Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Know Thyself: RPI

So here we are, on the cusp of another season of RPI hockey. The litany of long waits as it pertains to the Engineers has been gone over pretty much ad nauseum at this point - suffice it to say that RPI fans have been waiting a long time for a lot of things. There's not a lot of faith in the Engineers from outside of Troy this season, but make no mistake about it - this year's RPI squad may have the widest range of "where might this team realistically finish" out of any team in the ECAC. They have the capacity to crack the top four. They have the ability to fall completely flat.

Nickname: Engineers
Location: Troy, NY
Founded: 1824
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 2 (1954, 1985)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2011
Last Frozen Four: 1985
Coach: Seth Appert (10th season)
2014-15 Record: 12-26-3 (8-12-2 ECAC, 9th place)
All-Time Record: 1024-923-128 (999-850-122 in the modern era)
First Game: January 25, 1902 (Cohoes, NY)
First Win: February 26, 1904 (Albany, NY)
First Modern Era game: January 7, 1950 (Clinton, NY)
First Modern Era win: February 3, 1950 (Plattsburgh, NY)

Key players: D Chris Bradley, sr.; F Milos Bubela, sr.; F Mark Miller, sr.; F Zach Schroeder, sr.; F Riley Bourbonnais, jr.; F Jimmy DeVito, jr.; G Jason Kasdorf, jr.; F Jake Wood, jr.; D Bradley Bell, so.; F Viktor Liljegren, so.; F Drew Melanson, so.; F Lou Nanne, so.; D Mike Prapavessis, so.; D Jared Wilson, so.; D Meirs Moore, fr.; F Jesper Ohrvall, fr.; F Alex Rodriguez, fr.

Key losses: D Luke Curadi, F Jacob Laliberte, D Curtis Leonard, F Mark McGowan, F Matt Neal

(I know, I know, I'm missing this potential impact freshman or that upperclassman primed to break out... I only assembled it the way I assembled the KYE teams, just to be fair. I'm sure I've left out some of the same for other teams.)

Two years ago, the Engineers were picked to be one of the top teams in the ECAC, based largely on the presence of one Jason Kasdorf in net. Not even a month later, he was lost for the season, and the team struggled on defense despite an offense that was making things work led by Ryan Haggerty.

Fast forward two years. Kasdorf is now a senior (with junior eligibility), but the Engineers are picked to finish 10th in the ECAC by both the media and the coaches. That lost season, combined with last year's tough year, have soured the observers on RPI.

It seems extremely unfair to place so much weight on the shoulders of one person - but there's little doubt anymore that this team is likely to go only as far as Kasdorf can take them. But Kasdorf honestly isn't even the biggest concern that the outside observer has with the Engineers. It's the lack of scoring from last season - not so much depth, as much as just... width. The frequency with which the top players are able to light the lamp.

For RPI to have a successful season, they will need two things to happen.

First, Kasdorf needs to get through a season without injury problems. That's not exactly something that's under his control, but he's gained a reputation for being fragile - in fact, he has missed time to injuries in each of his seasons at RPI. This gets said ahead of his being able to put together numbers the way he did when he was a freshman, in part because he was so very good at the end of last season once he was finally healthy. Game 1 of the ECAC quarterfinals against St. Lawrence, despite being a loss, was one of the best performances ever put together by an RPI goaltender. If he stays healthy, we can expect more of the same.

Second, the Engineers need to get some production out of what looks to be a talented-enough freshman class to augment the scoring - but don't think that this lets the upperclassmen off the hook. Depth wasn't much of a problem last season, as RPI did manage to get at least five goals from nine different players last season (three of them now gone), but it would be better if they managed to get at least seven or eight from that many, and to get three or four into double digits (which none managed last season). Improving on a bottom-10 nationally power play is crucial here.

The options abound among the youngsters. Moore projects as a Nick Bailen-type two-way defenseman. Ohrvall was a stud in the NAHL, and Rodriguez by all accounts is a skilled puck mover. Evan Tironese was projected as the BCHL's top scorer before a shoulder injury shelved him early in the season.

Injuries and illnesses to Kasdorf, Nanne, Bradley, and Melanson, four crucial elements, really limited the team's effectiveness from game to game. If the Engineers are going to be competitors this year, simply staying healthy is going to get them a long way. If they can accomplish just that, there shouldn't be any reason why home ice for the playoffs (shut up, it really is an advantage) should be out of reach.

