Friday, January 31, 2014

Northern Exposure

Both the men and the women tangle with the North Country this weekend, the men doing it on the road in the Great White North, the women doing it from the comfortable confines of Houston Field House.

The weekend couldn't have gone much worse for the women last weekend, as they had the opportunity to reach 5th place but are currently in a tie for the last playoff position, 8th. (We'd say they're in 8th, since they have a game in hand over Dartmouth, but they do lose the tiebreaker to the Big Green.) That's the bad news. The good news is that there's a major log jam in the middle of the ECAC, from 5th to 9th, five teams separated by a whopping two points.

That's what makes tonight's game against St. Lawrence all that much more important. With a win tonight, the Engineers would move into a tie with the Saints for as high as 5th. A loss would not only put them four points behind SLU, it would leave them dangling on the edge with a game against #4 Clarkson looming tomorrow. From here on out, each weekend has necessary points, and those are tonight for RPI.

For the men... well, if the weekend could be swapped, that probably would have been better. No Seth Appert, and four players suspended for tonight's game against a much-improved Clarkson squad with a defense that has them in basically every game. Being without two important goal scorers puts kind of a crimp in the plans - any points tonight have got to be considered premium.

Saturday, the Engineers return to full strength against a St. Lawrence team that is in absolute free-fall right now. Especially if Friday turns sour, those are going to be some key points to pick up going forward.

Both teams stand at a crossroads of what they've done and what they need to do this weekend. Here's a pumpup for you that elaborates on that point.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


The supplemental discipline came down from the league on Monday for the tussle at the TU Center on Saturday night, and it generated plenty of additional discussion - enough that another round of suspensions came down last night.

The ECAC did get some things right. The referees deserve credit for getting it right when they issued game DQs to Mat Bodie, Mike Zalewski, Eli Lichtenwald, and Luke Curadi. Each certainly was guilty of an offense that, by the book, warranted such a penalty. The league got it right by sanctioning Bodie an extra game considering he was the genesis of the whole thing, and by banning Bo Dolan for tomorrow's game since the RPI senior was pretty out of control coming off the bench.

For the life of me, after reviewing the videos, I can't figure out what exactly it was that Daniel Ciampini and Ryan Haggerty did during the whole mess that would have warranted a suspension. The worst thing Ciampini did seems to have been to pull Jake Wood's helmet off his head. But if that's all it takes, why not Brock Higgs for pulling Bodie's helmet off, or Mike Vecchione for pulling Bo Dolan's off?

As for Haggerty, there are only two things I can see - he was the first one off the bench to engage a Union player, but then again, he was also sized up and popped in the grill by Daniel Carr. If what Haggerty did was suspendable, where's Carr's suspension? The other is that he may have been taunting Rick Bennett after the majority of the blowup near the benches was over, he's seen on camera kind of waving Bennett away. That's... pretty thin.

I'm not saying that Higgs or Vecchione or Carr should have been suspended, mind you, I'm only making direct comparisons.

Seth Appert originally was not suspended for his actions when the league put out its supplemental discipline on Monday. That surprised us a little bit, we thought he'd get at least a game off. He did, after all, have to be restrained by his own players - while Bennett was going after him, he did seem to have an eye on going after Bennett. So the game that the league suspended him for yesterday was appropriate, but it should have been sent down on Monday in order to give the team enough time to properly prepare.

But the most glaring omission - originally - was the league's failure to tack any additional games onto the suspension handed down by Union College to Bennett. He struck an opposing student-athlete.

Mike Eidelbes from INCH wrote a good argument for a lengthy suspension being appropriate. He suggested that Bennett should have been suspended for the remainder of the season. That's not an exaggerated or overblown idea.

This isn't a personal thing against Rick Bennett by any stretch of the imagination. If all of this could simply be based on Bennett generally being a soft-spoken, nice guy (and he is), that no one got hurt, that he's genuinely remorseful for his actions (and he is), that Milos Bubela was wearing his helmet when he was struck, that he wasn't intending to hit Bubela (and he almost certainly wasn't), then yes, perhaps just the two-game suspension would have been fair enough.

But the basic description is difficult to swallow. A head coach threw a punch, and struck an opposing student-athlete. That's an extremely unconscionable action, no matter who's doing it, why, and whether it was intentional. Taking swings in the first place is a huge part of the problem.

