Thursday, December 30, 2010

Southern-Fried Hockey

Tonight and tomorrow represent trap games for the Engineers, make no doubt about it. One thing we really haven't seen from RPI in the last decade are good, solid, decisive outings against lesser competition. Say what you will about some of the teams Union has played at home, they went out and took it to them.

Alabama-Huntsville fits into the category of lesser competition, unfortunately. By some metrics, including KRACH, the Chargers are the worst team in the nation.

Does RPI need to pound the Chargers this week? No, they just need a couple of wins. But if they let UAH hang around, especially considering that it's their home ice, the Engineers may find themselves settling for a tie or on the short end of the score. Either one of those results, even just once this week, will make the goal of a national tournament appearance much more difficult. Look at Union - they dropped a pair of games at Western Michigan, and they dropped several places in the Pairwise. And WMU isn't even that bad.

So as the Engineers head into the Deep South, a country themed pumpup for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tomorrow's Podcast: Geof Morris

The last lull in the season ends on Thursday as the Engineers travel south of the Mason-Dixon Line to face-off with college hockey's lone independent team, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. With that in mind, we're going to chat with Geof F. Morris, founder of Save UAH Hockey, a cause much of the college hockey world - at least on the fan's side - has gotten behind.

2010 has not been kind to the Chargers. Although they appeared in the NCAA Tournament last year, they have had to deal with hit after hit ever since. The CHA folded at the end of last season, leaving them without a conference. They've only been able to put together a record of 2-16-2. Their coach, Danton Cole, left the program to take over the USNTDP U-17 team. And just this month, the school's athletic director, Jim Harris, passed away unexpectedly.

We'll talk to Geof to find out how morale is in the Deep South these days, and find out what the immediate future has in store for the Chargers.

Without any college hockey action to speak of since last week, we'll also talk about the World Junior Championships currently underway in Buffalo, and take you through the lineup of New Year's tournaments ready to get going throughout the college hockey world.

We go live at our regular time and date, Wednesday, December 29, at 8 pm Eastern. Click on "Listen to Without a Peer" in the upper right-hand corner to listen. We're proud to now offer our podcasts for download on iTunes! Search "without a peer" in iTunes or click on the new link in the upper right-hand corner to subscribe. It'll automatically download after every show for subscribers, so you can put it on your iPod or your phone and listen at your leisure.

Last week, we talked to Julie Robenhymer of about the exhibition with the US Junior Team, the WJC, and the state of affairs in Hockey East. Check it out on demand below.

Listen to internet radio with Without a Peer on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, December 27, 2010

Living Up to Expectations?

With more time to kill before the Engineers take on Alabama-Huntsville on Thursday, let's take a look around the nation by examining the pre-season poll and seeing how well teams have lived up to expectations. For the most part, teams are still within 5 positions or so of their initial placement, but there are notable exceptions.

Teams are listed by their preseason rankings, with current rankings (as of December 13, the most recent poll) in parentheses.

1. Boston College (5th) - The Eagles soared to start the season, jumping out to a 3-0-0 mark in their first two weekends. But from October 23rd to November 26th, BC struggled and to some extent called into question their preseason expectations, which pegged them as the practically untouchable national favorites. During that ten game stretch, the Eagles were 5-5-0, suffering two losses to Merrimack and one to Vermont. A double thrashing of BU in early December before starting their mid-season break has led some to believe BC will be back on track heading into the second half.

2. North Dakota (3rd) - The Fighting Sioux have practically mirrored the Eagles this season, but basically all of their losses have been against some of the toughest competition in the nation. After opening at 3-0-1, UND went 2-4-0 over their next six games, though losses were at the hands of teams like Maine, Denver, and Minnesota-Duluth. But since the middle of November, the Sioux have proven their mettle - they are 8-1-1 since. They're right in the thick of things.

3. Miami (6th) - The Redhawks were hot during the month of October and haven't been able to put together winning streaks since, but they also had a pretty tough schedule through November and December. Each of Miami's losses has been to a ranked team, but with only one weekend sweep since Halloween, the Redhawks' status as the top team in the CCHA will be under heavy fire in January.

4. St. Cloud State (NR) - Bar none, the Huskies are the biggest disappointment of the season thus far. Expected to be North Dakota's closest competition for the MacNaughton Cup in the WCHA, SCSU has instead faltered greatly; they possess only two wins since the beginning of November, have lost at least once in every single weekend of the season, are 1-7-1 in their last nine games, and sit in 11th place in the WCHA. Their problem? No defense and a sub-par offense. With several of their top guns well off their usual pace and both of their respected goaltenders allowing far more goals than expected, the Huskies are outside of the Top 40 nationally in both categories, a recipe for disaster in any league, let alone the uber-competitive WCHA.

5. Michigan (11th) - Pre-season expectations are always high for the Wolverines no matter what the circumstances are, but to some extent, they always seem to fail to live up to those expectations. Michigan is easily the most consistently successful program in the nation, as they have been to 20 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and they're in decent shape for number 21. Still, in that time they have won only two national championships, and none since 1998. So Michigan being good is not new, but they have to be something more to be truly impressive, since they're so rarely at the very top for how good they are. That's pretty much the explanation for why the 10-5-4 Wolverines are down in 11th now. Other teams have simply been more impressive. Their only glaring loss was to Ohio State on December 3rd.

6. Yale (1st) - Although their ranking remains somewhat controversial, the Bulldogs have still been on top of their game throughout the season. As we've recounted a couple of times, Yale was only 15 minutes away from still being undefeated, with a 3rd period collapse spanning 10 minutes of game time against Air Force being the only blemish so far on their schedule. Any losses going forward will be amplified, but with their final non-conference game coming at home against Holy Cross (albeit without head coach Keith Allain, who is coaching the US Junior Team), Eli's only challenge may come in the last weekend of January when they travel to Union and RPI.

7. Maine (9th) - It appears that the Black Bears are finally on their way to returning to the heights of Hockey East that they are accustomed to. There are a few missteps out there - a one point weekend against Michigan State and a tie with UConn the most glaring - but those were mitigated with a weekend sweep of North Dakota and the fact that since mid-October, Maine's only losses are to Boston College (twice) and New Hampshire, not much to be ashamed of, although the losses to the Eagles were by a combined 8-1. So the Black Bears are essentially where they were at the beginning of the year, just a touch off based on those early setbacks and the drubbings by BC.

8. Minnesota-Duluth (4th) - File the Bulldogs in the "slightly underrated to start the season" category. Most thought UMD would be among the better teams in the WCHA, and although it's partially thanks to St. Cloud's drop off the cliff, they are pretty much the heirs to that title of being North Dakota's closest rivals for top honors within the league. The Bulldogs rightfully got a few weeks at the very top of the polls thanks to their outstanding start of 11-1-2. A not-as-impressive December of 1-2-1 thus far has dethroned the Bulldogs in favor of the other Bulldogs, and they face a tough task in their Amsoil Arena grand opening on Thursday against North Dakota, but UMD is absolutely a better team than they were given credit for at the beginning of the year, and that's saying a lot considering that they were at least very well respected coming in.

9. Denver (7th) - Significant losses to graduation and the professional exodus left the Pioneers as question marks in the eyes of some observers, but a freshman class chock full of talent has DU among the top teams in the WCHA once again. They didn't sneak up on anyone, as they were expected to finish 4th in the league by both the media and the coaches, but as the season has progressed it has become apparent that DU was definitely reloading rather than rebuilding, and much of their success has indeed been on the shoulders of their younger talent. This is a program which, if they can hang onto their young guys for another year or two, could be one of the best teams in the country for sure, and they're right there with the best already.

10. New Hampshire (2nd) - The Wildcats are certainly one of the pleasant surprises of the season. Though their pre-season expectations are usually high regardless, there was little expected of the Wildcats outside of their usual Top 4 finish in Hockey East and perhaps another NCAA bid. Instead, UNH has proven themselves to be national contenders and a true rival for BC's assumed supremacy in Hockey East. Unbeaten at home, the Wildcats' only two losses this year have been to Miami and Boston University, the latter coming while their opponent was ranked #1 in the nation.

11. Cornell (NR) - The Big Red's early season ranking may have been based more on reputation than anything concrete. Offensively and defensively average, Cornell just isn't putting together enough of both regularly enough to be producing victories. Their recent dominance within the ECAC had many expecting Mike Schafer to use his system to be able to put together a winning team no matter what. Early returns suggest that this just hasn't been the case. Although not quite as big of a disappointment as St. Cloud to date, Cornell is probably going to be in a fight to claim a home-ice spot in the first round of the ECAC Playoffs, something they are definitely not used to be doing.

12. Alaska (16th) - The Nanooks advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history last year, and the table was set for UAF to be confirmed CCHA contenders this year. It hasn't quite panned out that way, as the Nanooks haven't been able to keep pace with Miami, Michigan, and Notre Dame, thanks in large part to their inability to earn weekend sweeps - they have only two all year, one in their non-conference tournament in October and one against last place Bowling Green. They have solid wins against Miami and Michigan on their resume, but they'll need to score more goals to go on a winning streak in league play and soon if they are going to live up to lofty pre-season expectations.