But if injuries mount once again and team cohesiveness against suffers because of it, 10th seems like a realistic floor for a program with just enough upside to be a real wildcard in the ECAC this season.

If you think this is just homeristic optimism - look what a healthy St. Lawrence team, picked to finish 11th in the ECAC last season, managed to do with a top-end goaltender and getting just enough scoring from a wide variety of places.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Women's Hockey - North Dakota (2/3 Oct)

RPI jumped out to an early lead against sixth-ranked North Dakota on Friday night but eventually fell short in a 4-3 decision. In Saturday's rematch, the Engineers didn't fare as well, falling 4-1 despite a 41-save effort from freshman goalie Lovisa Selander.





Alexa Gruschow and Laura Horwood put RPI up 2-0 in Friday night's regular season opener, but North Dakota eventually came out on top by a 4-3 margin. After UND took a 3-2 lead in the second, RPI tied it at three, but Becca Kohler came through with the game winner for the visitors with 1:59 left in regulation.

Gruschow's goal got the Engineers on the board at 6:19 of the first, with two seconds remaining on a power play chance. Lauren Wash dumped the puck on net and Gruschow was in front to tip it home.

Horwood doubled the lead at 12:02, picking up her own rebound off a wraparound chance to put a wrister past Shelby Amsley-Benzie to make it 2-0.

The two-goal margin was short-lived as Sam LaShomb got UND on the board 54 seconds later, taking a feed from Kayla Gardner behind the net and blasting it past Selander before she had time to react.

UND tied it at two 1:57 into the second period, with Halli Krzyzaniak threading a point shot through traffic and past a screened Selander to make it 2-2. North Dakota then took a 3-2 lead at 8:09 of the middle frame off another Krzyzaniak goal, this time coming off a rebound but again through traffic.

UND had a chance to extend the lead late in the second on a 2-on-0 which Selander managed to stone to hold the score at 3-2. Freshman Josefine Hansen pulled RPI even at 9:30 of the third period. Skating 4-on-4, Hansen fired a rocket from the top of the circles which found the back of the net to make it a 3-3 game.

The Engineers couldn't hold the score there, and Kohler picked up a rebound off a Sam LaShomb shot and put it past a sprawling Selander who couldn't cross the crease quickly enough to get in front of it.

RPI couldn't find another tying goal and the 4-3 score held up to give UND the victory in game one of the weekend series. The Engineers were outshot 38-14 on the night





After keeping things close with North Dakota Friday night, RPI had a harder time keeping up on Saturday and fell by a 4-1 margin. Despite a few periods of sustained pressure in the UND zone, the Engineers couldn't find the back of the net to make the most of the opportunities. Selander gave the Engineers a chance in the game with 41 saves.

UND scored first in the second game of the weekend, with Layla Marvin sending a shot on net that Selander got the blocker on, but the puck bounced up and over into the net at 14:06 of the first.

The visitors extended the lead to 2-0 at 6:28 of the second, when Meghan Dufault put home a rebound off a shot by Anna Kilponen.

Taylor Schwalbe cut that lead in half for the Engineers when she scored her first collegiate goal at 15:28 of the middle frame, an even-strength tally after a long stretch of power play time for RPI that included over 1:30 of 5-on-3 time.

LaShomb gave UND back their 2-goal lead at 7:34 of the third period, scoring late in a power play after the Engineers were stuck in their zone for about a minute and a half.

RPI tried to claw back late in the third with the extra attacker, but Kohler picked up an empty netter to give UND a 4-1 lead with 14 seconds left in regulation which held up as the final score.

RPI will hit the road next week for a pair of games at RIT before coming home to host Robert Morris in the last of their early non-conference action. RIT opened their regular season with a weekend split against Minnesota State after a 9-0 rout of the Ottawa Senators.


