Friday, February 01, 2008

Get Your Freak On!!!!

I have my Freakout shirt all ready to wear in solidarity for the lads in Troy this weekend. Growing up, this was my favorite time to go to RPI. Every year I would beg my dad to take me and then get me one of those great red noise horns. There was a stack of them in my parent's house until recently.

This is one of the great traditions in college sports (not just hockey) and I am a wee bit sad that I will miss it. In honor of the weekend I am predicting a sweep for the lads in cherry and white. USCHO is doing the same! Any thoughts are welcomed in the comments:

USCHO's take:

Quinnipiac @ Rensselaer
These two teams always play it close. RPI's trying to rebound from the skid, and will be mighty driven to take two points going into the Freakout. 3-2 'Tute.

Princeton @ Rensselaer
I just can't pick a Freakout! to go bad in good conscience. If anyone belongs at an event called "The Freakout!" it's me. 4-2 'Tute.

Princeton @ Rensselaer: Saturday, 7 p.m.

It’s the Big Red Freakout! It’s also the meeting of one of the league’s top teams, Princeton, and one that’s under more teams than it’s on top of, in Rensselaer.

The programs are surprising in opposite ways thus far. The Tigers were picked to finish eighth by the coaches and media (and seventh by yours truly) in the preseason poll, and yet were in possession of first place as of two weeks ago. RPI, well, the Engineers were picked low, but I doubt even their heartiest detractors expected the Engineers to suffer a 10-game losing streak midseason.

It’s the second game of the weekend for each team, and RPI hasn’t lost a Freakout! game in decades.

“The fans at RPI are with you through thick and thin,” said volunteer assistant coach (and former Engineer captain) Ben Barr. But the Big Red Freakout! is an entirely different beast.

“You can be there an hour before the game, and the place is packed; it’s electric. It’s one of those things that seems to be sold out before tickets even go on sale.”

RPI head coach Seth Appert deferred to Barr on the Freakout!, as Appert has only experienced one so far, and none as a player.

Early each February for the past quarter-century, the school’s Alumni Weekend has corresponded with an otherwise everyday hockey game. It’s not a Homecoming game; there is no traditional pageantry or pomp to accompany the game. It is as though an arbitrary contest were picked off the calendar, but everyone in Troy knows when it is and where to be.

“You kinda get goosebumps as you walk out” to the ice, said Barr. “You don’t want to let your community down, or your school.” The energy is raw, dynamic, and contagious.

Barr noted a couple of contests from his playing days, in which rival Clarkson had come to town for the Freakout! “You can get jacked up, and let the moment control you a bit and get you running around,” Barr said of some of the undesirable side effects.

While that happened against ‘Tech, it didn’t sink the ‘Tute.

“We came back from down 3-0 [in 2002] and 2-0 [2004] late to win. It’s not the way you want to do it, but the fans loved it,” Barr recalled.

“Right now, this is one of the toughest weeks of the season,” said Appert, whose team draws Quinnipiac on Friday before the big fiesta on Saturday. “The power play’s taken a step in the right direction [2-for-6 last weekend] … Quinnipiac has one of the most dynamic offenses in our league.”

Appert and the team are focused first and foremost on Friday. But if you feel a little extra buzz around the Capital District on Saturday evening, now you know why.

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