13. Wisconsin (15th) - The Badgers were viewed in much the same light as Denver at the dawn of the season. A Frozen Four team last year, UW was decimated by graduation and early jumpers, but they've been able to manage better than most teams in the fiercely competitive WCHA thus far. The Badgers have gotten plenty out of both their offense and their defense to become a solid all around team this season, and if they played in any other league but the WCHA, they'd probably be right near the top of the table. As it is, simply having a solid team isn't always enough out west. They've won the games they were supposed to win (for the most part, anyway, as a loss to Alaska-Anchorage doesn't look too good), and they've lost the games against teams like UND and UMD.

14. Boston University (10th) - The Terriers came into the season with low expectations bolstered somewhat by their reputation as a traditional college hockey power, then wowed everyone by racking up win after win on their way to a #1 ranking earlier this year. But BU is now showing some signs of regression to the mean, as partially evidenced by their twin thrashings at the hands of BC and their punk-out in Troy in mid-December. The big story with BU thus far has been how well talented young individuals have melded together into a team. That will definitely serve them well going forward.

15. Minnesota (19th) - The Golden Gophers have had a rough couple of years, and it honestly doesn't seem to be getting much easier. Like Wisconsin, they've lost a lot of games to better teams, and they've won a lot of games against weaker teams, but their 3-point weekend against UMD and losses to St. Cloud State, Michigan State, and being swept by Minnesota State don't seem to quite pigeonhole them. The Gophers certainly had lower expectations than their usual fare coming in, and it's safe to say that those lower expectations were justified.

16. Michigan State (NR) - When the calendar turned from October to November, the Spartans seemed to disappear. Expected to contend in the CCHA this year after a disappointing showing last year, MSU earned a tie in the first game of each weekend series in October, and a win in the return meeting to start off the season 3-0-3. While the month included games against Maine and Alaska, they were also all played in East Lansing. Since then, the Spartans are 3-9-0 and have crumbled to 10th place in the 11-team CCHA. Outside of St. Cloud, MSU may be the biggest disappointment going right now.

17. Notre Dame (12th) - After a miserable season last year followed by a mass exodus of talent, both to the NHL and of committed freshmen choosing the major junior route, expectations were significantly lower for the Fighting Irish. Expected to finish fifth in the CCHA, Notre Dame is instead on top of the league table at the midway point. The Irish have yet to come out of a weekend without any points (including in non-conference play, as they salvaged a tie with North Dakota on Thanksgiving weekend), though there are only a couple of weekend sweeps at home thus far and a few head-scratchers, like a loss to Bowling Green. Still, the Irish are clearly a better team than expected at the outset.

18. RIT (NR) - The Tigers not only raised expectations last year by making it to the Frozen Four, they proved that the dream of the national championship isn't necessarily out of reach for any program. They lost a lot of the talent they had last year, but after a rough start that saw RIT ejected from the national rankings almost right away, they're actually taking a turn for the better. Despite some awful losses, they've regained the top spot in Atlantic Hockey, both by points and winning percentage. It's hard to say that RIT isn't living up to expectations just because they are no longer nationally ranked - it's a bit unusual to see teams from Atlantic Hockey in the polls, and when they get there one loss is usually enough to toss them from those rankings.

19. Union (12th) - Underrated partially because they're in the ECAC, partially because of their history, and partially because they had some question marks offensively to start the season, the Dutchmen have steadily risen through the national polls during the first half of the year. Those question marks were mostly squelched when UC got out of the box with an offensive barrage, but their mettle was called into question when they were swept on the road at Western Michigan. They have another chance to prove themselves worthy this week in Minnesota, but the Dutchmen have at least proven their ability to dominate lesser teams, something not all good teams are able to do regularly.

20. Colorado College (20th) - The only team that's right back where they started the season, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate. After their 3-point weekend over RPI, they went 5-7-0 through the end of November, but a six-game winning streak has them back above water. The hitch? Those six wins were against some of the weakest teams in the WCHA - Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech, and St. Cloud State. A 5-2 victory over Nebraska-Omaha was countered by a 3-0 loss the next night. They have a favorable schedule going forward, though.

NR. Ferris State (18th) - Defense, defense, and more defense has put the 3rd breed of Bulldogs into the national rankings. One of the leaders of "the rest of the pack" in the CCHA, FSU actually isn't that far removed from their pre-season expectations, but if you go out to a game in Big Rapids, don't expect an awful lot of goals. That's because while Ferris boasts the nation's top defensive numbers, their offense is among the worst - 50th out of 58 teams.

NR. Nebraska-Omaha (8th) - Perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise thus far have been the Mavericks, who have taken to the WCHA like a fish takes to water. In short order, UNO was not only a ranked team, but at one point this season was receiving multiple first place votes. That was, to a large extent, expected at some point once Dean Blais took over the team last year, but few expected the Mavericks to jump into the WCHA and immediately join the ranks of the contenders. They've done exactly that. UNO kicked off their season with five wins in a row, and were 8-1-1 after ten games. They're 4-4-0 since, so they've dropped back a touch, but one of those wins is over North Dakota.

NR. RPI (14th) - Picked to finish 4th and 5th in the ECAC respectively by the coaches and media, the Engineers have vaulted themselves from being considered contenders for a first-round bye to being contenders for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. They've still got a long way to go, but the schedule is favorable going forward, with Yale the only presently ranked team left to play - one game out of 18. Most notably, RPI has been in every single game they've played, with the empty-net goal at Yale accounting for the Engineers' only loss by multiple goals.

NR. Merrimack (17th) - You heard it here first when Adam Wodon picked the Warriors as a dark horse team out of Hockey East during our Summer Cooler series - and they certainly haven't disappointed in that role yet. They may not be ready to challenge the confirmed "Big Four" in Hockey East just yet, but they've pretty firmly established themselves at the head of the rest of the pack. The Warriors have earned a season series win over BC already, something few other teams will be able to claim, and like the Engineers, they've been in every single game they've played, never getting blown out and with just a single empty-net goal keeping them from having only one-goal losses on their record.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catching Up With the Engineers

We're taking a bit of break without much going on in the college hockey world this week - save the World Junior Championships, which start tonight. That makes it a perfect time to check up on the RPI alums still playing professional hockey. If we've missed anyone, please be sure to leave a comment, but we're pretty sure this is an exhaustive list of former Engineers still playing professionally.

We'll start at the top, with older alums first.

Stephane Robitaille '92 - SC Bietigheim Steelers (2nd Bundesliga)
Still going strong at the age of 40, Robitaille has been playing in Europe since 1993, playing in Austria from 1993 to 1998 and in Germany since 1998, with the exception of one season (2004-05) in France. After nine seasons in Germany's top flight league, he joined the Steelers two years ago in time to help them win the 2nd Bundesliga title in 2009. This is his third season with the Steelers, and thus far this season, Robitaille has 2 goals and 13 assists in 24 games, playing largely the same role he's played throughout his career, including the four years he spent in Troy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Tim Regan '96 - Riessersee SC (GerObL)
Like Robitaille, Regan went straight to Europe after graduation and has been there ever since. With the exception of 13 games in Austria in 2003, Regan has played his entire career in Germany and is in his fourth stint with Riessersee, a team that plays in the Olympic town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Currently the team's assistant captain, Regan (who turns 37 in February) stayed with Riessersee despite their relegation from the 2nd Bundesliga last season, and he has now played with the team in each of the top three tiers of German hockey, as they are now in the Oberliga Sud. In 24 games this year, Regan has 12 goals and 16 assists, still producing more than a point per game, just as he did in his senior season in Troy (albeit against somewhat diminished competition).

Eric Healey '98 - Linz EHC (Austria)
After years of paying his dues as a top player in the AHL, Healey was rewarded in 2005-06 with a cup of coffee in the NHL, a pair of games with the Boston Bruins which saw a minor penalty as his only lasting statistic from his time in the top hockey league in the world. After spending two more years in the AHL after that, Healey went to Europe, spending 2008-09 in Sweden and Switzerland before landing in Austria last season with Graz EC. He had a stellar year last year with Graz, scoring 27 goals and 40 assists in 53 games. This year, he signed with Linz EHC, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in 19 games before being released in November to allow Linz to sign former NHLer Jason Ward, as teams in Austria may only sign a limited number of foreign players. The 35-year-old Healey remains a free agent.

Mark Murphy '99 - DEG Metro Stars (DEL)
Like Healey, Murphy spent several years as an AHL stalwart before crossing the pond in 2005, playing in Finland and Sweden in 2005-06 before landing in Germany, where he's now in his fifth season in the German top tier. After three seasons playing in Augsburg, Murphy moved on to Dusseldorf to join the DEG Metro Stars, currently holding down first place in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. 22 games in, the 34-year-old Murphy has 5 assists and 45 penalty minutes.