RPI vs. North Dakota
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/2/15 - 7pm
UND 4, RPI 3



RECORD: 0-1 (0-0 ECAC)


RPI vs. North Dakota
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/3/15 - 3pm
UND 4, RPI 1



RECORD: 0-2 (0-0 ECAC)


Upcoming Schedule

Oct. 9 - at RIT (7pm)
Oct. 10 - at RIT (3pm)
Oct. 16 - Robert Morris (7pm)
Oct. 17 - Robert Morris (4pm)

Friday, October 2, 2015

October Dreams

Ahh, yes. It's the first weekend in October. Early Christmas for puckheads - the college season gets underway, and the NHL is just around the corner. Drink it in. We're ready for five months of fun or heartache. Or both. Probably both.

The women open their season this weekend with very little pressure against one of the best teams in the nation as they welcome the University of North Dakota to the friendly confines of the Houston Field House. Meanwhile, the men have their exhibition game against St. Thomas, a Canadian school from New Brunswick. Get thee to the Field House, ladies and gentlemen. Hockey season is upon us.

Reasonably certain I've used this for an early season pump-up in the past, but it works on so many levels that... whatever. Let's run with it.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

It Just Keeps Happening

Someone please remove the "kick me" sign from this program's back. Because things just keep happening in the offseasons or very early in the regular season that really lend itself to saying "you know, things could have been different."

Last season in the OJHL, Brady Wiffen lit the league on fire. He managed 66 goals and 48 assists in 68 games for the Trenton Golden Hawks. Now, there's a minor qualifier on that - he did it at the age of 20 in a league that's got a fair number of 17 and 18 year olds in it, but it still takes some talent to be able to put the puck in the net with that much frequency.

Can he do the same in the NCAA? Wiffen doesn't project as a guy who's going to be scoring in the neighborhood of a goal per game in college hockey, but he's clearly a prospect with a great deal of upside to him. But we're going to have to wait until 2016 - October 2016 - to find out.

Yesterday, word came down that the NCAA has ruled Wiffen a "partial qualifier," which means that while he's a high school graduate, he didn't meet all of the NCAA's academic requirements to compete in Division I athletics. He can practice with the team, but can't participate in games.

Now, we have to disagree with the assessments of the Albany Times Union and the Schenectady Daily Gazette, both of which declared Wiffen the Engineers' "top recruit." We've been bit more excited to see what Evan Tironese and Jesper Ohrvall will be able to do this year based on their accomplishments in junior hockey. But there's no doubt we were also looking forward to seeing if Wiffen's upside would be a solid contribution, too. He could well have been a scoring stud for the Engineers this year, and teams that had a hard time scoring the previous season need all the help they can scrounge. So it's still a bit of a blow to have to absorb, and so close to the season's start.

Since WaP has been a thing, pretty much every time period from March through October has ended up being rife with heartaches. In fact, there's been at least one in each of the last six years. Observe:

2010-11: ECAC Rookie of the Year F Jerry D'Amigo signs with Toronto in August, two months before the season begins. F Brandon Pirri follows suit with Chicago about a month later, which was quickly followed by the defection of highly touted recruit D Nick Quinn to the OHL.

2011-12: G Allen York signs with Columbus with a year of eligibility left shortly after leading the Engineers to the 2011 NCAA tournament.

2012-13: NHL draft pick D Patrick Koudys leaves the program, eventually transferring to Penn State.

2013-14: ECAC Rookie of the Year G Jason Kasdorf, who led the Engineers to a 2nd place ECAC finish as a freshman, is injured in a non-contact drill after the second game of the regular season, ending his year.

2014-15: Junior F Ryan Haggerty signs with the Rangers with a year of eligibility remaining after leading the nation in goal scoring. Sophomore F Mike Zalewski signs with Vancouver a week later. Very early on in the season, the team becomes ravaged with injuries, never really getting close to 100% health.

2015-16: NHL draft pick G Alec Dillon reneges on his commitment and bolts for the WHL in late May. In September, just two weeks before the season begins, freshman F Brady Wiffen is named a partial qualifier by the NCAA and sidelined for the year.

Some of these were expected, like York and Haggerty's departures. Some ultimately didn't turn out to be a huge deal, like with Quinn and Koudys. But many of them were definitely moments that left the RPI faithful with discouraged frowns.

So please, in the name of everything holy, stop kicking us, hockey gods.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Quinnipiac

We round out 2015's Know Your Enemy series with last year's top team from November through February. For the second time in three years, Quinnipiac didn't just finish first in the ECAC standings, they dominated the perch. While the Bobcats weren't quite as dominant last season as they were in 2013 when they advanced all the way to the national championship game, the Q still made clear that they were the league's top program during the regular season. The real goals - hardware - have remained elusive.

