Friday, June 24, 2011

A Look in the Mirror?

I want to tell you about a specific institution of higher learning out there, let's see if you can guess the one I'm talking about just by describing it.

It's a northern school with about 5,300 undergraduates, best known for two things: its engineering programs and hockey. On the former, the school has a number of distinguished alumni known the world over. On the latter, despite not being a "power school" when it comes to the NCAA, the school has won the national championship on more than one occasion (though recent history hasn't been easy). The male to female ratio there is terribly skewed. Winters are brutally cold and filled with snow, but the school does have a popular Winter Carnival.

I know you've already got the answer. It's Michigan Tech, of course.

What, you were thinking of another school? (I know it wasn't Clarkson, at least not after that national championship mention.)

Yes, the illustration on how Michigan Tech and RPI are schools with very similar backgrounds is pretty tough to deny. It even goes a step further - Michigan Tech is in Houghton, MI, named after Douglass Houghton, RPI Class of 1829 (born in Troy and trained by Amos Eaton himself), and one of the residence halls there is named after Houghton.

The schools have played a combined total of 182 hockey seasons. And yet, the Huskies and the Engineers have done battle on only three occasions:

December 29, 1956: The first meeting between the teams came just two seasons removed from RPI's first national championship and concluded an all-around disastrous 6th annual RPI Invitational for the Engineers while providing a big end to a big weekend for the Huskies as MTU picked up a 6-4 victory in Troy. The Engineers finished last in their own tournament for the first time, managing only a Thursday tie with Laval in the round-robin before losing to McGill and then Michigan Tech. The Huskies, meanwhile, became the second consecutive western team (following Minnesota) to win the RPI Tournament, as their win over the hosts preceded a tie with McGill and a 9-6 win over Laval.

December 30, 1967: Once again playing each other on the third night of the round-robin RPI Tournament, it was the Engineers turn to pick up a win (4-3) over Michigan Tech - in a stark coincidence, this game coming two seasons after a Tech national championship, though this was their second. The result left both teams with a 2-1 record in the tournament, as was McMaster, which skated off with the championship thanks in large part to a 10-6 victory over RPI the previous night. MTU had beaten McMaster 5-3 in the tournament's opening game, while all three teams beat up on Yale.

October 15, 2005: On the neutral ice of Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska for the Nye Frontier Classic, Michigan Tech jumps out to a 3-1 lead helped by Chris Conner's two goals, but the Engineers stage a comeback kickstarted by a Kevin Croxton goal just eight seconds after Conner's second tally, and win it by a 4-3 final with the game winner in the 3rd period on Andrei Uryadov's first career goal on a 5-on-3. The victory was also Mathias Lange's first career win in net.

And... that's all these two schools have to show against each other for 182 years of hockey - all three games, it should be pointed out, taking place during an in-season tournament.

Although there are three relatively storied college hockey programs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (with 7 national championships between them), RPI has visited the region only once in their entire history - a two-game series with a then-unheralded Lake Superior State team in November 1974 (both wins for the Engineers). You may recall from our Know Your Enemy a few weeks back that RPI has never even faced MTU's U.P. rivals from Northern Michigan, a team that won a national championship some 20 years ago.

So here's what we're saying: why not a two-year engagement with the Huskies from Houghton? It wouldn't be the easiest of road-trips, it's true, but it would be a great opportunity for a pair of very similar schools to get to know each other a little better - some cultural exchange, if you will. A chance for Michigan Tech to see the Red Army from Troy, and a chance for RPI to embrace Mitch's Misfits from the U.P.

We're teaming up with the Tech Hockey Guide to offer... not so much a petition (well, OK, it IS technically a petition...) as much as a show of support for a future RPI-MTU game/series/whatever.

Better yet, sign it, and ask your friends what they think! We'll send our show of support off to decision-makers at both schools when we collect enough names.

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