The incident immediately conjured up thoughts of the 1978 Gator Bowl, the infamous incident in which legendary and long-time Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was fired after punching Clemson's Charlie Bauman following an interception that basically clinched the game for Clemson. It called to mind Mark Morris' firing in 2002 by Clarkson for assaulting one of his own players in practice. Both of those incidents outline an important element - it simply is not OK for a coach to act with violence upon a student-athlete.

The caveats listed above are true. It wasn't an intentional move, but would it have been somehow better if he'd hit his likely target instead, Seth Appert? What if Bubela's helmet had come off at some point and instead of making contact with the helmet, he'd socked him right in the side of the head?

I like Rick Bennett as a person - I've had the opportunity twice to interview him and he seems like a nice guy. But coaches must be held to a higher standard. Having an equivalent penalty to that of the player on his team responsible for starting the whole conflagration isn't fitting of that higher standard.

I've never been sure exactly what the appropriate punishment was supposed to be. I've never thought termination was the appropriate response, considering the above caveats. But one weekend? The league originally missed an opportunity to reinforce the notion that coaches set an example for their team, and should be held to a higher standard. If the entire season was too much, you'd think a suspension that lasted at least through a couple of weekends, meaning a home and a road weekend in this case, might have been in order. Thankfully, even if it was a bit late, that appears to be the message the ECAC now sees fit to send.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Men's Hockey - Dartmouth and the Mayor's Cup (24/25 Jan)

In a weekend where a reeling team desperately needed a jumpstart, the RPI Engineers took steps to put the season back on track with a big pair of victories. The first win, a 4-2 victory against Dartmouth on Friday night, gave the Engineers two important ECAC points, while the second one, a 2-1 victory in the Mayor's Cup game against Union, finally got a monkey off the team's back and provided a solid upset victory that is likely to serve as some kind of turning point in the season, depending on the impact of the much talked about aftermath.




A jumbling of the lines from the last time the Engineers were on the ice nearly two weeks prior was in the cards for RPI's first home game in over a month. The jumble created a pair of scoring lines and what Seth Appert called "two third lines." Craig Bokenfohr also made the lineup for just the second time this year.

The first period consisted mostly of a feeling out process for both teams, neither playing overly physical and neither contesting too many decent scoring opportunties. The period ended with the Engineers holding a 10-6 shot edge.

RPI got things going quickly in the second period with Ryan Haggerty snapping his goal-scoring drought with his first goal since December 7. He scored off the post and in on a one-timer in the slot from a pass by Brock Higgs to make it 1-0 with his 19th goal of the season.

From there the physical play picked up significantly on both sides, but it was RPI being called for all of the penalties, taking three penalties in a row (two to Johnny Rogic), but the Big Green power play was unable to convert on any of them.

About a minute after the second Rogic penalty ended, RPI made it 2-0 on a tic-tac-toe play. Haggerty, with the puck behind the RPI net, passed to Jacob Laliberte near the slot, and Laliberte one-touched a pass to Milos Bubela on the side of the cage. Bubela's one-timer hit a wide open net to double the RPI lead.

Three minutes later, Dartmouth scored shortly after a faceoff in the RPI zone with a shot from the point that went through a screen, forcing Diebold to dive too late to his left to stop the puck. That goal made it 2-1.

With the next goal crucial, RPI regained their two-goal edge a little under eight minutes into the third period as Matt Neal scored down low with his 10th goal of the season to make it 3-1 Engineers. But four minutes later, Dartmouth would get the goal back shortly after killing a penalty. With the penalized player streaking out of the box, the Big Green found him with a head-man pass, creating a breakaway that they scored to Diebold's left.

With Dartmouth's goaltender pulled late in the game, it looked like the Engineers were in for another nailbiting ending as the Big Green pushed hard for the tying goal. The pressure wasn't truly relieved until there were only about 10 seconds left as Mike Zalewski jumped on a loose puck and brought it down ice, getting an open look at the empty net before being hauled down from behind while coming up the boards. The referees, after initial consultation, awarded a penalty shot which was registered as an automatic goal since there was no goaltender in the net, sealing the win for the Engineers with about six seconds left in the game.

The victory snapped a six-game winless streak and a four-game losing streak for the Engineers, producing their first win since a 5-2 triumph over Princeton in early December.