Nickname: Bobcats
Location: Hamden, CT
Founded: 1929
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2015
Last Frozen Four: 2013
Coach: Rand Pecknold (22nd season)
2014-15 Record: 23-12-4 (16-3-3 ECAC, 1st place)
Series: Quinnipiac leads, 11-6-8
First Game: October 16, 1999 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 19, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last QU win: January 9, 2015 (Hamden, CT)

2015-16 games: January 21, 2016 (Hamden, CT); February 19, 2016 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Alex Miner-Barron, sr.; G Michael Gartieg, sr.; F Soren Jonzzon, sr.;  F Travis St. Denis, sr.; F Sam Anas, jr.; D Connor Clifton, jr.; F Tim Clifton, jr.; F Tommy Schutt, jr.; D Derek Smith, jr.; D Devon Toews, jr.; F Tanner MacMaster, so.; F Bo Pieper, so.; F Landon Smith, so.; F Andrew Taverner, so.; F Tom Aldworth, fr.; D Daniel Fritz, fr.

Key losses: F Matthew Peca, D Justin Agosta, D Danny Federico

Previous KYE installment:
For the third straight season, the Bobcats were present at the ECAC semifinals (after surviving an all out war with Union in the quarterfinals) and for the third straight season, they got nothing out of the experience. Many pointed to the injury loss of Anas for the weekend in Lake Placid as a major contributing factor to Quinnipiac's failure to follow up their regular season dominance with their first ECAC title, but his return to the lineup didn't help the Q repeat their magical 2013 run through the NCAA tournament either as they fell decisively to North Dakota - although playing in Fargo essentially made them the road team in what normally would have been a neutral-site matchup.

Among Quinnipiac's losses, Peca's will be felt the most intensely, as he put together a 143-point career in Hamden, but when it comes to offense, there's plenty left to like about the Bobcats. Anas' return for his junior season is cause for optimism enough, but St. Denis and Landon Smith are both crucial offensive elements from last season's squad who will be back as well. Throw in a defense loaded up with upperclassmen who have proven themselves more than up to the task - now with a senior netminder to boot - and you've got a program that's ready to take another crack at the upper echelon.

Overlooked compared to such stacked squads as Yale and Harvard in the preseason polling, it's tough to forget that this is a team which won the ECAC regular season by six points last year, practically running the table. With the exception of a home-and-home series against Merrimack, there wasn't a game weekend on the entire schedule last year in which the Bobcats failed to garner at least at tie - and on every single ECAC weekend, the Bobcats picked up at least two points.

They've been a tough out for years - witness that the Engineers have beaten every other team in the ECAC twice since the last time they beat Quinnipiac (and every other team besides Harvard at least four times). If RPI can't manage a win against the Bobcats on the road in January, it will have been six full calendar years since they've managed the feat by the time the Q comes up to Troy. So until that changes, you've got to pick out the Bobcats as favorites against the Engineers.

But make no mistake about it - the rest of the league sleeps on Quinnipiac to their own despair, too. With the amount of talent that the Bobcats return from what was already a very successful team, a repeat of 2013 - and better - certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Colgate

The Class of 2016 at Colgate has been one of the most dynamic and powerful single recruiting classes in the ECAC in a number of seasons when you consider their overall team impact and just how much of an engine they have been for the Raiders. The names are familiar by now. Baun. Borkowski. Murphy. The Spinks. All well known across the league for their abilities with the puck. Defensemen Lough and Johnston have been a key components for the Raiders on the blue line. But a quick look at the calendar shows that this outstanding group of classmates is running low on time - and that may have Colgate among the most urgent of the "win now" squads in the league.

Nickname: Raiders
Location: Hamilton, NY
Founded: 1819
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2014
Last Frozen Four: 1990
Coach: Don Vaughan (23rd season)
2013-14 Record: 22-12-4 (11-7-4 ECAC, 4th place) 
Series: RPI leads, 61-57-4
First Game: February 19, 1916 (Hamilton, NY) 
Last RPI win: January 16, 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last CU win: February 21, 2015 (Hamilton, NY)

2014-15 games: January 16, 2016 (Troy, NY); February 26, 2016 (Hamilton, NY)

Key players: F Michael Borkowski, sr.; D Kevin Lough, sr.; F Darcy Murphy, sr.; F Tylor Spink, sr.; F Tyson Spink, sr.; D Brett Corkey, jr.; G Charlie Finn, jr.; F Tim Harrison, jr.; D Jake Kulevich, jr.; F Mike Panowyk, so.; D Kenny Citron, fr.; D Rory McGuire, fr.;  F Hunter Racine, fr.