Brian Pothier '00 - Geneve Servette (Swiss-A)
Pothier was the Engineers' mainstay in the NHL after the retirements of Adam Oates and Joe Juneau. Playing at least part of every season since leaving Troy in the NHL, Pothier accrued 362 games with Atlanta, Ottawa, Washington, and Carolina. After suffering a concussion in 2008, Pothier struggled to regain his form, and with teams trying to keep costs down to make it under the cap, Pothier ended up as one of a number of serviceable veterans who migrated to Europe after being unable to find a job in the NHL thanks to the difference in rookie and veteran cap impacts. Moving on to Servette, last year's Swiss runners up, Pothier, at the age of 34, has put up 4 goals and 17 assists in 30 games thus far.

Matt Murley '02
- Timra IK (SEL)
Murley had a number of stints in the NHL between 2003-04 and 2007-08, playing 62 games with Pittsburgh and Phoenix. He maintained some connection to the Capital District during his playing time in North America, signing with Colorado after his contract with Pittsburgh ended, who, at the time, had the Albany River Rats as their AHL affiliate. After leaving Phoenix, he signed with Carolina who, again, had the River Rats as their affiliate. But instead of reporting to Albany, Murley took the money and signed with the KHL's Amur Khabarovsk, causing a stir as the first NHL contracted player to break his deal and head for the KHL. Predictably, this has made him persona non grata in the NHL and he has continued his career in Europe after leaving the KHL. After playing for three different teams in Switzerland last year, the 30-year-old Murley landed in Sweden this season, where he played on a two-month contract for Linkoping HC, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists before moving onto another two-month contract with Timra IK, where he has 4 goals in 12 games.

Marc Cavosie '03 - HK Jesenice (Austria)
Signing a pro contract after his junior season in 2002 - the last Engineer to jump early before D'Amigo and Pirri - Cavosie never reached the NHL despite looking like a strong candidate when he left Troy. He struggled to find the same success he had at RPI for four consecutive years in the AHL, after which he headed to Sweden for a season. He had been back in North America, largely playing in the AHL again, since 2007, but this season Cavosie returned to Europe, now playing for Jesenice, a Slovenian team that has been playing in the Austrian league for the last five seasons, and which has won the Slovenian championship in five of the last six years. The 29-year-old Cavosie has 2 goals and 7 assists in 19 games.

Oren Eizenman '07 - Connecticut Whale (AHL)
Eizenman has had quite the journey through the professional ranks since graduation. After impressing with the ECHL's Fresno Falcons in 2007-08 (which included callups to Milwaukee and Worcester in the AHL), Eizenman played for no fewer than five teams in 2008-09 before mostly sticking with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL last season. Consistently dominant in the lower minor league, Eizenman is still working to find regular work in the AHL. After starting off the season with the ECHL's Elmira Jackals, the 25-year-old Eizenman had a short stint with the Syracuse Crunch before getting a tryout with the Connecticut Whale. He's off to a good start thus far, netting two goals, including a game winner, and an assist in nine games for the Whale.

Kirk MacDonald '07 - Providence Bruins (AHL)
The former RPI captain continues to work toward his NHL dream in Providence, where he has been considered in the recent past for an NHL contract rather than the AHL contract he is currently on. Like Eizenman, MacDonald dominated in the ECHL, but unlike Eizenman, MacDonald has definitely stuck in the AHL, now in his second stint with the Providence Bruins. MacDonald, who turned 27 this month, has 4 goals and 8 assists in 29 games, but is more favored in the AHL for his penalty killing ability.

Andrew Lord '08 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Unlike most players who don't head straight to the NHL, the 25-year-old Lord has had a fairly stable life with the Wheeling Nailers right out of college, now in his third season with the Nailers and wearing the "C." Lord has been a bruiser in Wheeling, racking up plenty of penalty minutes in his first two seasons and well on his way to a third straight 100+ PIM year with 74 in 25 games. He also has 7 goals and 12 assists, and got an AHL call-up - his second in as many years.

Jonathan Ornelas '08 - Dayton Gems (CHL)
Ornelas seems to have settled into playing in North America's 4th tier of professional hockey, the Central Hockey League. As soon as the Engineers finished up their 2007-08 season, Ornelas joined the New Mexico Scorpions for their playoff run. He played a full season in Amarillo the following year, and has been with the Dayton Gems for the last two seasons, joining them in the IHL last season before the IHL folded into the CHL this season. So far this year, the 24-year-old Ornelas has 5 goals and 8 assists in 24 games, including 22 PIM.

Erik Burgdoerfer '10 - Bakersfield Condors (ECHL)
Like Ornelas, Burgdoerfer played pro hockey shortly after his senior season ended, joining the Condors in March last year not long after the Engineers were eliminated from the playoffs. He suffered a broken arm early in his tenure, but returned to the Condors on a full contract this season after being an early release from a tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite his rough and tumble reputation at RPI, the 22-year-old Burgdoerfer has just 18 PIM in 26 games for Bakersfield, along with a goal and 4 assists.

Peter Merth '10 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Teammates with Andrew Lord in Wheeling, Merth, 23, has found regular playing time with his first professional team, appearing in 24 games to date with a goal and six assists to his name.

Jerry D'Amigo '13 - Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Currently with the U.S. Junior Team, D'Amigo is young for the AHL at only 19 years old, and to some extent it shows - he has only 3 goals and 6 assists in 29 games despite starting off the season on the Marlies' top line. With any luck, his return to the WJC may help jumpstart his professional fares.

Brandon Pirri '13 - Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Pirri continued the streak of RPI alums in the NHL for another season when he made an appearance in the Chicago Blackhawks' home opener as an emergency replacement for Patrick Sharp - a streak that goes back to Mike McPhee's first NHL season of 1983-84. Like D'Amigo, he has also struggled to put up top numbers in the AHL at the age of 19, but he's doing a bit better, with 5 goals and 7 assists in 25 games.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Without A Peer

Please welcome Ed DerGurahian to Without a Peer!

Twas the night before Christmas
Here in the ECAC
the RPI fans were all happy
and shouting with glee

The first half of the season
has been put in the books
and the goal stealing refs
were acting like crooks

Yale is in front
the team a real work horse
the only blemish thus far
a loss to Air Force.

Princeton is tied
for the league lead
but they're in New Jersey
a pleasure, indeed

For third place
Thompson Arena's the scene
that's where you'll find
the Dartmouth Big Green

The Golden Knights and Bobcats
have nine points apiece
Opponents are hoping
that those points will cease

Union has seven
but could only have five
RPI fans will watch
U's yearly nosedive

RPI has six
and looks to move up
fans want Seth to hoist
Bill Cleary's Cup

St. Lawrence is tied
with our red and white
but January 8
will be a rough night

The bottom four of the league
begins with Brown
their captain Harry Z.
he's a real clown

Look Mr. Schaefer
of where you now stand
maybe now you will realize
your hockey is bland

and Mr. Donato
you were a great Bruin,
but by being a coach
your team is in ruin.

And last but not least
is lonely Colgate
who has one conference tie
and not doing so great.

Thank you for reading
from all of us here
Merry Christmas to all!
And happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tonight's Podcast: Julie Robenhymer

We're in the middle of "the dead zone" of college hockey. There have been no games since Sunday, and there will be no games until next Wednesday - a nine day stretch with no hockey. Withdrawal? Nah, it's not so bad. Not long ago we were going through six months without hockey.

The big news right now, however, is the World Junior Championships, which are about to get underway in Buffalo on Sunday - and the Engineers have been right in the thick of it, hosting the beginning of the US national team camp at Houston Field House and playing an exhibition against them, not to mention the inclusion of former RPI hero Jerry D'Amigo.

We'll have a bit of a truncated show this week, running down the results from the junior team exhibition and keeping you up to date on what's going on in the world of college hockey. Our guest will be Julie Robenhymer, a 2003 graduate of UMass who writes for and is currently traveling with Team USA. We'll get her insight on Team USA, find out more about the exhibition and what it means for both teams, ask her about today's final cuts, and get her predictions.

We're going live tonight at 8pm. Just click "Listen to Without a Peer" in the upper right-hand corner, and you're golden.

Last week - as a matter of fact, just a few short days ago, on Saturday - we cobbled together a show featuring a pair of coaches, Seth Appert and Brad Stoffers, talking about BU, the Junior Team, and the first half. Check it out on demand below.

Listen to internet radio with Without a Peer on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, December 20, 2010

Men's Hockey - U.S. Junior National Team (19 Dec)

Exhibitions have zero impact on anything terribly relevant. They don't count in the record. The well defined national tournament selection process uses a (relatively) objective system and doesn't consider them. The statistics don't count.

And yet, the end result from Sunday's exhibition against the defending World Junior Championship gold medalists from the United States will certainly open eyes around the college hockey world - and people may now see the Engineers in a slightly different light. By collegiate standards, the game ended in a 3-3 tie, an impressive showing against an extraordinarily talented team by itself, but by the international standards by which the game was played, RPI earned an upset 5-4 shootout victory.

US Junior National Team
Halpern, Smith



Every skater dressed for the Engineers with the exception of John Kennedy, who Appert said would have played if it were an ECAC game but was held out as a precaution against reinjuring his hand in an ultimately meaningless contest, and Matt Tinordi, who there just wasn't enough room for on the lengthened bench.