The challenge of one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, and the Engineers' most fierce rival, was next on neutral turf. The designated home team this year, RPI rolled with the same lineup on Saturday night that had procured victory on Friday.

The Engineers actually controlled much of the play in the first 20 minutes but, as can happen against a solid team like Union, ended up trailing 1-0 due to a spot error that was pounced upon. After an early penalty kill, RPI got a power play of their own and were looking fairly decent on that advantage until the puck squirted away and into the neutral zone behind all five members of the top power play unit, all forwards. Shayne Gostisbehere raced after the puck, which preceded him down ice and into the RPI zone. Diebold elected not to play the puck, and the Union junior took it behind the RPI net and wrapped it around and in without any challenge from Engineer skaters, making it 1-0 on a shorthanded goal.

Union appeared to come out of the locker room flat in the second period, and the Engineers pounced to capitalize, dominating possession in the Union zone before Bubela notched his second goal of the weekend about five minutes in to make it 1-1. For the next five minutes, it appeared that a 2-1 RPI lead was inevitable, so out of sorts were the Dutchmen on defense. Interestingly, a Union penalty to Matt Hatch seemed to be the spark that snapped the Dutchmen out of their funk, as the ensuing power play by the Engineers never got out of the gate, only once even gaining the attacking zone and never truly getting set up.

That kill, along with a pair of RPI penalties that created a tense 3-on-5 penalty killing situation for the Engineers, definitely swung all the momentum back in the Union direction, but Diebold and his defense stood strong through the onslaught, making 9 saves in the final 10 minutes of the second period to preserve the 1-1 tie.

The referees swallowed their whistles during the third period, though they didn't have much of an excuse to use them anyway in what was definitely turning into a solid back and forth battle between the rivals. Union appeared to mostly have the upperhand for the third period, but RPI was getting their own scoring opportunities from time to time as well. The breakthrough came with 3:38 left in regulation, as Zalewski scored his second goal of the weekend to give the Engineers a 2-1 lead somewhat against the flow of play.

Union wasted no time in pulling their goaltender, going with six skaters just over a minute later. The Dutchmen buzzed the RPI zone, looking for that tying goal, and the Engineers could scarcely move the puck out of the zone. The Engineers iced the puck a few times, but that was the best they seemed to be able to do. Scott Diebold continued coming up large, including making a diving glove save with just about 30 seconds left on the clock.

An icing call with 1.7 seconds left created one final chance in the RPI zone for Union, but Zalewski won the faceoff back into an empty corner to kill the rest of the clock and give the Engineers the weekend sweep, the Mayor's Cup, and their first victory over Union in 11 tries over the last three seasons.

There were other things that happened in the immediate interim, you may have heard about them.

The victory completed RPI's first weekend sweep since twin victories over Sacred Heart and BU in late October, and marked the Engineers' first win of the season that did not include a goal by Ryan Haggerty.

Other junk - Despite the rebound, the Engineers are only at .500, still not enough to garner any votes in the latest USCHO poll. Ranked ECAC teams include #3 Quinnipiac (idle, up one), #4 Union (beat Harvard and lost to RPI, down one), #11 Cornell (tied SLU and beat Clarkson, up one), #13 Yale (split with Brown, down three), #15 Clarkson (swept at Colgate/Cornell, down two), and #18 Colgate (swept Clarkson/SLU, previously unranked). No other ECAC teams picked up votes. Eight different ECAC teams have been ranked this season with the addition of Colgate, including all six New York teams. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (no change with 44 of 50 first place votes), #2 Boston College (no change with 6 of 50 first place votes), #6 Ferris State (no change), and #16 Denver (no change). New Hampshire (7) and Mercyhurst (2) also received votes.

Mike Zalewski and Luke Curadi picked up game-disqualifications in the unpleasantness after the Mayor's Cup game was over, they will not be able to play this coming Friday. Supplemental discipline handed down by the ECAC on Monday will also make Ryan Haggerty and Bo Dolan ineligible on Friday.

At 19 goals, Haggerty is tied for 2nd in the nation with Boston College's Kevin Hayes. Hayes' teammate, Johnny Gaudreau, leads with 22. Haggerty is 11th in the nation in points per game (1.30), second in goals per game (0.83), and fifth in power-play goals with 8.