Key losses: F Kyle Baun, F Joe Wilson, D Spiro Goulakos, F John Lidgett, D Brendan Corcoran, D Ryan Johnston, F Daniel Gentzler

Previous KYE installments:
Colgate's uber-talented senior class will be lighter this season by two - Baun signed with Chicago in March (appearing in 3 NHL games) after a third consecutive stellar season in Hamilton, and Johnston signed with Montreal in July after impressing the Habs at their annual prospect camp. Baun's departure was mostly expected, while Johnston's defection was a bit of a surprise and may ultimately hurt the Raiders more in the short term (for a similar RPI example, see the Haggerty and Zalewski departures in 2014).

Those losses don't leave the motor pool empty for Colgate's offense at all, really. Baun was the team's second leading scorer last season, but Tyson Spink and Murphy were first and third with 31 and 26 points respectively, and assuming Borkowski and Tylor Spink can stay healthy this season, one should expect the Raiders' attack to be pretty strong once again, even when factoring in the loss of the graduated Wilson (24 points).

The defensive losses are a bit more grating, especially considering that Johnston's loss was relatively late. Goulakos and Corcoran alone were big blows, but the loss of a third regular starter makes Colgate's defensive picture look a bit more tenuous. The deferral of recruit Adam Dauda, a strong two-way defenseman from Slovakia, hurts a bit, too (he suffered an undisclosed injury and will arrive in a year). Fortunately, the three returning blue liners are upperclassmen all, which should make for at least a little bit of continuity, and Finn backed up his solid freshman campaign in the nets with an even better one as a sophomore.

But in terms of strength, the Raiders may not get themselves back to where they are now for a couple of seasons at least following the graduation of their remarkable seniors. For all of their accomplishments on the ice, the sum total of their hardware consists of a Mariucci Classic title in 2013 and a Three Rivers Classic title in 2014. They've been to two straight ECAC championship games, losing both.  They've played in one NCAA tournament game, being shut out 1-0 by Ferris State in 2014. They've got all the motivation they need to put together a strong final act even before considering the institutional motivation to strike while the iron is hot.

As long as the defensive turnover doesn't sting too much, Colgate should still find itself among the elite of the conference. They may not be as deep as teams like Yale and Quinnipiac or as well rounded as teams like St. Lawrence, but they've got enough pep offensively to be a threat every time they take the ice. As with several different ECAC teams in the last few years, the Raiders had a summer tour of Europe this year, playing three games in Switzerland and Italy last month.

With all that Colgate's seniors have done for the Raiders, they haven't had an awful lot of success against the Engineers, holding just a 1-4-1 record against RPI, the lone win coming in the last game between the teams at Starr Rink this past February. So in the recent past, Colgate has been kind of a sneaky avenue for "extra points," given how well the Raiders have done in the last two years. But there's certainly no guarantee that the trend is necessarily going to continue; expect two very hard fought games, especially for the season finale in Hamilton, which will be the final regular season game in Starr Rink.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Cornell

Six weeks in a row we've done Ivy League teams - just how the schedule plays out this season. We conclude our three fortnight look into the "upper crust" with a program that is really in a state of flux right now. The Big Red are encountering a locally difficult stretch statistically. Usually one of the top teams in the conference, they've fallen on rough times in the last few seasons, having completed a third-straight season outside of the league's Top 3 for the first time since the 2000-01 season. That's not a horrible stat for most teams, but it has the Lynah Faithful uncomfortable.

