The COVID-19 pandemic has made life interesting recently for the men’s and women’s hockey teams at Union and RPI. Recent health-and-safety protocols within the programs, and some of their ECAC Hockey rivals, forced postponements and rescheduling of games.
Fortunately, the traditional Capital District Mayor’s Cup game hasn’t been affected.
After a year off because all four teams sat out last year because of the pandemic, the Capital District Mayor’s Cup game is back on Jan. 29 at MVP Arena. The fourth game between the Union and RPI women starts at 11 a.m. The ninth game between the Union and RPI men follows at 2 p.m.
The last Capital District Mayor’s Cup was Jan. 25, 2020. The Union women won its first title, beating RPI 2-0. The RPI men prevented Union from winning a fourth straight title when it won in a shootout after the teams played to a 1-1 tie after 65 minutes.
Fans who plan to attend the games must wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination.
During a Zoom conference Tuesday, MVP Arena general manager Bob Belber and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said there was never any consideration to canceling the games. According to a post Monday on the Albany County website, there have been 56,508 cases to date since the start of the pandemic, with 498 new positive cases as of Sunday. The country’s average of daily positive cases is 995.8.
“Our numbers are down,” McCoy said. “Hopefully, we continue in that direction. Two years into this COVID-19, we’ve got to learn to live with it. We have to continue to get out, and we have to continue to get back to some type of normalcy.”
MVP Arena, formerly known as Times Union Center, recently hosted Disney On Ice. Belber saw families safely enjoying themselves, and he believes the hockey fans can do the same thing.
“I’m not concerned with the higher number of people attending the event,” Belber said. “I think we can do it in a safe manner, and our staff are enforcing those rules. We even have the paddles with the pictures of the mask on them.”
The game will give RPI fans who aren’t students, staff or faculty to see their hockey teams. The school has limited attendance to just students, staff or faculty for all of the sports programs’ games this season because of the pandemic. That is something Union has done since the start of this month, and it’s a policy it will re-examine on Wednesday.
There were a few RPI fans who attended the exhibition and regular season games against Union at Messa Rink in October.
“I know I hear from fans every week,” RPI men’s head coach Dave Smith said. “Season ticket holders 20, 30 40, 50 years, are emailing me asking questions about our team, asking when they’ll be able to see our team play live. Will that happen in the second semester? And the one thing I had pointed to all season was I’m pretty sure you’re going to be able to see us play in the Mayor’s Cup at MVP Arena. I expect a really good turnout there of, we’ll call them experienced hockey fans, that have been coming to RPI games for a long time that understand the rivalry with Union.”
The four teams won’t have much preparation time for the game. Each team has to play a rescheduled game prior to the Capital District Mayor’s Cup. On the men’s side, Union visits Dartmouth next Wednesday, while RPI plays the night before at Harvard.
The Union and RPI women each play next Tuesday. The Dutchwomen visit Brown, while the Engineers travel to Yale.
“I’d like to think it helps us prepare [for the Capital District Mayor’s Cup] even more,” Union men’s head coach Rick Bennett said. “By not playing these games [because they were postponed], it gives each team to get some games in before the Mayor’s Cup. I kind of like the format. It’s something different that we haven’t had before, so I’m very curious to see how that plays out.”
In the past, the women’s game was played in the afternoon and the men’s game at night. However, the National Lacrosse League’s Albany FireWolves are hosting the Halifax Thunderbirds at 8 p.m. That necessitated moving the hockey games up to earlier times.
That’s fine with Union women’s head coach Josh Sciba, whose team is the defending champion after beating RPI .
“I think it brings our girls back to the roots a little bit,” Sciba said. “Just waking up on Saturday morning playing for a trophy, I think the girls are excited about that, too, so we’re really excited.”
Belber announced that students who attend the hockey games can purchase a ticket for the FireWolves game for $5.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports