College Hockey: Union, RPI eye bids

Colgate ruined the hopes of Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of winning the ECAC Hockey to

Colgate ruined the hopes of Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of winning the ECAC Hockey tournament title, but it didn’t halt the dreams of making the NCAA tournament.

The waiting ends today for the Dutchmen and Engineers.

The two Capital Region college hockey teams will find out where they will be going for the NCAAs when the 16-team field is announced at 11:30 a.m. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise the announcement.

The Dutchmen (26-9-4) are a lock for their first tournament berth in their 20-year Division I history. They finished eighth in the PairWise Rankings, which is a guide for the NCAA hockey tournament committee to determine the field. The Dutchmen will be a No. 2 seed, and they are projected to face No. 3

seed Minnesota-Duluth in the East Regional semifinal Friday in Bridgeport, Conn.

The Engineers (20-12-5), seeking their first NCAA berth since 1995, finished 15th in the PairWise. That should give them the fourth seed in the tournament, and they could meet top-seeded North Dakota in the Midwest Regional semifinal Saturday in Green Bay, Wis.

Union was off this weekend. The top-seeded Dutchmen were elim­inated by the 12th-seeded Raiders in last weekend’s quarterfinals in three games. Since then, the Dutchmen took their final exams for the winter term and started practicing for the NCAAs.

“It was really tough losing to Colgate, but it doesn’t do any good for us to dwell on it,” Union senior defenseman Brock Matheson said. “Now, our focus is on just getting better every day in practice. We’re very excited to see who we’re going to play. These next few practices is all about improving, and then [today], we’ll figure out who we’re playing. We’ll get a better sense of how to prepare for it.

“We’re taking this as a blessing in disguise to get us even more prepared and focused than we would have had we played this weekend.”

The Dutchmen will watch the

selection show at the Nott Mem­orial on campus. The public is

invited to attend, starting at 11 a.m. ESPN2 will do a live shot of the team and an interview with coach Nate Leaman.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Leaman said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed that we’re not playing in our own league’s tournament. But you are playing in the NCAA tournament. You’re playing for a national championship. At the

beginning of the year, that’s the goal of every team in the country.”

“This is a great time for our school and a great time for our program because, for the first time in our program at the Division I level, we’re competing for the national championship, to be the best school in the nation.”

Leaman has been to three NCAA tournaments. He was a graduate assistant coach at Maine when the Black Bears won the 1999 national title, and was an assistant coach with Harvard when it went to the 2002 and 2003 tournaments.

“One of the big things was that our Maine team didn’t have any

experience, and they went in and won the championship,” Leaman said. “The big thing is you’ve got to go out and play your game. You’ve got to play with poise. You don’t want to give the other team too much respect. You don’t want to build the game up so much that you’re tight and you’re tense. You’ve got to go out and you want to play loose and lethal, and you want to play the game with a lot of poise.”

The other regionals are in Manchester, N.H. (Northeast) and

St. Louis (West). Most of the Dutchmen didn’t have a preference on where they want to go, except for goalie Keith Kinkaid. He’s hoping for St. Louis.

“I keep saying that St. Louis would be an awesome spot to play, but that’s just because I played

[junior hockey] there,” Kinkaid said.

RPI, the fifth seed in the ECACH tournament, hasn’t played since March 6, when it was eliminated by Colgate in a 2-1 double-overtime loss. After the game, Engin­eers coach Seth Appert believed the team’s chance of making the NCAAs was a long shot.

Since then, the Engineers

improved their PairWise pos­itioning without playing a game as teams they needed to lose, did. The capper was Yale’s 6-0 victory over Cornell in Saturday’s ECACH tournament championship game in Atlantic City, N.J. With Yale

already guaranteed the No. 1 seed in Bridgeport, it wasn’t paramount for the Bulldogs to win the title. Had Cornell won, it would have earned the automatic berth in the NCAAs and eliminated the Engineers.

After entering February with a shot at an ECACH tournament first-round bye, RPI went 3-6-2 over its final 11 games, including 2-4-2 in the final month of the regular season.

While RPI is on spring break, the team spent the week practicing with the hopes of getting a bid.

“People can say whatever they want about us struggling down the stretch, or backing in,” Appert said. “What I’ll say is the NCAA hockey selects their tournament on a body of work, not based on what you did at the end of the year. Games are just as important in October as they are in February and March. We had a fantastic first 80 percent of the season. We stumbled a little bit, for various reasons, down the stretch.

“We have 20 wins. We did a lot of great things, and we have a really good group of young men that did things the right way the whole year long. If we’re fortunate enough to get that call, we want to make sure that we have some good practices.”

Categories: College Sports

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