Jacob Laliberte has jumped into the top 20 in the nation in assists per game at 0.78.

Jake Wood has 53 penalty minutes this season, Brock Higgs has 49 and Mike Zalewski 47, all more than Milos Bubela last season, the team leader with 43. Wood leads a team that is currently 3rd in the nation in total penalty minutes per game (17.3).

The North Country trip beckons at one of the most difficult points in the season to go - when it's massively cold out. The far tougher game will come on Friday, against nationally ranked Clarkson with four regular starters serving a suspension. They will all be available on Saturday, against a struggling St. Lawrence squad.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 20 points (10-2-0)
2. Colgate - 19 points (9-3-1)
3. Quinnipiac - 19 points (8-2-3)
4. Clarkson - 16 points (8-4-0)
5. Cornell - 16 points (6-3-4)
6. Yale - 13 points (5-4-3)
7. Brown - 11 points (5-6-1)
8. RPI - 11 points (4-5-3)
9. St. Lawrence - 7 points (2-7-3)
10. Harvard - 7 points (2-9-3)
11. Princeton - 6 points (3-9-0)
12. Dartmouth - 5 points (2-10-1)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC Game - Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
1/24/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Dartmouth 2

College Hockey Stats
RECORD: 9-10-4 (4-5-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

RPI vs. #3 Union
Mayor's Cup Game - Times Union Center (Albany, NY)
1/25/14 - 7:30pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Union 1

RECORD: 10-10-4 (4-5-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

Upcoming games
31 Jan - at #15 Clarkson
01 Feb - at St. Lawrence
07 Feb - #13 Yale
08 Feb - Brown (Big Red Freakout!)
14 Feb - at #18 Colgate

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Breakdown of Discipline

Before too much time has gone by, and before we get to the actual hockey part of the weekend, here's what we saw on video in the already much-discussed blowup that took place at the end of the Mayor's Cup game in Albany on Saturday night.

The game itself was not televised, but it took place in front of a passionate (reported) crowd of 7,100 fans. Two fans and a member of the media caught enough video of what happened to be able to string together a solid narrative on how things transpired.

These are the three videos we've used to piece everything together:
Justin Andrews
Frank Charbonier

Here's how it all appears to have gone down. I've tried to be as dispassionate as possible at what I was looking at, bearing in mind that there's no way to know what was being said on the ice.


Brock Higgs gained possession after a 6-on-5 sequence in the RPI zone as the waning seconds of the third period ticked down. He shot it down ice to kill more of the clock, causing an icing call after Union raced to the faceoff dots with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Mike Vecchione and Mike Zalewski squared off in the faceoff circle to Scott Diebold's left. The RPI setup was twofold. Plan A was for Zalewski to win the faceoff back into an empty corner, which would be enough to drain the remainder of the clock and win the game. Plan B, if Union won the draw, was to move the remaining four players lined up in the slot to cut down on shooting lanes and block any shots. For Union it was fairly straight forward - win the puck back to either Mat Bodie near the boards or Daniel Carr in the slot, who would then seek to whip a shot on net.

Zalewski won the draw back to the corner and basically stayed in position at the dot. To their credit, Max Novak and Vecchione didn't give up, as Novak streaked into the corner to try and grab the puck - it looked like his job from the start was to get behind Zalewski in case he won the draw in the first place - while Vecchione cut to the net to try and take a pass, but realistically there wasn't enough time to get that done. The horn sounded before Novak could get to the puck, giving the Engineers the 2-1 victory.

Higgs was lined up next to Novak, but his task was to cut down Mat Bodie's shooting options. Once the puck was dropped, he strode through the faceoff circle toward Bodie, and once he didn't see the puck coming backwards, he turned to see it over in the corner. Once he was facing away, Bodie hit him with a two-fisted cross-check to the side of the head. The hit didn't put Higgs down, and the RPI senior took some swipes at Bodie's helmet, pulling it off his head from the back on the second try. Bodie backed off after losing his lid, with Carr coming to his aid. Referee Chip McDonald stood in front of Higgs at that point to try and end things right there.

