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Union Clamping Down on Orange-throwing Fans

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 5, 2003

If you are planning to bring oranges to throw on the ice during this weekend's ECAC first-round playoff series between Rensselaer and Union at Achilles Rink, you won't get in the door.

If you happen to sneak an orange past security and then toss it on the ice after a Union goal, you won't just be thrown out of the building. You're going to be arrested, too.

Union officials are taking measures to prevent the games from being delayed by oranges thrown onto the ice following Dutchman goals.

Associate athletic director Ramsey Baker said people entering Achilles will be randomly searched.

"If they're found to have oranges or any other objects that they can throw on the ice, they won't be admitted," Baker said. "We can't tolerate that happening. The biggest reason is that it's not safe for the players and the fans around them."

Baker admits that trying to search everyone as they enter the building is a difficult task.

"To be able to check everybody as thoroughly as you would need to [and] find out what they're hiding would be impossible," Baker said. "I think what we're going to do is try to be as thorough as possible as people are coming in."

"We're going to try to educate the community as thoroughly as possible to let them know that it's not just an issue of we don't want you to throw oranges, but why it's important that they don't - for the safety first, and it also negatively impacts the game."

The tradition of throwing oranges on the ice started during Union's Division III days, when Hamilton was its chief rival. When the Dutchmen moved to Division I in 1991, the Engineers became the target of the oranges.

"It's been a longstanding tradition with the oranges [with] the Union-RPI game," Baker said. "I think it's become a point where it's more of a safety measure now. When a tradition starts becoming a safety issue for both the players and the fans, we have to rethink the tradition."

Before the Jan. 10 game at Achilles, the athletic department sent e-mails to faculty and students requesting that the oranges be kept at home. Union coach Kevin Sneddon even sent a voice mail.

But a number of spectators didn't get the message.

A few oranges were tossed after Max Seel's power-play goal 1:51 into the second period helped the Dutchmen tie the score at 1-1. Fans were warned that another incident would result in a delay of game penalty against Union.

Seventy-eight seconds later, Joel Beal scored a short-handed goal to give Union a 2-1 lead. Two oranges were thrown onto the ice, which was enough for referee Alex Dell to penalize the Dutchmen and give the Engineers a two-man advantage. Scott Basiuk scored on the five-on-three situation at 3:43 to tie the score, 2-2, killing any momentum Union had generated. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.

After the game, Sneddon was angry.

"I was thoroughly disgusted by that," he said. "That's zero respect, not only for our own team, but zero respect for college hockey."

Sneddon hopes the fans will be smarter this time.

"I think fans on both sides realize the importance of this weekend's games," Sneddon said. "It would be disrespectful to the student-athletes, first and foremost, if something like that happens. I don't think our fans are that inconsiderate."

Prediction time

While Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale get to rest this weekend, thanks to earning a bye, eight teams will compete in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. It should be an interesting weekend.

Here are my predictions for the four series.

  • No. 12 Princeton (2-18-2 ECAC, 3-24-2 overall) at No. 5 Brown (10-8-4, 12-11-5).

    If it weren't for the new format allowing all 12 teams into the postseason, Princeton would be cleaning out its lockers.

    The Tigers managed to go 1-0-1 against RPI and beat Harvard, but they won't stand a chance against Brown, as long as the Bears don't look ahead to the quarterfinals.

    The pick: Brown in two by scores of 4-1 and 5-0.

  • No. 10 Vermont (8-14, 11-18-3) at No. 7 Clarkson (9-10-3, 12-18-3).

    Two years ago, goalie Shawn Conschafter led 10th-seeded Vermont to an upset of No. 1 Clarkson in the first round.

    Can history repeat itself?

    It'll be close. But the Golden Knights will pull it out.

    The pick: Clarkson in three by scores of 3-2, 1-2 and 4-2.

  • No. 9 St.Lawrence (7-12-3, 10-19-5) at No. 8 Colgate (9-10-3, 14-16-4).

    The teams played to ties in their two meetings this season. Colgate won its final five games at home, while St. Lawrence was 4-11-2 on the road.

    The pick: Colgate in two by scores of 5-2 and 5-1.

    We've saved the best for last.

  • No. 11 RPI (4-15-2, 10-23-3) at No. 6 Union (10-10-2, 14-6-4).

    The Dutchmen finished 11 points ahead of the Engineers in the standings, but RPI won the season series, 1-0-1.

    RPI has an advantage in that a number of its players are playoff-tested. But the excitement of Union's first home playoff series might be too much for the Engineers to overcome.

    The pick: Union in three by scores of 3-1, 2-3 and 4-1.

MSG bidding

Madison Square Garden hosted its first college hockey game since 1977 when Connecticut played Quinnipiac on Saturday.

It may want more.

MSG officials are planning to submit a bid to the NCAA hockey committee for the Frozen Four in either 2007, 2008 or 2009. The Frozen Four has never been held in New York City.

Pepsi Arena general manager Bob Belber, who also plans to bid for a Frozen Four in one of those years, isn't concerned about MSG's plans. He thinks conflicts with the NHL playoffs, should the New York Rangers make it, could hurt MSG's chances.

"The NHL buildings are going to have a harder time guaranteeing and committing to the dates that are being requested, as compared to those buildings that don't have NHL teams," Belber said. "For them to take the dates the Frozen Four falls on and take them away from the Rangers, I don't know how the Rangers are going to feel about that. [But] I'm not surprised that the Garden is putting a bid in."

In addition to bidding on the Frozen Four, Belber will submit a bid for another regional tournament. The Pepsi will host its fifth regional next year.

Union records

The Dutchmen tied or set several records in Friday's 5-3 victory over Vermont.

  • Beal's assist on Matt Vagvolgyi's game-winning goal was his 28th of the season, tying the team record established by Troy Stevens in 1993-94.
  • Vagvolgyi's game-winner was his second in ECAC play, tying the team mark held by several other players.
  • Nathan Gillies' short-handed goal was his fourth of the season, tying the team overall mark set by Chris Albert in 1994-95 and equalled in 1996-97.
  • The four goals Union scored in the third period tied the team mark in ECAC play. It had been done seven times previously, the last coming against Colgate on Nov. 5, 1999.
  • Kris Goodjohn scored his fifth power-play goal, tying Chris Ford's 1993-94 record in ECAC play.
  • Finally, Union held Vermont to 14 shots on goal, the fewest it has allowed in ECAC play. It broke the mark of 16 shots by RPI on Jan. 13, 1995.