Rutgers to face Lehigh in annual Outdoor Classic Jan. 7

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By Warren Rappleyea

The Rutgers University men’s Division I club hockey team will take on Lehigh University Jan. 7 in its annual Outdoor Classic at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown.

Admission is free, but attendees are asked to make donations to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injuries. Former Monroe Township High School player Mike Nichols, who was permanently injured in a January 2014 game, is expected to represent the foundation.

The annual game is usually played between Villanova University and Rutgers — the two schools with the most alumni membership at the Navesink Club, which donates the ice time for the game, according to Adriaan Klaassen, Rutgers GM and recruiting director. With Villanova still on holiday break, Lehigh will provide the competition.

Rutgers began playing outdoors about six years ago, but a few games had to be cancelled due to unseasonably warm conditions, Klaassen said. The match resumed last year, with Rutgers taking a 6-5 victory over Villanova in front of more than 1,000 fans.

Klaassen noted that Rutgers has received special permission from the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) to suit up all of its players for the regular-season game.

“We were able to do that last year, too,” Klaassen said. “That way no one is left out.”

In addition to donations, contests such as “chuck-a-puck” will be held to raise additional money for the foundation. Game time is 6 p.m. The Navesink Country Club is located at 50 Luffburrow Road in Red Bank.