By this time, RPI players are coming off the bench to celebrate the victory, led by Johnny Rogic and Ryan Haggerty, making a beeline toward the crease as most teams do after any win. The initial Bodie-Higgs confrontation was playing out directly in the route. The next contact is made by Carr, who sized up Haggerty coming off the bench and gave him a shot right to the cage as RPI players behind Rogic began running into each other as Rogic skated to a halt in front of McDonald and Higgs.

Bo Dolan, meanwhile, maneuvered around Rogic and went after Bodie, who quickly had two linesmen separating him from most of the Engineers. Carr put Haggerty in a headlock and put him down on the ice, and dominos started falling from there. Jake Wood arrived to try and pull Carr off Haggerty, and that earned him a glancing blow from Daniel Ciampini, who was joining the fray. That then got Jimmy DeVito involved as he put a blindside hit on Ciampini. Vecchione then went after DeVito, followed by Dolan who was tracking down the Union freshman. Dolan pulled Vecchione away, toward the far corner away from the benches, trying to fight him. Dolan tossed his gloves off as Vecchione pulled his helmet off, beckoning for Vecchione to come at him. Nothing really came of it as referee Scott Whittemore came over to shut down the confrontation.

About the same time as the Dolan-Vecchione flareup, while Ciampini was near the blue line pulling Wood's helmet off his head and then getting in a shoving match with Guy Leboeuf, Bodie was skating through the area and got grabbed by Zalewski, who initially looked to be simply trying to keep Bodie from joining the Ciampini-Wood dustup. The two glided out towards center ice, eventually with Zalewski dropping his stick and his gloves in response to some heated shoving going back and forth as they jawed at each other. Eventually, Bodie grabbed Zalewski by the cage and ripped his helmet off his head, which was followed by a couple of punches being thrown by Zalewski. Bodie than let go of Zalewski and shoved him, ending the confrontation.

Shayne Gostisbehere eventually grabbed DeVito shortly after his hit on Vecchione and pulled him over by the penalty box area, they seemed to mostly grab each others' jerseys and had a minor shoving match later on.

Meanwhile, as a scuffle started in the bench area between the coaches, Luke Curadi was standing next to Cole Ikkala watching the growing confrontation near the RPI bench. At one point, Curadi turns to Ikkala and gives him a hard shove, followed by a second one after Ikkala started moving toward the coach battle. This draws the ire of Carr and Novak nearby, who both shove Curadi backwards. Curadi and Novak get into a shoving match, and are joined by Eli Lichtenwald and Matt Wilkins, though Wilkins quickly returns to the benches near the coaches flareup. Lichtenwald begins doing battle with Curadi after Matt Tinordi and Charlie Vasaturo come and pull Novak off of Curadi. While this is going on, Curtis Leonard and Kevin Sullivan appear to be engaged in a shouting match, separated by Chip McDonald.

Curadi becomes the aggressor against Lichtenwald, who grabs Curadi in a bear hug shortly after the RPI junior delivers a gloved right to the Union freshman. Curadi then drags Lichtenwald down to the ice, they wrestle on the ground as RPI and Union players surround them until linesman Joe Testa comes and pulls Curadi off of Lichtenwald.

The Rick Bennett incident appears to start shortly after Bodie and Zalewski push away from each other. Seth Appert stepped off the RPI bench and started walking toward center ice. As he stood on the red line, near Curadi (ahead of his shoving of Ikkala) gesturing to his team, Rick Bennett exits the Union bench and walks briskly toward Appert. Bennett seems to be shouting and animated as he approaches, making a gesture with his right arm and then pointing at Appert with his left. As he reaches grasping distance he shoves Appert with his right arm. Appert looks like he's semi-retaliating with his left arm as Milos Bubela and Craig Bokenfohr arrive to push him away from Bennett. Linesman Glen Cooke tries to restrain Bennett.

Bennett maneuvered around Cooke and continued to advance toward Appert, who was being protected by Bubela in front of him and Bokenfohr behind him. Haggerty was also nearby. As Scott Whittemore steps in to try and provide additional barrier, Bennett grabs Bokenfohr's jersey as he tries to get to Appert. At this point RPI assistant coach Kirk MacDonald is on the ice and trying to keep Haggerty away from the situation and help Whittemore keep Bennett away from Appert. A Union assistant coach, John Ronan, is also trying to restrain Bennett as a mess of players from both sides behind the situation begins reacting to the twin issues of the coach melee and the Curadi-Ikkala incident nearby.