Notably, Kevin Beauregard suited up as a defenseman for the first time, while Marty O'Grady returned after missing three games with a concussion. All of the three players who had suffered concussions since Thanksgiving have now returned.

The Yanks got things going pretty quickly - just 89 seconds into the game. An early whistle due to an inadvertent red light signal from the goal judge behind Allen York set up a faceoff to his left. North Dakota's Brock Nelson won the faceoff and Michigan's Chris Brown immediately one-timed the shot into the back of the net, giving Team USA a 1-0 lead.

RPI got their opportunities during the course of the first period, but puck control largely stayed with the Americans throughout the first period - York was forced to make 17 saves during the course of the period. The Engineers' penalty kill was tested twice, bending but not breaking. Then, with 10 seconds left in the period, Brown was called for holding, giving the Engineers their first power play, which carried over into the 2nd period.

With time running out on the penalty to Brown, the Engineers capitalized for their first goal as C.J. Lee scored from Patrick Cullen and Marty O'Grady to tie the game at one. About five minutes later, after killing another penalty, Chase Polacek beat Team USA's Jack Campbell to give RPI a surprising 2-1 lead.

Minutes later, the Engineers nearly took a 3-1 lead when Kevin Beauregard wound up with a shot from the blue line that beat Campbell, but clanged off the crossbar and bounced out. The red light, however, came on, and the Field House horn went off. The referees emphatically waved the goal off and then conferred even as the Engineers celebrated. Ultimately, the wave off stood.

Shortly thereafter, the Americans attacked, and Emerson Etem of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers cashed in, scoring from the Denver duo of Drew Shore and Jason Zucker to tie the game up. Late in the period, the Yanks retook the lead as Brown scored his second of the game with less than 10 seconds left in the period, making it 3-2 into the second intermission.

The Engineers continued to work hard in the third despite being unable to put many shots on Cornell goaltender Andy Iles, who replaced Campbell midway through the second period, but their persistence paid off late in the game. With under three minutes left to play, a clearing attempt by the Americans was intercepted at the point by Bo Dolan, who rifled a slap shot as he had done many times earlier in the game, this one going over Iles' shoulder to tie the game back up at three, with Dolan unofficially scoring his first goal as an Engineer.

With just over a minute left to play, Chris Brown was whistled for interference in the RPI crease, giving the Engineers a late power play that ultimately carried over into the overtime period. Despite a number of good opportunities to score, RPI was unable to put the game winner away, and Team USA immediately went to work, dominating the rest of the overtime period. With 90 seconds left in the game, Zucker, who had been dynamic with the puck throughout the game, tried to go from York's right to left to put the puck in, and the two players made contact. York crumpled to the ice but, after being checked out by the trainer, resolved to stay in the game. He held firm, and the game officially ended in a 3-3 tie.

In international competition, however, ties are broken by a shootout, and the teams went at it with the Americans shooting on York at the west end of the Field House, while the Engineers shot at Iles on the east end. Fittingly, the first shooter of the night was Jerry D'Amigo, who missed wide, setting the tone for a tentative first three rounds in which neither team scored. In fact, it wasn't until the fifth round that C.J. Lee would score the first goal of the shootout.

But every time the Engineers scored, the Americans would respond with a goal of their own. Each time the Engineers missed, the Americans could not seal the victory. Lee's goal was neutralized by a goal from Zucker, the Engineers would get another goal from Lee and goals from Nick Bailen and Jeff Foss, but those would be neutralized by goals from Rocco Grimaldi, Drew Shore, and another from Zucker. Finally, in the 12th round, Marty O'Grady scored, leaving it up to Jerry D'Amigo, who beat York but rang his shot off the post, giving RPI the 5-4 win in a marathon of a shootout.

American fans can take heart in the loss - several top players who are shoo-ins for the team, such as Kyle Palmieri, Chris Kreider, Jon Merrill, Justin Faulk, and John Ramage did not play. In fact, given the lack of ice time for D'Amigo in the second period, it's likely he would not have played if this game had been against anyone else. But Engineers fans can take heart in the win despite Team USA not being at 100% full strength - this was still a team comprised of amazing talent, with several first and second round draft picks getting solid playing time. More than likely, the future looks good for both of these teams.

The word was already out on the Americans. Perhaps now the word will be out on the Engineers - these guys are good.

The exhibition concluded the home schedule for 2010. Up next for RPI is a trip to Huntsville, Alabama for a pair of games with the UAH Chargers. It's been a rough season for the Chargers, but RPI can't afford to let their guard down. Wins won't help their cause much due to UAH's terrible record, but losses will almost certainly come back to haunt later in the season.

Other junk - With only a handful of games this past weekend and none this week, there won't be any more polls released until after the New Year.

Jerry D'Amigo, when he was announced as part of the starting lineups, got a standing ovation and a loud "Jerry! Jerry!" chant. When he lined up for both of his shootout attempts, however, boos were heard. He was last in the handshake line after the game, and got a big hug from each member of the Engineers, including John Kennedy. Distinct "USA! USA!" cheers were heard as the Americans left the ice.

Among the national leaders on the Engineers...

Chase Polacek: 12th in points per game, 48th in goals per game, 13th in assists per game, 21st in power play goals, 18th in shorthanded goals.
Nick Bailen: 35th in points per game, 78th in goals per game, 32nd in assists per game, 50th in power play goals, 3rd in points per game among defensemen.
Tyler Helfrich: 51st in points per game, 32nd in goals per game, 21st in power play goals.
Mike Bergin: 95th in assists per game, 28th in points per game among defensemen.
Joel Malchuk: 2nd in shorthanded goals.
Brock Higgs: 42nd in points per game among freshmen.
Allen York: 6th in goals against average, 5th in save percentage, 20th in winning percentage.

Team: 28th in offense, 4th in defense, 13th in average scoring margin, 28th in power play, 27th in penalty killing, 27th in combined special teams.

ECAC Standings
1. Yale - 6-0-0 (12 pts)
2. Princeton - 6-3-0 (12 pts)
3. Dartmouth - 5-2-1 (11 pts)
4. Clarkson - 4-2-1 (9 pts)
5. Quinnipiac - 4-5-1 (9 pts)
6. Union - 3-2-1 (7 pts)
7. RPI - 3-3-0 (6 pts)
8. St. Lawrence - 3-4-0 (6 pts)
9. Brown - 2-3-1 (5 pts)
10. Cornell - 2-4-0 (4 pts)
11. Harvard - 2-7-0 (4 pts)
12. Colgate - 0-5-1 (1 pt)

Adjusted Standings
1. Yale (1.000)
2. Dartmouth (.688)
3. Princeton (.667)
4. Clarkson (.643)
5. Union (.583)
6. RPI (.500)
7. Quinnipiac (.450)
8. St. Lawrence (.429)
9. Brown (.417)
10. Cornell (.333)
11. Harvard (.222)
12. Colgate (.083)

U.S. Junior National Team at #14 RPI
Exhibition Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/19/10 - 4:o0pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Team USA 3 (RPI wins shootout, 5-4 in 12 rounds)

College Hockey Stats

USA Hockey
Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Gazette
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Ithaca Journal
Buffalo News
WGRZ-TV (Buffalo)

Goals (including shootout goals)
Entire shootout (with WRPI commentary)

Post-game interviews (Schenectady Gazette)

RECORD: 9-4-3 (3-3-0 ECAC, 6 pts)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 34 saves
2. F C.J. Lee - 1 G, 2 shootout goals
3. F Marty O'Grady - shootout winner

Upcoming games
30 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
31 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
07 Jan - Clarkson
08 Jan - St. Lawrence
14 Jan - at Cornell

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Allen York is a Canadian Hero

Dear everybody:

Do we have your undivided attention now?

RPI and the ECAC

Pride of a nation. Allen York, out of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, made 34 saves and earned the 12-round shootout win in net just moments after being attended to on the ice by the RPI trainer as the Engineers shocked a collection of the best young talent in America.

Just Like a Wavin' Flag

What is this, Christmas or the 4th of July?

Well, today, it's both. Get ready to wave the flag this afternoon... you're not going to want to miss this game. We may be about to witness the growth of one of the greatest generations of American hockey players since the Miracle on Ice, and many of the players who are likely to be a part of that vanguard will be on the ice together in Troy.

This will surely be an odd game to attend, as there'll be no one to cheer against on the ice. Support the Engineers, of course, but for one night, it'll be time to put away the old standbys and support the opposition as well - nobody sucks tonight. This is an exhibition game - the winner doesn't matter. Just know that RPI will be getting some more game experience against the toughest competition out there, and we'll be getting the golden opportunity to see some amazing high end talent... not the mention the chance to bid a fond farewell to a player who was with us for only one season, but left his mark on the program nonetheless.

Wave that flag!

A little bonus pumpup... something more directly patriotic.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interview with an American Hero

We had originally planned to have Toronto Marlies forward and former RPI star Jerry D'Amigo make a guest appearance on our weekly podcast this afternoon. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out just perfectly, thanks to the presence of both TSN and at Team USA's morning practice at Houston Field House. We're still a little farther down on the food chain, it appears, and without question, Jerry has been the number one media star since the Junior Team opened camp in Troy yesterday morning.

