Feb. 9, 2006
WEST POINT, N.Y. - What began as an opportunity for a cultural exchange between the United States' and Canada's military academies has blossomed into one of the most unique and intense rivalries across all of college athletics. Maj. Gen. Sir Archibald Macdonell (Commandant at RMC) and Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Superintendent USMA) were responsible for negotiating the first meeting between the two academies at West Point on Feb. 23, 1923.
Saturday, Army brings a 39-29-6 advantage in the overall series into the heated contest. However, RMC holds a 17-14-5 edge in games played in Canada.
The Black Knights are riding a three-game winning streak in the series and have won four of the last six meetings overall. RMC's last triumph was a 3-2 overtime verdict in 2002 - Paladins' head coach Kelly Nobes' first season behind the bench.
The two schools bring similar records into this year's tilt, while each is in the midst of one of the best seasons in recent memory.
Army (10-14-5) is in fourth place in their conference fighting to hold onto the final hosting spot in the playoffs. The top four finishers in Atlantic Hockey host the bottom four finishers in the quarterfinals of the postseason touranment. The Black Knights own a two-point lead over fifth-place Bentley College heading into the weekend.
The Black Knights' 21 points in league play this winter are the most amassed as a member of Atlantic Hockey and the most since registering 26 points in 2002-03 while competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League (MAACHL).
Senior goaltender Brad Roberts is vying to become the first Army goalie to go 4-0 against the Paladins in a career. Two other Black Knight netminders finished their careers 3-0. However, both competed before freshmen were eligible for varsity competition. Roberts has yielded just three goals in his previous three meetings, including a 4-0 shutout in his freshman year.
Meanwhile, RMC (10-15-5) sits atop the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Mideast Division standings with a 7-12-5 mark. The Paladins dropped an emotional 4-3 decision to cross-town rival Queen's in the annual Carr-Harris Cup this past Tuesday at Jock Harty Arena. RMC missed an opportunity to clinch first place and home ice advantage in the first round of the OUA playoffs with that loss.
The Paladins, who ended regular-season play Tuesday on a two-game losing streak, must await the outcome of the Toronto-Ryerson two-game series this weekend to see if they maintain a hold on first place. A sweep by Toronto would give the Varsity Blues the Mideast Division title. Either way, Nobes has his charges entering the postseason for the fifth consecutive season under his tutelage.
Scouting the Paladins
RMC enjoyed one of its best seasons ever, finishing 10-15-5 overall and 7-12-5 in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) play this winter. The Paladins will clinch first place in the Mideast Division of the OUA with a Ryerson win or tie against Toronto in their two-game series this weekend. Head coach Kelly Nobes, in his fifth season as RMC's bench boss, has guided his charges to the postseason in each of his campaigns in Kingston. However, Nobes is searching for just his second win against West Point and first since his initial season behind the bench.
First-year player, Paul Bradley, leads the Paladins in scoring and is tied for ninth in the conference with 27 points (9G, 18A) in league play. Second-year skater, Dion Lahoda, leads the club in goals scored with 13 and is second in scoring with 23 points. Nine of his 13 markers have come on the power play. He also leads the team in penalty minutes with 60. An OUA All-East Rookie selection a year ago, Brent Maurice is third on the squad with 21 points (6G, 15A).
Goalie Blair Robertson sports a 2.82 goals-against average that is 14th in the nation and seventh in the OUA, while posting a .920 save percentage. He will be gunning for his first win over Army in three starts on Saturday. Matt Hartney received the nod in goal on Tuesday against Queen's. It was just his sixth league appearance all season.
RMC plays a physical style of hockey that leaves them susceptible to taking penalties. The Paladins were whistled 13 times for 32 penalty minutes Tuesday and committed 14 infractions for 48 minutes in its previous contest. RMC has rolled up 620 penalty minutes in 24 league contests this winter, making special teams play extremely important. Additionally, the Paladins have scored 25 power play goals on the year and possess a very dangerous extra-man unit. Four players on the roster have scored four power play goals or more this season. That is where RMC does most of its damage in games that it wins.