Following last year's exhibition game with the Acadia Axemen, the Engineers were prohibitive favorites to win the national championship. Or at least, you would have thought so given game's turnout, the reaction to what was seen, and some of the expectations coming off of an NCAA tournament appearance. Two goals for Ryan Haggerty. A goal and two assists for Zach Schroeder. A 19-save shutout for Scott Diebold. All three of those stars of the game, part of an anticipated freshman class. A 7-0 demolition in front of a larger-than-usual exhibition crowd.
Our writeup was a little more reserved, given the general unpredictability of just what one can take away from an exhibition contest, which always features a longer bench than normal and plenty of different line permutations.
Acadia last year was coming off of a strong season and had been undefeated in their five prior exhibition matchups in Canada, so there was, at the time, every reason to believe the the Engineers had just laid the smackdown on a pretty solid team. Unfortunately, it turned out to be nothing of a harbinger whatsoever, as RPI took six games to score the seven goals they had tallied in the exhibition, four of them coming in just one of those six games. Meanwhile, the defense allowed four goals or more in five of the team's first eight contests.
Acadia, incidentally, went on to finish fifth in the eight-team Atlantic University Sport, making the playoffs but falling in a best-of-three quarterfinal series against fourth-ranked Prince Edward Island, two games to one. Still, the Axemen did turn out to be the only team to land two players on the AUS All-Stars first team, with Andrew Clark (who led the league in scoring) and Christopher Owens both earning the honor, and both players are back with the team this season, as is Evan Mosher, who allowed 7 goals on 34 shots against the Engineers last season. In fact, a good number of the same players that were in Troy last year with the Wolfville, Nova Scotia team will be back this season.
So what should we expect from Saturday's game? Well, expect an exciting opportunity to see this year's team for the first time. Expect a solid opportunity to see the freshmen play for the first time. Expect a fun night. And don't expect to translate what you see into anything you can apply for next week's games against the national runners-up, Ferris State.
Bear in mind not only last year's result and subsequent rough season, but consider also that the 2005-06 Engineers lit up the University of Ottawa by a 13-3 score on their way to a 14-17-6 season. In fact, since that game in 2005 (the first season opening exhibition game against a Canadian team since 1994), the Engineers are 2-1-1 in Canadian exhibitions - and the only times RPI skated to a winning season were following the tie (2009 against Prince Edward Island) and the loss (2010 against New Brunswick).