Instead, we got the opportunity to sit down with Jerry to ask him about his return to RPI and get his perspective on tomorrow afternoon's game and the upcoming tournament, among other things.

Jerry talked to Ken Schott yesterday on camera, where he spoke fondly of his year in the Cherry and White, and admitted that he keeps a close eye on how the Engineers are doing. "I always look them up to see if they won," he said. "I don't really lose track. I'm an alum now, so I've got to keep my tabs on them. I know it was tough for me and Brandon Pirri to leave, but they're bouncing back. They're a great team to begin with and they're doing well. I'm proud that they're doing well."

Then, with a snicker and a grin... "Maybe it was because I left."'

Without a Peer: Tell us about your feelings on coming back to RPI after being away for a few months.

Jerry D'Amigo: I was excited when the Toronto staff let me come back out here. I loved it here for the year. Getting a chance to spend some time with the (RPI) coaching staff and hang out with the guys again has been just great. My family's here, too, and it's just going to be a great time tomorrow night when we play them.

WaP: For a little while after this game was announced, it was thought that you'd be playing against your current team in this one.

JDA: I thought it was going to be great from the time I first heard about it. I remember when Seth (Appert) told me about it, and we were both pretty excited. He was like, "you better get ready, because we're gonna be coming after you hard." It's going to be fun tomorrow. Some of the guys were joking about it, saying things like "well, we're gonna crush you into the boards." It's going to be a good game. You practice with them the whole year and you learn what it's like to play with them, and now to play against them is going to be a little weird, but it's gonna be great.

WaP: What kind of reaction do you expect out of the crowd?

JDA: Well, actually I don't really have any expectations. Hopefully I'll get some cheers. Hopefully no boos. Nobody likes to get booed when they're coming back to their old team. These fans are great here, so you really can't get mad at them anyway.

WaP: Everyone's dying to know... what's your plan for beating Allen York?

JDA: (laugh) Well, I don't know. He's a good goalie. There are some weak spots, which I may not tell the other guys. I know where I want to shoot on him, and hopefully I can get one, but you never know what's going to happen.

WaP: A few people were upset that you left after you said at the end of last season that you were all coming back, but obviously some things that happened in the offseason changed that. What changed the most?

JDA: I had a great season, and I thank RPI for that, the coaching staff and my teammates especially. The World Juniors helped me a lot too, though, to open the eyes of some of the guys in Toronto. The offseason was great. I worked hard with a goal to get stronger, bigger, and faster, because that's what I needed to do for this season. Then I went to Toronto's prospect camp and they saw the work I'd done. It was an opportunity that I felt that I needed to do to move to the next level.

WaP: Last year during camp you weren't a sure thing to make the team, but this year you're a veteran. What's the difference for you between this year's camp and last year's camp?

JDA: Those of us that are returning this season, we all have to be leaders. There are younger guys who are where I was last year. It always helped to have one of the older guys to tell us what to do. I've just got to just set an example by working hard and be there to be a character leader.

WaP: How about the difference between this team and the one you played on last year?

JDA: It feels kinda the same, really. Obviously, we're going to have the pressure to win (the gold medal) again. Teams are going to come in this year knowing that we're a great team. We've got to play hard, because we know it's not going to be given to us. We're going to have to earn every inch and work that much harder because we're on our home soil. Having the fans with us and not against us will be good for us, too.

WaP: How much would it mean for you personally to be able to repeat as champions on your home soil?

JDA: We (won a championship at home) when I was 18, and it was just great to have the whole crowd with you cheering you on right to the end and singing the national anthem with you. It's a great thing, and if we were to win again... wow. Last year was one of the greatest feelings ever, and to be able to experience that, especially beating Canada in the gold medal game, it was unbelievable and something that I'll never forget. I dream of doing it again, I would love to have that with me to carry on forever.

WaP: Here at RPI, you developed kind of a reputation for getting run from behind, and we saw it happen again when you were up in Glens Falls (playing against the Adirondack Phantoms) last month. What is it that? Are you just a magnet?

JDA: (chuckles) I guess I've just got a target on my back. It's one of those things where I like to get down and dirty, and you know what, if that means you end up getting hit from behind, then I'll do that. Hopefully I don't get it tomorrow, but we'll see what happens. I'm trying to shy away from those because those hurt a lot.

WaP: When you signed your professional contract, you became the first Engineer to sign after just one year at RPI. It's difficult to do in just one year, but what kind of a legacy do you feel you'll have here at RPI?

JDA: I talked to Seth about it, and he said it's good for our recruits coming in. They know that RPI is brewing pro athletes when they look at the things that me and Brandon (Pirri) did here. I was just telling everyone (in the locker room) that we're not just another school, we're a good defending school that is really one of the top teams in the ECAC. It's a great time for us right now. We've got some great guys here now like Chase (Polacek) and Tyler Helfrich that are going to have good hockey careers down the line, too.

WaP: What would you say to a young player that was considering coming to RPI?

JDA: I'd tell them that it's a great experience. I had a great time here. Seth and I had a great friendship and we still do now, I still talk to him frequently. They're here to help, and that's what you always want out of a coaching staff. If they were to ask me if (RPI) was the right choice to make, I think it is. You're not going to get this type of help with the coaching and this type of education that I got, even if it was just for a year. It was tough, but it was something that I'll carry along with me as I come back to get my degree, too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tomorrow's Podcast: Jerry D'Amigo, Brad Stoffers

Where's the podcast this week? Oh, here it is.

Heard some of our loyal listeners wonder where we went this week since here it is Friday and we still haven't gone on the air - but we've been hard at work behind the scenes. Plus, this week's game is on Sunday, so it only makes sense to put it off a little. Not much goes on in the college hockey world from the middle of December until after Christmas anyway.

We were grateful to get the opportunity to talk to the most familiar member of the US Junior Team, at least when it comes to RPI fans - Jerry D'Amigo, formerly of the Engineers and now skating for the Toronto Marlies. We'll ask him how it feels to be back in Troy and what he expects to see from his former teammates on Sunday.

We'd been hoping to talk to Seth Appert and John Burke this week, but there's no downtime when you're a head coach - both men are out on the recruiting trail looking to bring in the next wave of RPI success stories. Further, with the women's schedule through until the New Year, all of the women's assistants are gone for the holidays. We'll try and talk to one of the women's coaches soon.

But with the men still in town, we'll have the opportunity to talk to Brad Stoffers, the men's volunteer assistant coach. We'll ask Brad to give us a sense of the coaching staff's impression of the season's first half, talk about expectations moving forward, and learn a little more about the man himself.

When does this all go down, you ask? Well, it's a weekend special - Saturday, December 18 at 4pm. Don't forget to tune in, you won't want to miss it!

Last week, we talked to Brian Sullivan from USCHO about the RPI/BU matchup. He picked RPI to win and... well, he was right, wasn't he? We also talked to senior Bryan Brutlag and had a special guest on (Ed Lass) to talk about the sports scene in the Capital District (and the RPI basketball team's appearance at the Times Union Center, which they ultimately won). You can check it out on demand below, or use the player to listen to us when we go live tomorrow at 4pm.

Listen to internet radio with Without a Peer on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Know Your Country: U.S. Junior National Team

It should be seen as a true honor for the Engineers to have the opportunity to take on the USA's junior team. They typically face a college team in preparation for the WJC, and this year, RPI is that team.

Let's not fool ourselves as to what will likely happen in this game. RPI will be taking on what is essentially a team of some of the best young players in all of college hockey. It's not a collegiate all-star team per se, but it does feature some amazing talent from top to bottom, and a number of guys who already have one gold medal around their necks from last season. The Engineers, in all likelihood, will not win this game. Nor is it terribly important that they do.

Still, this game will feature some dream matchups. Chase Polacek trying to score on Jack Campbell. Allen York looking to stone Ryan Bourque and Jerry D'Amigo. And from the Engineers' perspective, it will be another opportunity to face down against a difficult team - a learning experience going forward.

When this game was announced, it was thought to have the intrigue of Jerry D'Amigo playing against his own team. It's no longer about that, but instead it will be an opportunity for Jerry to play on his old turf, in front of his RPI fans, one last time.

Come on out to the Field House this Sunday afternoon. It won't be a game for cheering - unless you're a Canadian, I'm sure you want to see the team the Engineers are playing against succeed - but it will certainly be an exciting look at some of the best young players in the nation, many of whom will be starring in the NHL in short order.

Without further ado, a look at the team ready to defend its gold medal in Buffalo. They open their training camp at Houston Field House on Friday, looking to pare down to 2 goaltenders, 7 defensemen, and 13 forwards by the middle of next week (meaning 3 defensemen and 4 forwards will be cut).


