Union hockey coach faces close friend tonight

Tonight at Messa Rink, two friends will be matching wits against one another when Nate Leaman’s Unio
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Nate Leaman and Brian Rolston spent three years together as assistant coaches at Harvard. From 1999 to 2002, they spent their time living and breathing Crimson hockey under head coach Mark Mazzoleni in an effort to return the program to prominence after a few lean years.

The two have maintained a close friendship, and they will work together later this year for the United States team in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa. It will be the second time that Rolston, the head coach, and Leaman, the assistant, have been behind the bench together at the World Juniors.

But tonight at Messa Rink, the two friends will be matching wits against one another when Leaman’s Union Dutchmen host Rolston’s U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition hockey game at 7:30. It is the Dutchmen’s first competitive game of the season, while the U.S. Under-18 team is 4-3-1, and is coming off a 4-1 loss at Michigan last Saturday.

“I’m sure there will be something on the line, eventually,” Leaman said. “We’re a couple of guys that think very similar of the game, and have gotten along for a number of years. We’ve had the opportunity to coach together on the U.S. teams and at Harvard.”

In 2002, Leaman and Rolston helped Harvard with the ECAC Hockey tournament title with a

4-3 double-overtime win over Cornell, the Crimson’s first championship since 1994.

Rolston, who is in his fifth season as coach of the U.S. Under-18 team, is looking forward to going up against his good friend.

“I think every coach is compet­itive, there’s no question that we’ll be wanting to be successful in the game,” Rolston said. “I know he wants to get his team off to a good start. We want to continue to move in the right direction for our team.”

Rolston recalled their time together at Harvard.

“We actually lived together the whole time there,” Rolston said. “We had a lot of fun. When you’re at an Ivy League school, the hours you put in were crazy because the talent pool is a little smaller, so you have to work a little harder. We were in the office a lot of nights until 10 o’clock [and] eating in the office. We enjoyed the city. Right after that, we met our wives and settled down.”

Although the game won’t count in Union’s overall record, the Dutchmen will be treating it like a regular-season contest. The Dutchmen open the regular season Friday against ECACH-rival Quinnipiac in Nebraska-Omaha’s Maverick Stampede.

“It’s a great tune-up for our team,” Leaman said. “We’re approaching everything like it is a real game. We’re going to play our lineup that most likely will [play in the reg­ular season]. We start out with two tournaments against two league opponents, and that’s going to tell us where we stand in the league right away.”

RPI in Quebec

Rensselaer Polytechnic Insti­tute opens its regular season today against Vermont at 4 p.m.

It’s not just another run-of-the-mill game. The two teams will be playing the contest at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse in Quebec City.

For two of RPI’s Quebec natives, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play a college hockey game in their home province.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said senior forward and St. Augustin, Quebec, native Matt Angers-Goulet, who will be joined by brother Alex, a freshman forward. “Playing along with my brother, and it’s my last year as a senior, and have some of my family and friends, people that don’t have the time to come here and watch me play, it’s a thrill [to play in Quebec].”

Freshman forward Christian Morissette, a native of Beaconsfield, Quebec, can’t wait to make his collegiate debut about two hours away from his hometown.

“It’s very special for me because it’s going to be a good experience to go back home,” Morissette said. “It might be my last time playing in Quebec as a college player.”

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