Trinity-Wesleyan Men's Matchup
While growing up in the Boston area, pond hockey was something that Trinity College hockey coach Dave Cataruzolo always looked forward to doing.
No boards. No whistles. No systems. Just play.
While Trinity's game against archrival Wesleyan, as part of the outdoor Harvest-Properties.com Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford in February, may not simulate that situation completely, it certainly brings back traditions and memories of hockey in its purest form that many players remember to this day.
"I spent a lot of time on outdoor rinks, but this is completely different," Trinity senior defenseman Derek Sandberg of Montreal said. "It's an actual league (New England Small College Athletic Conference) game with points at stake, but we have to go in with the same mentality, take it like any other game, and just go out and play hard and try to get a win."
Sandberg's defensive partner, Jake Gaffey, a senior co-captain from Northampton, N.H., sees similarities and differences to his childhood.
"We had some ponds that we played on as a kid, but playing on those ponds is a little different than playing on a rink (at Rentschler Field)," Gaffey said. "It's going to be a first-time thing and a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And since it's toward the end of the season, hopefully this game will have a lot of implications toward the playoffs. It usually comes down to the last game or two as far as making the playoffs and who gets home ice, so this game could be really important. And we never want to lose to Wesleyan."
Todd Keats, a senior co-captain and defenseman from Northbrook, Ill., has second-generation memories of outdoor skating and is as excited about returning to his roots as he was of his beloved Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup and seeing Game 2 of the finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"There was a pond pretty close to our house, and my dad Wade used to tell me about playing on a pond as a kid and then going on to play at Curry College (in Milton, Mass.)," Keats said. "I played a little, but not much, and not in recent years, so this is going to be exciting."
The Bantams and Cardinals will face off at Rentschler Field on Feb. 15 at 8:15 p.m. after the Trinity and Wesleyan women's teams play at 4 p.m. The doubleheader is two of 30 games scheduled to be part of Whalers Hockey Fest 2011, which is being held by Whalers Sports and Entertainment, headed by chairman and CEO Howard Baldwin, the former president and managing general partner of the New England and Hartford Whalers.
Cataruzolo first heard of the possibility of the Bantams playing in the Hockey Fest from Dave Roberts, the general manager of the International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury, during summer camps. Cataruzolo then talked with Wesleyan coach Chris Potter and each said he thought it would be wonderful to get involved.
Trinity and Wesleyan play twice a season in the NESCAC, and Cataruzolo moved his home game in December in Hartford to East Hartford without reservation.
"I just thought it made sense to move it to February," Cataruzolo said. "I could not be more excited about the Hockey Fest and our chance as a college and program to be a part of it. Hockey in Connecticut has a rich history and tradition, and we are thankful for the support and vision of Mr. Baldwin to help reenergize that in our state and in the hockey community.
"Trinity and Wesleyan have a storied rivalry, and this game, at this venue, in this atmosphere will certainly enhance that. That being said, I predict the experience and memories for our players, coaches, parents and schools will be everlasting, regardless of the outcome. Despite the importance of the game in our league standing, I really want our players to enjoy the day and the entire experience of playing outside in the middle of February."
That would be the continuation of a Trinity tradition that Cataruzolo has tried to nurture in his four seasons as Trinity coach after the retirement of legendary program founder John Dunham. Cataruzolo has helped guide the Bantams to 10 consecutive NESCAC Tournaments, two league titles, three trips to the NCAA Division III championship tournament and an NCAA Final Four in 2005. Three Trinity players have been named to the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Division III All-American Team in the last six years under Cataruzolo's tutelage.
The Bantams returned most of their players from a team that finished second in NESCAC last season and then lost in the semifinals of the playoffs to eventual champion Middlebury. This season, they're 2-4-0 overall and 1-3-0 in the NESCAC, while the Cardinal are also 2-4-1 and 1-3-0.
"It'll be nice that NESCAC will be able to show our talents to a wide range of people," Gaffey said. "It's a chance for our league to get recognized because we do play in a very, very competitive division. It's a chance to showcase the league and our two schools, so that's pretty exciting."
Trinity left wing Adam Houli, a senior co-captain from Howell, N.J., is enthused about playing outdoors, which is something he never got to do as a kid.
"It didn't ever get cold enough and there weren't many ponds around my house," Houli said. "So for me, this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's something that when you're nine years old and you see it snowing outside, you want to do, and now you have the opportunity to do it. And it's my senior year, so it's very special and something I'll never forget, so I'm very excited about that."
Potter, who used to play in the former outdoor rink at the University of Connecticut, heard rumors that the Winter Fest was going to happen in the spring, so he spoke with UConn coach Bruce Marshall and Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo, whose teams play Feb. 13 at 1 p.m.