G Jack Campbell (Windsor, OHL)
6'2", 182 - 12-9-0, 3.68, .887
One of the heroes of the 2010 gold medal victory, Campbell, who hails from Port Huron, Mich., originally committed to Michigan before opting to cross the Detroit River. Campbell has struggled numbers-wise this season in the OHL, but he was always the obvious goaltending choice for this team given the way he played in last year's tournament as a 17-year-old. Though he was ostensibly the backup to St. Cloud State's Mike Lee, seeing less than 40% of the time in net, he nonetheless put up a 2.54 GAA and .923 save percentage during the tournament, most importantly coming on in relief for Lee in the gold medal game. The 11th overall draft pick (1st round) by the Dallas Stars in 2010, Campbell will need to be solid in net again for the USA.

G Andy Iles (Cornell, ECAC)
5'9", 180 - 2-3-1, 2.38, .907
Certainly one of the more interesting names on the roster from the Engineers' perspective is the one player who will be making frequent return trips to Houston Field House in the next few years - and who they will almost certainly see again in the second week of action in January. RPI fans will get their first look at the Ithaca, N.Y. native on the 19th, as both goaltenders are likely to see about 30 minutes of action. Iles has struggled to put up solid numbers thus far with the Big Red, but to some extent his team in general is struggling in front of him as well, which rarely bodes well overall at Lynah Rink. Given that there are only two goaltenders on the camp roster, Iles is guaranteed a place in Buffalo, most likely backing up Campbell, but if Campbell's struggles continue, he may well be called upon to be the top dog. Iles is draft eligible in 2011, though his size may keep him from being taken, as happened in this year's draft.


D Adam Clendening (Boston University, HEA)
5'11", 190 - 17-1-8-9-24
One of three guys making two visits to Houston Field House in the span of eight days, this Niagara Falls, N.Y. native will be playing for a gold medal just a few miles from where he grew up assuming he makes the team (which is a pretty good assumption). As we saw last week, Clendening has great hands and great vision on the ice, and he has a proven track record on the international level as well, winning a pair of gold medals in both 2009 and 2010 in the World Under-18 Championships. Having just turned 18 in October, Clendening will be draft eligible for the first time in 2011.

D Brian Dumoulin (Boston College, HEA)
6'4", 210 - 16-0-10-10-2
A stay-at-home type defenseman, Dumoulin is in his second season in Chestnut Hill. As a junior in high school in 2008, he led his hometown Biddeford, Maine team to a state championship with an undefeated season. The following year, he was drafted 51st (2nd round) overall in the 2009 NHL Draft by Carolina out of the EJHL. He led the Eagles with a +37 rating in 42 games, picking up 3 assists in the Frozen Four game against Miami.

D Justin Faulk (Minnesota-Duluth, WCHA)
5'11", 200 - 18-6-9-15-14
Probably the top young American defensive playmaker, Faulk, out of South St. Paul, Minn., was drafted 37th overall (2nd round) by Carolina in this year's draft. Blessed with a good shot and a solid hockey mind - meaning he knows what to do with the puck and when - Faulk is the top freshman scorer from the blueline in the WCHA. Expect him to be a key component of the team in Buffalo, especially on the power play.

D Derek Forbort (North Dakota, WCHA)
6'5", 200 - 15-0-9-9-6
The 15th overall (1st round) selection in this year's NHL Draft, Forbort uses his size to his advantage, utilizing his long reach to shut down passing lanes and making himself a menace in the corners. The Duluth, Minn. native played for Duluth East High School before moving on to the US NTDP team last year, where his draft stock rose exponentially, eventually becoming the 3rd highest American drafted in 2010, trailing only Campbell and Cam Fowler, who would be on this team if he were not already an everyday NHL player. With Dumoulin, he should be part of the defensive core of this team.

D Nick Leddy (Rockford, AHL)
5'11", 190 - 21-2-8-10-2
Leddy was unexpectedly missing from last year's camp roster thanks to a broken jaw suffered in his freshman season at the University of Minnesota. The 2009 "Mr. Hockey" in Minnesota, the Eden Prairie, Minn. native was drafted by his hometown Minnesota Wild with the 16th overall pick (1st round) in 2009, only to be traded to Chicago in the middle of last season amidst some controversy about his development at the U of M. One of the first freshmen to join the college exodus last year, Leddy has appeared in six games with the Blackhawks, during which time he scored his first NHL goal.

D Jon Merrill (Michigan, CCHA)
6'3", 209 - 19-5-8-13-4
The other likely blueline playmaker, Merrill was in the news recently when the freshman notched the first two goals of the game for the Wolverines at the Big Chill last weekend in front of over 113,000 fans. One of the final cuts from last year's team while playing for the US NTDP U-18 squad, the Brighton, Mich. native, was the 38th selection (2nd round) by New Jersey in this year's draft and has a lot less to worry about this time around.

D Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern, HEA)
6'7", 240 - 16-2-2-4-20
Something of a surprise selection to the camp, the 17-year-old Oleksiak scored his first collegiate goal against the Engineers at Matthews Arena on October 15th. The Boston native (who has dual citizenship in Canada) has that one quality that you simply can't teach - size. Greg Cronin at Northeastern has used Oleksiak much the way Zdeno Chara is used in the NHL on the power play, as the screening forward rather than at the point, and he was certainly very effective in that role when we last saw him. Oleksiak may be a longshot to make the final roster but he has a lot of raw talent and he will certainly, at the very least, be a name to remember for the future.

D John Ramage (Wisconsin, WCHA)
6'0", 201 - 20-1-7-8-26
A stalwart leader on last year's gold medal team despite his young age and controversial selection, Ramage is the only returning defenseman from last year. In Saskatchewan, the Chesterfield, Mo. native had three assists, including the primary assist on John Carlson's gold-medal winning goal in overtime. The son of 15-year NHL veteran Rob Ramage, John was drafted 103rd overall (4th round) in this year's NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames. He will more than likely be one of the team's captains and should be a physical presence on the blue line for the Yanks.

D Philip Samuelsson (Boston College, HEA)
6'2", 198 - 16-1-5-6-37
The son of NHL veteran defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, Philip was drafted 61st overall (2nd round) in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of his father's old teams. Born in Sweden but hailing from Scottsdale, Ariz., Samuelsson doesn't have his father's goonish reputation as a player, but he does have a significant physical aspect to his game, and does more offensive creation from the point than his old man did. He may have to fight for a spot in Buffalo given the outstanding physical talent we've already detailed on the blue line, but he's got his shot.

D Patrick Wey (Boston College, HEA)
6'2", 205 - 16-1-3-4-14
Like his BC teammate Samuelsson, Wey is one of the defensemen who will be battling for a position on the final roster. The 115th overall selection (4th round) by the Washington Capitals in 2009, Wey is, for all intents and purposes, a slightly bigger version of Ramage. He has good mobility and vision on the ice, but is not as physical as the WJC veteran from Wisconsin. Expect to see Wey, who hails from Pittsburgh, getting plenty of ice time in Troy looking to impress the coaching staff with his defensive prowess.


F Nick Bjugstad (Minnesota, WCHA)
6'4", 204 - 13-2-2-4-23
Minnesota's reigning "Mr. Hockey," Bjugstad turned down an offer from USA Hockey in the summer of 2008 to join the US National Team Player Development Program to stay with his teammates in his hometown of Blaine, Minn. Drafted 19th overall (1st round) by the Florida Panthers in this year's draft, he has had a rough start to his collegiate career after having to deal with a bout of mononucleosis in late October and into November, but he is now back in the Gopher lineup and there is little question to his ability.

F Ryan Bourque (Quebec, QMJHL)
5'9", 164 - 27-20-19-39-7
The son of legendary NHL defenseman Ray Bourque, Ryan has been a dominating force for the Remparts this season, currently leading the team in goals. He had only 3 assists in last year's tournament, but the Boxford, Mass. native should easily be on this year's team, quite possibly as a key component. Drafted by the New York Rangers with the 80th overall pick (3rd round) in 2009, Bourque originally committed to New Hampshire during his stint with the US NTDP before deciding to follow in the footsteps of both his father and his older brother, Chris (also a Team USA WJC veteran), by going to the QMJHL.

F Connor Brickley (Vermont, HEA)
6'1", 195 - 14-2-3-5-4
Brickley is one of those forwards who will need to fight for a spot on the final roster. A physical player out of Everett, Mass., Brickley was the 50th overall (2nd round) selection by the Florida Panthers in this year's draft. He isn't going to put the puck in the net as often as some of the other forwards that have been selected as part of the preliminary roster, but when it comes to standing up to the Canadians - who have always included a physical intimidation factor on their junior teams - Brickley may just be the kind of players Team USA needs in order to fight fire with fire.

F Chris Brown (Michigan, CCHA)
6'2", 194 - 19-2-8-10-12
One of the final camp cuts last season, Brown is back this season and more than likely, he'll be on the final roster heading to Buffalo this time. The Engineers faced off with the Flower Mound, Texas native in the GLI last season, where he was one of the Wolverines shooting early and often at Allen York, uncorking 5 shots, though none of them ultimately found the back of the net. The 36th overall (2nd round) selection of Phoenix in 2009, Brown hasn't been wowing anyone in Ann Arbor with only a couple of power play goals to his credit through two-and-a-half months of the season, but his value on a team like this as a banger who has some proven offensive ability cannot be understated - he could play a role similar to the role Josh Rabbani plays at RPI.