Nickname: Big Red
Location: Ithaca, NY
Founded: 1865
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 2 (1967, 1970)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2012
Last Frozen Four: 2003
Coach: Mike Schafer (21st season)
2014-15 Record: 11-14-6 (9-9-4 ECAC, 7th place)
Series: Cornell leads, 60-35-9
First Game: January 31, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: January 17. 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last CU win: February 22, 2013 (Ithaca, NY)

2015-16 games: January 15, 2016 (Troy, NY); February 27, 2016 (Ithaca, NY)

Key players: F Christian Hilbrich, sr.; F John Knisley, sr.; D Reece Willcox, sr.; F Matt Buckles, jr.; F Eric Freschi, jr.; G Mitch Gillam, jr.; F Jeff Kubiak, jr.; D Patrick McCarron, jr.; F Jake Weidner, jr.; D Ryan Bliss, so.; F Jared Fiegl, so.; F Dwyer Tschantz, so.; D Dan Wedman, so.; F Anthony Angello, fr.; D Alec McCrea, fr.; F Beau Starrett, fr.

Key losses: F Cole Bardreau, F Joel Lowry, D Joakim Ryan, F John McCarron, D Jacob MacDonald,  F Madison Dias

Previous KYE installments:
Your eyes are not deceiving you. The next time the Engineers and Big Red face off at Houston Field House, it will have been almost a month shy of three full years since Cornell last defeated RPI. The Engineers are unbeaten in the last four matchups (2-0-2) and have suffered just one loss to the Big Red in the last four seasons (4-1-3).

Two years ago, games involving the Big Red averaged about 4.72 goals, which was second fewest in all of college hockey. Last season, that dropped off to 4.03, the fewest of any team in the nation by a solid margin. The reason? They got stingier on defense - but they also dropped off on offense. They were both allowing and scoring fewer goals.

This isn't altogether strange for Cornell. For many years, the Big Red has relied heavily on their defense to get them by, and usually they're able to at least scrape together enough goals to pick up points in the lion's share of their games. But these last couple of seasons, while the defense has been there, the offense hasn't been strong enough to make that strong defense hold up as regularly as Cornell is used to. It's turning what had been wins into ties, and what had been ties into losses.

Last week, we mentioned that Princeton was shut out nine times. Cornell walked off with donuts seven times (don't laugh, it happened to RPI eight times, albeit over a longer schedule than either of the Ivies here). It's a light illustration of the offensive struggles the Big Red endured during the 2014-15 year. They swept just one ECAC weekend all year - at home against Yale and Brown in November. They swept season series against only two opponents, Clarkson and Union (huzzah!).

The end of the season was considerably ignoble: losing a home playoff series for the first time in eight years when they were brutally ejected from the playoffs by a Union team that looked dead on its skates just a couple of weeks prior, falling in two games by a combined 11-2 score to the defending ECAC and national champions.

Hilbrich (10 goals) and Buckles (8) were the team's leading goal scorers last season, and they return as important elements of the Cornell attack, but they need to be able to cast a much wider net. Those two players last season accounted for 31% of the Big Red's total goal tally, an awfully big chunk to lay on only two players. Part of this can be blamed on injury: Lowry missed most of his senior season to a back injury, and he had been counted on to play a significant role for Cornell's attack (even in just 11 games, he still finished 5th on the team in goal scoring). But when Lowry went down, there wasn't enough left to pick up the slack - and of the seven shutouts the Big Red suffered, six of them were after Lowry had to be shelved during the December break.

There is some hope in the additions of Angello and Starrett, NHL draft selections both, although neither can be considered a sure thing. Angello did have 35 points in 54 games last year in the USHL, but those numbers may not translate to an immediate impact in the ECAC. With Starrett, Cornell brings in the talent of a third-round draft pick, but with the questions that surround any player - as with Evan Tironese at RPI this season - who missed most of their final junior campaign to injury.

Ryan and MacDonald aren't insignificant losses on the blue line, but if Cornell has shown a propensity for anything during the Schafer era, it's continuity on defense, and there's plenty there to suggest that they're still going to be a difficult team to score upon. With six NHL draft picks on the roster, this is a talented team, but unless they find a way to start burying pucks in the net at a pace that allows them to take a little more pressure off that defense, the Big Red will be treading water somewhere in the middle of the ECAC table for the third time in four years.

If this sounds familiar, RPI may have similar problems this year - solid defense, questions as to where the offense will be coming from (not to mention, rebounding injury woes from last season). With the RPI-Cornell games not coming until late in the schedule, it's hard to make projections, but based on what we're coming into the season with, whichever team can better remedy its offensive issues is going to have a giant advantage.