Bennett throws a right hand that hits Milos Bubela in the side of his cage, and MacDonald begins furiously shouting at Bennett. Ronan appears to start trying to get past Whittemore while gesturing to MacDonald. An unknown RPI assistant (or potentially, a player who was not in the game) restrains MacDonald near the bench, and Bennett is pushed back toward the Union bench. Haggerty then stood by while Bokenfohr and another unknown RPI assistant continued to restrain Appert, who was gesturing toward Bennett during the entire affair. At one point, Appert grabbed Bubela by the bottom of the jersey, but Bubela skated over toward the rest of the team near center ice dispersing from the Curadi-Lichtenwald fight.

Cooler heads appear to be prevailing at this point as Cooke and Whittemore get Bennett well away from Appert, but the two coaches are still clearly shouting at each other. Unknown RPI assistant (or player) #1, who had been restraining MacDonald, gets onto the ice. Cooke leaves the situation and heads toward center ice. Bokenfohr skates toward center ice but hesistates as Bennett walks around the Whittemore and Ronan and continues barking.

Whittemore continued to stay in Bennett's path, trying to keep the situation from flaring up again. The unknown RPI assistant (or player) then has a few choice words and shoves Bennett with his left hand. That redirects Bennett's ire toward the assistant, and Whittemore restrains Bennett again as the Union coach tries to reach for the URA(P). MacDonald steps in again, and Appert grabs URA(P), pulling him away from the situation before giving him a hard shove. RPI assistant Nolan Graham pushes MacDonald away from the flareup as Ronan and Whittemore do the same with Bennett.

Appert then sort of nudged Haggerty toward center ice as he began walking in the direction. The Engineers began their two-minute delayed celebration, and the fisticuffs were pretty much over. Union began shuffling toward the hallway to the locker room. The RPI coaches stood on the ice, outside the bench, having a discussion, which was joined by linesman Joe Testa.

Wilkins, Michael Pontarelli, and Dillon Pieri all appeared to reverse and try to line up for a handshake, but they were rebuffed by Whittemore, who held his hand out toward them while shaking his head, pointing back toward the Union bench. They turned around, but Bodie then came back out on the ice, holding his hand out and talking to Chip McDonald, who had been standing at center ice since the fracas broke. He seems to have been asking about the handshake and McDonald did nod his head at one point.

Both teams lined up for the handshake, separated by Testa, but Whittemore and Cooke skated back to center ice, and after all four referees conferred, Testa appeared to wave Union back to the locker room. Bennett stood between the line and the bench making a similar gesture, but it's not exactly clear who is making the call. The referees do appear to gesture the team back to the locker room before making eye contact with Bennett. The handshake line dissipated, and Union returned to the locker room ahead of the trophy presentation.

Women's Hockey - at Dartmouth & Harvard (24/25 Jan)

After sweeping Union in the annual home-and-home series, the Engineers looked to continue building on their recent success with a road trip to face Dartmouth and Harvard.

The Engineers instead found themselves heading home having been swept on the weekend, after falling short in two well-played games, 2-1 to Dartmouth and 3-1 to Harvard, where they had the right effort but couldn't translate it into goals on the scoreboard. 


Smelker/Mari Mankey/Svoboda
Missy Mankey/Walsh/Hylwa



Toni Sanders scored a power play goal and the Engineers outshot Dartmouth 30-24, but early goals in both the second and third period erased RPI's lead and put the Big Green ahead for a 2-1 victory at Thompson Arena on Friday.

Sanders' goal came at 8:50 of the first period, twenty seconds into a 5-on-3 power play opportunity for the Engineers. 

With the power play unit set up in the Dartmouth zone, Kathryn Schilter sent a pass from the blue line to Alexa Gruschow who was set up to the right of Dartmouth goalie Lindsay Holdcroft. Gruschow was able to feed the puck to Sanders at the top of the crease allowing the senior put it past Holdcroft before being taken down.

The Engineers couldn't capitalize on a power play chance late in the first, or the carryover portion to start the second, and instead it was Dartmouth scoring just over a half minute past the penalty's expiration.

With the puck rolling into the RPI zone and Brandi Banks back to play it with Dartmouth's Laura Stacey entering in the zone, Banks attempted to clear the puck but it was intercepted by Stacey, who skated in all alone and beat Kelly O'Brien with a nice deke and forehand shot into a yawning net.