F Mitch Callahan (Kelowna, WHL)
5'11", 175 - 31-15-18-33-62
Another somewhat surprising choice, Callahan was likely asked to join the camp for his imposing physical play more than anything else. A forward that plays bigger than his actual size, Callahan, a native of Whittier, Calif., is in his third season with the Rockets and currently leads the team in scoring. He's an interesting selection because he was not one of the 26 forwards invited to the junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid this summer, but he has the ability to play his way onto the team thanks to his multi-faceted game.

F Charlie Coyle (Boston University, HEA)
6'2", 207 - 17-5-9-14-16
The Engineers were able to keep Coyle bottled up last weekend - he had only a first-period hooking call as his only statistic of the game, no shots - but there's little doubt that he's one of the emerging stars not only of the Terriers, but in Hockey East in general. Already trusted to center Jack Parker's first line, Coyle was drafted 28th (1st round) in this year's draft by the San Jose Sharks. The East Weymouth, Mass. native is one of only three true centers on the preliminary roster, so it's entirely possible that he's one of the names who's already being planned for the final roster, but his offensive contributions at BU would have him as a favorite to make the roster anyway.

F Jerry D'Amigo (Toronto, AHL)
5'11", 213 - 29-3-6-9-17
The man who needs no introduction. The first Engineer to ever sign a professional contract after just one season in Troy (though he would be joined by Brandon Pirri in that category just a few weeks later), D'Amigo makes his valedictory appearance at Houston Field House as an experienced member of the defending champions and the highest returning scorer from last year's tournament. The Binghamton, N.Y. native was a revelation in Saskatchewan last year, boosting his value with the Toronto Maple Leafs team that had drafted him 158th overall in 2009. He played wing on the top line with Derek Stepan (now of the New York Rangers) and Danny Kristo (still with North Dakota), putting up 6 goals and 6 assists as one of the key playmakers for the gold medal winning Yanks.

F Emerson Etem (Medicine Hat, WHL)
6'1", 197 - 31-20-14-34-16
Yet another member of the record-breaking class of Americans chosen in the first round of this year's draft, Etem, out of Long Beach, Calif., was chosen 29th overall (1st round) by his hometown Anaheim Ducks despite being ranked 8th in the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau rankings. Inspired by Sidney Crosby, Etem played two seasons at Crosby's alma mater, Shattuck-St. Mary's, in Minnesota before moving on to the US NTDP team in 2008, where he was teammates with D'Amigo. He's having a great year in the WHL, playing alongside fellow American Tyler Pitlick, who was a surprising omission from this roster.

F Rocco Grimaldi (US National Team Development Program, USHL)
5'6", 161 - 12-8-7-15-14
The only Junior A level player on the camp roster, Grimaldi, a North Dakota commit, is expected to be one of the best incoming players in the NCAA next season. He scores in bunches on one of the most elite collections of teenage Americans in the nation. Obviously, one of the things noticeable immediately with Grimaldi is his size - he doesn't have any. But size isn't always everything, as the 17-year-old out of Rossmoor, Calif. has proven pretty much everywhere he's played by displaying outstanding stickhandling and significant speed. Among his teammates on the US NTDP team is forward Ryan Haggerty, who has an RPI commitment for 2011. His size and his youth may make his selection for the final roster questionable, but his status as one of the three true centers on the team may help punch his ticket.

F Chris Kreider (Boston College, HEA)
6'2", 214 - 16-5-6-11-10
Kreider had a pretty amazing freshman year last season. Not only was he a key member of the gold-medal winning junior team (7-6-1-7-2), he also won the national championship (scoring a goal in the title game) and was even called back up by USA Hockey after the season to play alongside professionals in the World Championships in Germany in May. That was a disastrous showing for the USA - in part because they had to resort to calling in a college player to fill out the squad - but a huge honor for a player just finishing his freshman season and an indication of the regard they have for the Boxford, Mass. native. The New York Rangers drafted Kreider 19th overall (1st round) in 2009, and he was perhaps the most notable name not to jump to the NHL last summer.

F Jeremy Morin (Rockford, AHL)
6'1", 189 - 17-6-3-9-32
Morin had a solid tournament last year (2 goals, 5 assists) that, like D'Amigo, helped him land a professional contract. Expected to be a key part of this team as a WJC veteran, his professional responsibilities may ultimately keep him from being in Buffalo for the tournament or even in Troy for the training camp - injuries to Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa have already resulted in a call-up to the NHL.. Drafted 45th overall (2nd round) by Atlanta in 2009 but traded to Chicago in the Dustin Byfuglien deal only days after signing with the Thrashers, the Auburn, N.Y. native has appeared in seven games for Chicago this year, registering his first two NHL goals on his current callup, earning one assist and a fight on his previous stint.

F Brock Nelson (North Dakota, WCHA)
6'3", 185 - 20-2-4-6-2
Nelson has the bonafides to be a part of this team - nephew of Dave Christian, who was a member of the Miracle On Ice team and in whose footsteps he has followed, playing high school hockey at Warroad High School in northern Minnesota and enrolling at North Dakota. He was drafted 10 spots higher than his uncle, going 30th overall (1st round) to the New York Islanders in this year's draft, but the Minneapolis native has struggled to stand out in Grand Forks, where he has mostly found only third-line time. Nelson will have to step up his game to land on the final roster in Buffalo, given that he is now surrounded by even more talent than he usually is in North Dakota.

F Matt Nieto (Boston University, HEA)
6'0", 180 - 17-5-1-6-4
Allen York needs no introduction to this speedy Long Beach, Calif. native - one of the two shots he had on net last weekend was on a breakaway in the second period which York stoned in order to, at least momentarily, preserve a shutout. Nieto is a powder keg offensively, but with so many veterans from last season returning and with so many solid older offensive talents on the roster, it may be difficult for Nieto to find a role in which he can excel despite his long international history, since most of the names who will feature on the top two lines are pretty well known already, and he really doesn't fit well on a defensive or checking line.

F Kyle Palmieri (Syracuse, AHL)
5'10", 194 - 20-9-4-13-17
Yet another camp invitee with service on the team last season and NHL experience under his belt, Palmieri had nine points (1 goal and 8 assists) in last year's tournament and was part of the youth exodus from the NCAA this summer, leaving Notre Dame after just one season. Palmieri, out of Montvale, N.J., has played 10 games this season with the Anaheim Ducks alongside fellow WJC alum Cam Fowler (who is still with the Ducks), notching his first career NHL goal. He has pretty much cleaned up in the AHL this season as well - despite missing 7 games for the Crunch and being the youngest player on the team, Palmieri, the 26th overall selection (1st round) by the Ducks in 2009, leads the team in goals.

F Brandon Saad (Saginaw, OHL)
6'2", 211 - 30-20-14-34-18
One word describes Saad very well: speed. The swift of skate Gibsonia, Pa. native was drafted in the 1st round of the OHL draft as a 15-year-old, and he was well worth the wait for Saginaw. In his first season of major junior since leaving the US NTDP squad, he is second on the team in goals and third in total scoring. Even at the age of 18, he's already got a pro style frame, and most scouts believe he will be first American taken in the 2011 draft. With those kind of bonafides, Saad may be an excellent fit on this year's final roster not only for this season but with an eye on leadership for the 2012 WJC squad.

F Drew Shore (Denver, WCHA)
6'2", 200 - 20-14-11-25-18
A shoo-in for the final roster, Shore is the leading scorer for the Pioneers thus far, having already eclipsed his freshman year scoring output in only 18 games. The 44th overall (2nd round) selection of the Florida Panthers in the 2009 draft, the Denver native is not only playing in his hometown with the Pioneers, he's also playing with his younger brother, Nick, who was invited to the summer camp in Lake Placid but did not earn a spot on this roster, in part due to a hand injury that kept him out for a month. Drew, meanwhile, is 4th in the nation (and tops in the WCHA) among sophomores in points per game.

F Jason Zucker (Denver, WCHA)
5'11", 180 - 20-14-7-21-26
Last but not least, a veteran of last year's gold medal team that was the youngest on the roster, but has stepped into college hockey without missing a beat. Sharing the same line with Shore, Zucker has been part of one of the most dynamic young duos in all of college hockey, one of only three freshmen in the WCHA among the Top 10 rookies in points per game. Zucker, from Las Vegas, Nev., scored two goals as a 17-year-old and likely be a part not only of this team, but of next year's team in 2012 - along with Jack Campbell, the only gold medalist from last year who will still be eligible, presuming, of course, that he doesn't get the call from the NHL before then - he was drafted 59th overall (2nd round) by the Minnesota Wild in this year's draft.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ECAC Power Rankings (December)

Time for our second round of power rankings - and these serve as a bit of a "first half" power ranking as well, given that only three teams (Colgate, St. Lawrence, and Union) have games that count remaining before Christmas.