"Everyone was trying to position themselves to get in on it," Potter said. "Then once they announced it, I got in contact with Mark Willand (senior vice president of business operations of Whalers Sports and Entertainment) and said Trinity and I would love to play, that if there's any possibility of that, let me know, and he got right back to me. Then we had to go through a process with our league to get the game changed, and that happened, so everything kind of came together.
"It's just a great opportunity for our kids because it doesn't happen all the time. It's a good rivalry in the state, and I think they were trying to get Connecticut teams to take part in it. Now it's a chance to get the alumni back and kind of build around it, and the same for Trinity. We're going to try to have an alumni skate with the other alumni during the day. It's tough because it's a Tuesday, but we're going to try to doll it up with a function for the Wesleyan and Trinity alumni so it'll be a lot of fun.
"For the seniors who are graduating, it's something in four or five years that they'll definitely remember when they come back and talk about things."
Then there's the usual significance of the game in the NESCAC.
"It has a lot of meaning," Potter said. "We don't play a lot of games in our league (19), so every game is so valuable because if you have three or four slipups throughout the season, instead of being in the home playoff game, you're in the bottom of the league trying to fight for a playoff spot. So it's a really competitive league. Even though Middlebury won the league last season, I thought Bowdoin was hands-down the best team we played all season. A lot can fluctuate that last week, so this could be a huge game for either team."
Tom Salah, a junior co-captain and center from Gloucester, Mass., agreed with his coach but preferred to look at the big picture for everyone involved.
"It's a great experience that's just going to add to my career and memories," Salah said. "Eventually there comes the time when you have to hang up the skates, and this will be something that you can look back on and say you really had a good memory of.
"Even professional hockey players play their whole life and never get to do something like this, so it's a great opportunity for young, 21-year-old kids to come out here and show their talents, kind of run with it and have an experience that not everyone gets to experience."
Note: The Whalers Hockey Fest in the 38,000-seat Rentschler Field will include youth, high school, prep school and college games and the "Harvest-Properties.com Whale Bowl," a Hartford Whalers-Boston Bruins alumni game with Hollywood celebrities/Connecticut Whale-Providence Bruins AHL game doubleheader Feb. 19 at 4 and 7 p.m.
There also will be "Whale Town" featuring exhibitors, games and the Whalers Mobile Hall of Fame. For ticket packages, visit the Whalers Pro Shop ticket page at www.ctwhale.com or call 860-728-3366. For club seats and suites, call 860-728-3366. Individual tickets are on sale, and the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale full season ticket holders will receive a voucher good for admission to the Feb. 19 activities. Whale season ticket holders and fans who purchase Hockey Fest all-access "Festival" tickets will be invited to a special Feb. 4 event featuring former Whalers and hockey legends in celebration of the 1986 NHL All-Star Game played in Hartford and will be able to skate free on Feb. 22.
More details for forthcoming. The entire schedule can be found at www.CTWhale.com, and there are a few open time slots available. For information, contact Jocelyne Cummings at email@example.com. Media inquiries should be directed to Mark Willand at Mark@whalerssports.com.
GORDIE ROBERTS TO PLAY FOR WHALERS ALUMNI TEAM
Former New England and Hartford Whalers defenseman Gordie Roberts has joined the roster of players for the Hartford Whalers vs. Boston Bruins legends game, joining former Whalers wings Jordy Douglas and Ray Neufeld.
Roberts, a native of Detroit, joined the New England Whalers from the WCHL's Victoria Cougars as an 18-year-old for the 1975-76 World Hockey Association season and remained with the Whalers for the rest of their WHA tenure. In 311 WHA games, Roberts had 42 goals and 144 assists for 186 points, and those totals were good for fifth in franchise history (and second among defensemen) in assists and sixth (third among blueliners) in points. Roberts' 502 career penalty minutes ranked third all-time in Whalers WHA history.
Roberts made the move to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers in 1979 and played the 1979-80 season and 27 games of the 1980-81 season a Whalers uniform before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars on Dec. 16, 1980. He finished with 10 goals and 39 assists in 107 games with the NHL Whalers and then spent eight seasons with Minnesota and later played with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Boston, winning Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992. Roberts finished his NHL career with 61 goals, 359 assists and 1,582 penalty minutes in 1,097 NHL games.
Douglas, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, joined the Whalers in 1978-79, their final season in the World Hockey Association when he had six goals and 10 assists in 51 games. Douglas and the Whalers joined the NHL the next season, and he stayed with the team until traded to the Minnesota North Stars on Oct. 1, 1982. He had 56 goals and 49 assists in 162 games with the Whalers and finished with 76 goals and 62 assists in 268 NHL games with Hartford, Minnesota and the Winnipeg Jets.
Neufeld, from Winkler, Manitoba, was the Whalers' fourth-round pick in 1979 who spent nine seasons in the organization. In 331 games with the Whalers, Neufeld had 95 goals and 131 assists. He also played 15 games with the Bruins and 31/2 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, finishing with 157 goals and 200 assists in 595 NHL games.
Tickets ($20 to $85) for the Legends Game and Whale-Bruins game can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling the Whale at 860-728-3366. They also can be purchased online and printed immediately at Ticketmaster.com.
DISCOUNTED TICKETS FOR WHALE FANS
Whalers Sports and Entertainment, in association with the XL Center, is offering a discount for "Disney On Ice" shows this week to Whale fans. For discounted tickets, use the discount code WHALES and save $4. Discounted tickets start at $11 for shows Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the XL Center box office, online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. For groups of 15 or more, contact the XL Center group sales office at 860-548-2000.
... Baldwin will be the guest speaker at the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce breakfast series sponsored by AT&T Connecticut on Jan. 11 at 8 a.m. at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel on East River Drive in East Hartford. Baldwin will speak about his efforts to revive the local hockey market in Hartford, the Hockey Fest and other economic development opportunities. "I am very excited to have a man of Howard Baldwin's experience, energy and commitment to Connecticut and the Hartford area speaking at our Chamber event," Chamber president Ron Pugliese said. "I invite anyone who has the desire to see the Hartford area grow and prosper economically to join us on January 11."
... Howard Baldwin Jr., the new president and COO of WS&E, has a new Twitter account accessible to Whale fans at howardbaldwinjr.
... The Whale's Jan. 21 game against Hamilton is be a special Family Value Night at which New Britain Rock Cats mascot Rocky will be on hand. There will be a giveaway, a table setup and autograph session, and the New Britain High School marching band will perform the national anthem and during the first intermission. Tickets in the lower level are $16 and include a soda and pizza slice or hot dog. Visit www.ctwhale.com .
... Former Wolf Pack defenseman Terry Virtue and Hartford Whalers wing Scott Young will be among the first six inductees into the Worcester Hockey Hall of Fame on Jan. 22 at the DCU Center in Worcester. It's "Salute to the IceCats" Night, the franchise that preceded the Sharks in Worcester, and other inductees will be Kelly O'Leary, Eddie Bates, Larz Anderson and Marvin Degon Sr., father of former Wolf Pack defenseman Martin Degon.
... The eighth Tip-A-Player Dinner and Sports Carnival, presented by Aetna, will be Jan. 23 at the XL Center from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children, and proceeds benefit Gaylord Specialty Healthcare at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. For more information, contact Lori Leniart at 860-728-3366.
PHANTOMS GOALIE NAMED AHL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Philadelphia Phantoms goalie Brian Stewart was named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week on Monday after going 3-0-0-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage (93 of 98 shots).
Stewart, a rookie from Burnaby, British Columbia, led the Phantoms to their first three-game winning streak of the season and is now 3-5-0 with a 3.22 GAA and .886 save percentage in nine games. He signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent on April 19 after four seasons at Northern Michigan University, where he went 18-17-4 as a senior last season.
Veteran defenseman Wade Redden was the Whale's nominee after getting five assists in three games to increase his total to 23, which leads all league defensemen. He missed a 3-0 loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Manchester Monarchs on Sunday but hopes to return Wednesday night for a game at Worcester, the start of a four-game road trip.
Other nominees included Bridgeport Sound Tigers' left wing Micheal Haley, former Wolf Pack right wing Matthew Ford (Lake Erie Monsters) and Manchester Monarchs goalie Martin Jones, who shut out the Whale on Sunday. ... On-line fan voting for the AHL All-Star Classic Jan. 30-31 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., runs through midnight Sunday at theahl.com and facebook.com/theahl. Players receiving the most votes by position will earn berths in the starting lineups of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference teams. A committee of AHL coaches will select the remaining All-Stars, and all 30 clubs must be represented. By completing the official ballot, fans are entered to win a grand prize of a team-signed All-Star jersey. Ten more winners will receive an official All-Star Classic T-shirt. The Hall of Fame Class of 2011, to be inducted Jan. 30 at 11 a.m., is Mitch Lamoureux, Larry Wilson and the late Harry Pidhirny and Maurice Podoloff, who grew up in New Haven and graduated from Yale. AHL Hall of Famer Bruce Boudreau, former coach of the Hershey Bears and now coach of the Washington Capitals, will be the keynote speaker, and AHL graduate and 2008 Foster Hewitt Award winner Mike Emrick will be master of ceremonies.
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