The teams traded several penalties through the remainder of the second period, but the score stayed knotted at one-all until 6:58 of the third period when Lindsey Allen gave the home team a 2-1 lead.

Catherine Berghuis set up the play by driving the net and putting a shot on goal which O'Brien stopped, but she couldn't control the rebound and Allen was able to pick it up and slide it past O'Brien for the lead.

The Engineers had one last chance to even things up late in regulation when Berghuis was sent off for a hit from behind, but Holdcroft was solid with 11 saves in the third (and 29 overall) to hold RPI to a single goal and help the Big Green to their sixth win of the season.

The loss, giving Dartmouth the season sweep of RPI, breaks a string of four straight seasons where the Engineers picked up conference points against the Big Green. 


Smelker/Mari Mankey/Svoboda



RPI picked up what many viewed as a surprising victory over Harvard early in the season, and could have done so again on Saturday, but came up short in a 3-1 effort which saw Harvard ice the game with a late empty netter.

The Engineers held a 31-21 edge in shots, including limiting Harvard to five in the third period - unfortunately for the Engineers, the Crimson made two of those five count.

Harvard took the lead early in the contest, with Hillary Crowe scoring at 4:39 of the opening period. Crowe broke in on a 2-on-0 and beat O'Brien with a nearly identical move to Stacey's goal in the previous night's game.

The Engineers peppered Emerance Maschmeyer with 20 shots in each of the first two periods, including a stretch of over a minute of 5-on-3 time in the second, but the Harvard goalie held strong against RPI's efforts.

Crowe extended the Crimson lead to 2-0 at 9:49 of the third, only to see Ali Svoboda cut it back to a one-goal lead just 15 seconds later off the ensuing faceoff. Crowe's second came off a crisp pass through the slot by Miye D'Oench which was quickly redirected past O'Brien.

Svoboda's goal came after she caused a turnover in the neutral zone shortly after the faceoff and ended up skating the puck into the Harvard zone. Firing the puck through three Harvard skaters toward Maschmeyer, it looked to tip off the goalie's glove and trickle over the line after nearly being swept away by a Harvard defender.

D'Oench added an empty netter in the game's final minute, with Elizabeth Parker stripping the puck from the Engineers as they attempted to enter the zone, then flipping it up to D'Oench who sent it into the empty net from the RPI blue line to ice the game.

After being swept on the weekend, the Engineers dropped into a tie for 8th place with Dartmouth, though the Engineers currently have a game in hand over the Big Green. What looked like good positioning in the standings after last weekend's sweep has suddenly become a tenuous hold on a playoff spot, with another tough weekend awaiting the Engineers as St. Lawrence and Clarkson head to Troy for games on Friday (7pm) and Saturday (4pm) respectively.


RPI at Dartmouth
ECAC Hockey Game - Thompson Arena (Hanover, NH)
1/24/14 - 7:00pm
Dartmouth 2, RPI 1



RECORD: 10-12-2 (6-6-1 ECAC)


RPI at Harvard
ECAC Hockey Game - Bright Hockey Center (Boston, MA)
1/25/14 - 4:00pm
Harvard 3, RPI 1



RECORD: 10-13-2 (6-7-1 ECAC)


Upcoming Games

Jan. 31 - St. Lawrence (7pm)
Feb. 1 - Clarkson (4pm)
Feb. 7 - at Brown (7pm)
Feb. 8 - at Yale (4pm)


ECAC Standings

1. Harvard - 25 points (12-2-1) (.833)
2. Clarkson - 22 points (`0-2-2) (.786)
3. Cornell - 21 points (9-2-3) (.750)
4. Quinnipiac - 18 points (7-3-4) (.643)
5. St. Lawrence - 14 points (6-5-3) (.536)
6t. Princeton - 14 points (6-6-2) (.500)
6t. Yale - 14 points (5-5-4) (.500)
8t. RPI - 13 points (6-7-1) (.464)
8t. Dartmouth - 13 points (6-8-1) (.433)
10. Union - 6 points (3-11-0) (.214)
11. Brown - 5 points (1-10-3) (.179)
12. Colgate - 4 points (2-12-0) (.143)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Do We Need a Miracle?