1. Yale (11-1-0, 6-0-0 ECAC) - Being that they're the #1 team in the country, the country being a set that includes the ECAC as a subset, who else was supposed to be here? Seriously, given their record, there's no question about this one. Brian Sullivan last week theorized that if this team stays healthy, they have a chance to go undefeated in league play and after seeing them against RPI and Union, I'm hard pressed to say he's wrong. Over the last month, the defensive question marks appear to have been answered by a combination of puck possession and Ryan Rondeau in net.
Next up: Holy Cross on Jan. 2, at Dartmouth/Harvard on Jan. 7/8

2. RPI (9-4-3, 3-3-0 ECAC) - There's still practically nothing between RPI and Union, but the Engineers' results in the last couple of weeks nudges them ahead of the Dutchmen this month. The hard-fought, close game with Yale and the blowout of Brown contrasts with Union's close win over Brown and getting blown out by Yale. Throw in the convincing victory over BU and the reawakening of the offense (4 or more goals in four of the last six) and RPI's just ahead here. Given that the Engineers presently have had the most difficult schedule to date in the ECAC according to the computer rankings, their record is all the more impressive.
Next up: at Alabama-Huntsville on Dec. 30/31, Clarkson/St. Lawrence on Jan. 7/8

3. Union (10-3-3, 3-2-1 ECAC) - Here's the (very) slight knock on Union. Four of their wins have come at home against Army (54th in KRACH), American International (55th) and Sacred Heart (dead last). Now, the Dutchmen righteously destroyed those teams by a combined score of 30-6 in those four games, befitting their status as a top team, but given RPI's recent accomplishments, Union is here this month. But as mentioned above, there's not much between the teams. Their big tests will be coming in the next four games on the road.
Next up: at Western Michigan on Dec. 18/19, at #19 Minnesota/vs. Bemidji State on Dec. 31/Jan. 1

4. Dartmouth (6-4-1, 5-2-1 ECAC) - Any other season, Dartmouth would be under serious consideration as the top team in the ECAC before last Sunday given their resumé and considering nothing else, but this is no ordinary season. As it is, the Big Green are pretty firmly in the fourth position right now behind a monster of a team and a pair of travel partners who have continued to impress. The schedule gives the Big Green ample opportunity to stay among the top teams in the league, with five straight games coming up at home to close out their overall seven-game homestand, but that stretch includes a likely game with Boston College and a matchup with Yale. Their offense has been mostly unquestionable since that RPI/Union weekend a month back, their defense absolutely must keep pace.
Next up: Mercyhurst on Dec. 30, #5 Boston College or Colgate on Dec. 31, #1 Yale/Brown on Jan. 7/8

5. Princeton (8-5-0, 6-3-0 ECAC) - Still holding down the fifth spot a month later, the Tigers have proven that their hot start was no fluke. Winners of 8 of their last 10 games, Princeton has lit the lamp at least three times in each of their last five games while limiting their opponents to two or fewer goals in six of the last eight. The latter stat has been the touchstone for the Tigers of late - they have lost both of the games in which the opponent was able to reach three goals. The best news, however, is the upcoming schedule - the way things are going for the teams they have coming up, the Tigers may not face another tough game until their rematch with Clarkson in late January, certainly an opportune chance for Princeton to pick up some wins and position themselves for the bye.
Next up: vs. Bowling Green on Dec. 29, vs. Holy Cross or UConn on Dec. 30, Quinnipiac on Jan. 3

6. Clarkson (10-5-2, 4-2-1 ECAC) - The Golden Knights are certainly on their way up - for the most part, already having destroyed preseason expectations by reaching the 10-win mark before Christmas and now are in prime position to at least be at home in the first week of March. The reason that Clarkson isn't already ranked higher is fairly simple: they haven't played too many challenging teams yet this season. A 5-3 win over Princeton on Dec. 3 rates as their best win to date, part of a tear of six wins in their last seven games. The Knights have an opportunity to prove themselves in a big way coming in their next five games after the New Year, however - two games at home against recent #1 Minnesota-Duluth, followed by road games at nationally ranked RPI and Union and a road trip to current #1 Yale and Brown.
Next up: #4 Minnesota-Duluth on Jan. 3/4, at #14 RPI/#12 Union on Jan. 7/8

7. Brown (3-4-4, 2-3-1 ECAC) - The Bears have been moderately impressive from time to time this season, but the terrible defensive situation has not changed. Brown was in position to score road wins over New Hampshire and BU in the span of just five days, but defensive letdowns forced them to settle for ties. Then they wilted in the face of tough defenses and offensive outbursts from Union and RPI. The Bears impressed by sweeping Colgate and Cornell on the road, something they don't seem to have done in quite some time, and then reaching at least those UNH and BU ties in four straight games, but those ties now represent the beginning of five game winless streak after tying Providence in the Mayor's Cup.
Next up: vs. #10 Boston University on Jan. 1, vs. Michigan State or #12 Notre Dame on Jan. 2, at Harvard/Dartmouth on Jan. 7/8

8. Quinnipiac (8-9-1, 4-5-1 ECAC) - The best news for the Bobcats in the last month has been in completing the season sweep of Harvard. Besides a home win over Dartmouth on Nov. 19, that's also the only good news they've had, as every other game has been a loss. It's been the defense that has been suspect in that stretch, which includes a tough weekend being swept at home by Clarkson and St. Lawrence. If they can get straightened out, however, the Q does have the possibility of a pair of statement games on the way as they welcome a UNO team that has been surprisingly excellent for much of the year just after Christmas. A good showing in that series could set the tone for the rest of the campaign, in which the Bobcats are likely to be fighting for a home ice berth in the first round.
Next up: #8 Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 30/31, at Princeton on Jan. 3

9. Cornell (4-6-1, 2-4-0 ECAC) - Any thoughts that Cornell was merely stumbling out of the gate that were prevalent at this time last month have been pretty thoroughly dashed at this point, and it now looks like the Big Red are going to have a difficult season. Cornell is a stupefying 2-5-1 at home this season, including a stretch of four straight ECAC contests in which the Big Red went 1-3-0. Where Brown and Quinnipiac have largely been struggling defensively, offense is the problem in Ithaca. When they score goals, they are usually in good shape despite a less than standard Cornell defense, but when they don't, it's a long night. They're unbeaten in three straight, but those games were against Colgate and two at home against 2-14-2 Alabama-Huntsville, the second of which was a tie. It doesn't get easier going forward, as they will be without top goaltender Andy Iles for the next four games.
Next up: vs. St. Cloud State on Dec. 29, vs. #6 Miami or #9 Maine on Dec. 30, at Princeton/Quinnipiac on Jan. 7/8

10. St. Lawrence (3-8-3, 3-4-0 ECAC) - The growing pains continue in Canton, but the Saints can at least take heart in the fact that this kind of season was practically expected. St. Lawrence has been just about a .500 team in conference, but most of those games have come at home (and one was in Potsdam). Defense remains the issue - freshman Matt Weninger is showing signs of the top goaltender he could grow into, but right now opposing teams continue to feast on him. Freshman Greg Carey is a legitimate contender for Rookie of the Year, but with sophomore Kyle Flanagan, he is shouldering the lion's share of the offensive responsibility. That's rarely a recipe for success. SLU is still looking for its first non-conference win, which they should at least be able to get by their last non-conference game against hapless Sacred Heart.
Next up: Vermont on Dec. 18, at #2 New Hampshire on Jan. 2, at Sacred Heart on Jan. 3

11. Harvard (2-8-0, 2-7-0 ECAC) - Whatever positives the Crimson were working with a month ago seem to have shriveled up and disappeared. After an upset win over RPI and another league win over St. Lawrence in early November, Harvard has proceeded to drop seven in a row, including four at the hands of Dartmouth and Quinnipiac. For a short time, the Crimson boasted the best defense in the nation, albeit with a small sample size, giving up only 7 goals in their first 4 games. The last four games have been especially brutal, as Harvard has been outscored 19-6 in that stretch, meaning both the offense and the defense has been out of sorts. Fortunately, they start out their second half with some lighter fare before jumping back into an ECAC schedule that they've been largely unable to tame thus far.
Next up: vs. Army on Jan. 1, at Vermont on Jan. 2, Brown/#1 Yale on Jan. 7/8

12. Colgate (3-10-1, 0-5-1 ECAC) - The Raiders continue to greatly underwhelm. Their only victories on the season are a pair against Army and one against Sacred Heart - see Union's entry for the magnitude of that truth. In the last month, they've also lost on two separate occasions to Niagara, a team that, while no slouch, Colgate was certainly not expecting to fall to twice. Only Alabama-Huntsville and Sacred Heart are ranked lower in KRACH than the Raiders. That's how rough it's been in Hamilton. Though their last two wins have been via shutout, they've given up four or more goals in eight of their last ten games. The offense hasn't even been that bad, as they've reached three goals in six of those ten games, and yet they're just 1-8-1 during that stretch. This weekend's games in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris need to be the firebreak, or it's going to be a long, long winter for the 'Gate.
Next up: at Robert Morris on Dec. 18/19, vs. #5 Boston College on Dec. 30, vs. Mercyhurst or Dartmouth on Dec. 31