RPI, Union hitting tournaments again next year

The RPI and Union hockey teams will take part in a number of tournaments next season
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Now that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union are done with their in-season tournaments, it’s time to look ahead to next year’s tournament schedule for the two schools.

In addition to the traditional tournaments (both will be in the Governor’s Cup, and RPI has its holiday event Thanksgiving weekend), the Dutchmen and Engineers are set for tournament play on the road.

Union will be in two tourn­aments away from the Capital

Region. The Dutchmen will play in the Maverick Stampede Oct. 17-18, one week before the Governor’s Cup. The other tournament will be over Christmas vacation, in the Lightning College Hockey Classic Jan. 2-3 in Tampa, Fla.

“We’re going to have a lot of experiences with tournaments next year,” Union coach Nate Leaman said.

The Dutchmen will certainly be happy to fly to Florida next season after busing to Fredericton, New Brunswick, last weekend for the University of New Brunswick’s Pete Kelly Tournament. The team had to endure a snowstorm on the trek to Fredericton.

Playing in three tournaments will be fun for the Dutchmen.

“Usually, there’s less prepar­ation that goes into those, especially when you’re coming back from break because you don’t know your op­ponent Saturday night,” Leaman said. “It allows you to focus on your team a little bit more. What’s great about next year’s tournament in Florida is that it falls in January. We’re not going to have to rush the guys back after Christmas, and we’re going to have a little bit time to prepare ourselves. It’s also going to enable a lot of people’s families and alumni to travel down there for that tournament.”

RPI will be away from the Cap­ital Region for one tournament next season — the Denver Cup Jan. 2-3. The Engineers are slated to play Boston University in the opening round.

It will be RPI coach Seth Appert’s second return to Denver, where he was an assistant coach. Last season, the Engineers split a two-game series

with the Pioneers.

“We play so many non-conference games, and to have only two or four of them be in a tournament, I think potentially it could get stale to play that many other non-conference games,” said Appert, whose team played in four tournaments this season, the most recent being last weekend’s Lightning Classic.

“To have the opportunity to be invited to tournaments of this prestige, and to have a team like Notre Dame come to our tournament, that’s important. We get to play teams that offer great national exposure for our university, not only hockey-wise, but institutionally, and challenge ourselves against some the best teams in other conferences.

“We’ve played really well in those situations. We haven’t always

broken through in the last two years, but we’ve played well. It’s going to make us a better team down that stretch than just playing non-conference games where we’re padding our win total.”

RPI’s tournament next season will feature Mercyhurst, Northeastern and Princeton.

Looking ahead to the 2009-10 season, RPI will play in the Great Lakes Invitational during the last week of December at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

UNION GETS ZAJAC

Union received a verbal commitment this week from forward Kelly Zajac of the British Columbia Jun­ior Hockey League’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks.

After collecting 11 goals and 20 assists last season, the 19-year-old Zajac is the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 goals and 34 assists. He leads the team with three short-handed goals.

Zajac is the third Salmon Arm player to commit to Union this season. The others are forwards Randy Hanagan, who will be a Dutchmen next season, and Ronnie Smith, who will be at Union either next season or in 2009-10.

Zajac is the brother of former New Jersey Devils center Travis

Zajac, who played two years at North Dakota, and then had a two-game stint late in the 2005-06 season with the Albany River Rats.

ATLANTIC FITS

Minnesota may want to consider avoiding games against Atlantic Hockey teams in tournament action.

The Gophers, who lost to Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years ago, dropped a 4-3 decision to Rochester Institute of Technology in last Saturday’s opening round of the Dodge Holiday Tournament at Mariucci Arena.

In Sunday’s third-place game, the Gophers played to a 2-2 tie with Air Force. Winning a shootout gave the Gophers a third-place finish.

LOCAL UPDATE

Here’s a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region did over the past week.

u Boston University senior forward Pete MacArthur (Clifton Park) had two assists in the Terriers’ 5-2 win over Merrimack on Sunday.

u Boston College freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki (Clifton Park) had an assist in the Eagles 8-2 romp over Air Force in last Saturday’s Dodge Holiday Classic at Minnesota. He got another assist in BC’s 8-0 title-game victory over RIT.

PARTING SHOTS

The RPI and Union women’s teams return to action after the Christmas break with two games against each other. The Engineers host tonight’s game at 7 at Houston Field House. Saturday’s game will be at Union’s Messa Rink at 4 p.m. Both games will be broadcast by WRPI-FM (91.5). . . .

Today’s Dartmouth at Princeton game will be televised by ESPNU. Game time is 4 p.m. . . .

Quinnipiac captured the Cat­amount Cup last Sunday with a 4-1 victory over host Vermont. It was the first meeting between the two schools since Quinnipiac replaced Vermont in the ECACH in 2005.

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