 goals and 18 assists in 22 games. Overall, Polacek had 26 goals and 26 assists in 39 games.

"I'm greatly honored to be up for that [Player of the Year] award and win it, and to be named in that top 10," Polacek said. "It's special to me, but I would give it up to be playing right now. I know our team are down about not being able to."

D'Amigo, who helped Team USA win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in January, had seven goals and 17 assists in 21 league games. He had 10 goals and 24 assists in 35 games overall.

"It means a lot," D'Amigo said. "It shows that my hard work and everything pays off. I couldn't have done it without my teammates, and my coaches helped me out. It lessens [the pain of not playing], but not too much. It's hard to sit around here and hear all these guys make their speeches about playing. It's tough, but it's fuel for the fire for next year."

RPI coach Seth Appert is thrilled for both players.

"They're great student athletes," Appert said. "They're great representatives of what we want our program to be about, both on an off the ice. They're everything and more when we recruited them to this program. Certainly, like the two of them, we would like to be here. We think we had a team that could have been here, but we'll have to use this as motivation to try to reach this level next year."

Union earned the Sportsmanship Award, Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens won the Ken Dryden Award and teammate Justin Krueger earned Best Defensive Defenseman.

HOBEY FINALISTS

Despite winning the fan vote, Union senior forward Mario Valery-Trabucco didn't make the finalist list.

The other finalists are Scrivens, New Hampshire forward Bobby Butler, goalie Marc Cheverie and forward Rhett Rakhshani of Denver, forward Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Brendan Smith of Wisconsin, Maine forward Gustav Nyquist, Northern Michigan forward Mark Olver and Miami (Ohio) goalie Cody Reichard.

SCRUFFY DUTCHMEN

Union coach Nate Leaman likes to have his players look sharp when they arrive at the rink. They wear suits and ties, and facial hair is usually banned.

But Leaman has allowed the Dutchmen to grow playoff beards this season.

"I don't have a problem with that at all," Leaman said. "Anyone that has a chance to meet any of our young men, they're going to be extremely impressed with them. Playoff scruff is part of the playoffs. It can add to your mental toughness a little bit, in the aspect of the games."

Goalie Corey Milan and defenseman Greg Coburn are enjoying it.

"We're all seeing what we can grow for the playoffs," Milan said. "There are some guys like 'Yanno' [Brian Yanovitch] that struggle. But it's a playoff tradition, and he has fun with it."

"It builds closer as a team," Coburn said. "Just to see the guys with the big beards like myself, or someone like Yanovitch, who can barely grow anything, it's kind of funny."

Leaman has no plans to grow a beard.

"I can't grow a beard," Leaman said.

WAKITA HURTING

Union defenseman Mike Wakita is questionable for tonight's game against St. Lawrence with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury in the third period of Sunday's game against Quinnipiac.

Wakita didn't practice with the team at the Times Union Center.

"It'll be decided [today]," Leaman said. "He skated a little bit earlier in the week."

WHITTET RETURNS

Brown coach Brendan Whittet played in the ECACH tournament championship round twice when it was in Lake Placid.

In 1993, the Bears beat Harvard, 3-1, in the semifinals before losing to Clarkson, 3-1, in the final. The following year, Brown lost to Harvard, 5-1, in the semifinals.

"You look back at it when I played, and the similarities [are] interesting," said Whittet, whose 11th-seeded Bears face second-seeded Cornell in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. today. "Clarkson had a very good team. We had beaten Harvard, who had a really good team that year. They might have even been the one seed. We played very, very good hockey. You never know. Maybe the similarities will be there."

"But I just want the guys to leave it on the ice, and not have regrets, which I know they won't. They'll play the game hard."