Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Know Thyself: RPI

The last couple of years that I've put together the Know Your Enemy summer series, I batted around the idea of putting something together on RPI using the same formula and the same criteria. This year, with the relatively quiet summer we've had, I decided to give it a whirl. So here you go.

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 (7th season)
2011-12 Record: 12-24-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 10th place)
All-Time Record: 979-867-114 (954-794-108 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 Nick Bailen, sr.; F C.J. Lee, sr.; G Bryce Merriam, sr.; F Marty O'Grady, sr.; F Brock Higgs, jr.; F Matt Tinordi, jr.; F Ryan Haggerty, so.; F Jacob Laliberte, so.; D Curtis Leonard, so.; F Mark McGowan, so.; F Zach Schroeder, so.; D Chris Bradley, fr.; G Jason Kasdorf, fr.; F Mike Zalewski, fr.

Key losses: F Patrick Cullen, D Mike Bergin, F Joel Malchuk

(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.)

I'm going to dispense with the history lesson that accompanies these capsules when we're covering a team for the first time because... well, because our primary readership already knows these things. Not really worth rehashing last year's performance for the same reason.

So how does this year's RPI team stack up with the rest of the league? Honestly, it's tough to say for sure. The offense simply has to be a lot better than it was last year, because even though the Engineers bring back 9 of their top 10 scorers from last year (a better percentage than any other team in the league), none of them were scoring with great frequency to begin with last season. Surely, a great deal of the hope lies in the sophomore class of forwards, which last year formed the backbone of the team's scoring threat while going through the requisite growing pains you see from freshmen.

Defensively, RPI brings back enough to be competitive (especially bringing in an NHL draftee in Kasdorf between the pipes) with probably the fourth best returning D-corps in the league behind Union, Cornell, and Quinnipiac. Bergin was a leader defensively, but Bradley should be a solid replacement and the rest of the returning defense all have decent arguments for lots of playing time.

The offense will be key - last year's 2.00 goals per game average simply will not come close to cutting it, especially considering that it placed the Engineers 54th out of 59 Division I teams offensively. Injuries decimated an already fragile scoring scheme last year, so staying healthy will be key, but growth will be important too. Can the young forwards, still brimming with potential, get the job done this season?

Also worth noting - a 20-win season would put the program on the cusp of 1,000 wins, with 21 enough to roll the odometer. Is it in them? The conventional wisdom says it'll be tough. It's certainly going to be a matter of reaching potential this season, especially on offense. At this point, it's a wait-and-see attitude.

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