Let's be honest. Union has RPI figured out pretty good. They've got their system and they play it pretty well against the Tute and the Engineers haven't figured them out nearly as well despite all the opportunities they've had.

RPI is not playing overly well right now. Even with the 4-2 victory against Dartmouth finally ending the long schneid, if you were at the game last night you know you saw a team that didn't exactly look ready to take on a program that has lost only once in the last 15 games.

It's obvious from player interviews and on-ice demeanor that Union treats beating RPI as the end-all, be-all. Perhaps we may want to start acting in kind if we want to get this done.

No one thinks the Engineers have much of a chance. This kind of a speech does seem to be in order.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Homeward Bound

The men return to Houston Field House for their first competitive action in over a month tonight. The women would like to put themselves on a path to potentially be there at the end of February and into March.

Dartmouth is their common enemy tonight, and it's an important game for both teams.

Ladies first. The Engineers are alone in 6th place coming into tonight's game, and regardless of what else happens tonight, they can guarantee themselves 5th place by themselves heading into Saturday with a victory over the Big Green.

If we posit that A) the top three teams in the ECAC are #4 Cornell, #5 Harvard, and #6 Clarkson, teams that will be hard to take (further) points from, B) those teams probably going to be 1/2/3 in the ECAC at the end of the season, and C) that no team wants to play them on the road in a best-of-3 series, it stands to reason that the Engineers should be seeking that 4 spot, and if they can't land that, 5 will have to do.

Further pointing out that RPI has no games remaining against the current 4 and 5, Quinnipiac and Princeton respectively, that leaves the Engineers' most key games for points being games against teams behind them in the standings - and that starts tonight with Dartmouth. RPI already got two big points against Harvard earlier this year, but any points they can manage on Saturday are like gold. Two points tonight against Dartmouth would be more key overall, especially since the Engineers left the points on the table against the Big Green back in Troy.

We've already chronicled the men's struggles. Bottom line here is that their next game is their most important one on the schedule for here on out. Worry about Union and that whole mess tomorrow. Win today. The Engineers lost ground last week as teams played their games in hand over RPI, and that will continue to happen tomorrow unless the Tute can shore itself up now with points. Dartmouth's season may be going worse than RPI's, to be frank. There's only room for one hurting team in Troy tonight and that's going to have to be Dartmouth if RPI is going to resurrect their season.

So without further ado... we're coming home.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Goals and Turning Points

We laid out a number of goals at the beginning of the season that we expected were reachable goals. Three of them were considered "must-hit."

  • First-round bye
  • A trip to Lake Placid
  • An NCAA berth
Two of those are looking very, very unlikely right now. The trip to Lake Placid, all that takes is a good weekend or two in March, and we've seen teams from all over the final table in the ECAC, up to and including 12th place, reach the ECAC semifinals in recent years. But you'd be mocked, and rightly so, if you thought the other two were even within reach right now.

Those were the goals. In our world, you come to terms with whether your goals were a success or a failure before you start deciphering the why in either case. It is not a stretch to say that at the rate the Engineers have played since the middle of November, these goals will not be reached. That constitutes a failure.

Then, you can go in and start picking out the why. Two words for you: Jason Kasdorf. The Engineers were night and day with and without him last year, in practically every facet of the game. Solid goaltending can sometimes win games on its own, and even when it isn't, it can be the foundation that raises other aspects. Teams with outstanding goaltending will frequently take more risks offensively in order to score goals.

On November 9, the Engineers beat Colgate 6-2 in order to reach a record of 6-2-2. Their record since is 2-7-2. They've dropped below .500 for the first time since early February 2013.

And that's worth mentioning. The Engineers were below .500 coming into the final month of the regular season. They finished 2nd in the ECAC. There shouldn't be any quit. But this isn't the same team as last year's squad - no two teams are the same.

We'll never know how much better the Engineers would have been with Kasdorf in net. But it's irrelevant. Much as we'd like to see him, he's not in net.

That leads us to this coming weekend. Dartmouth on Friday is an absolutely, positively, 100%, without question, don't listen to anything in the contrary, must-win game. It's at home against the 12th place team, which will be missing its leading scorer. It's a league game. Without both points, the Engineers will only continue to fall backwards in the standings.

That said, the Saturday game in Albany, a non-conference game, could very well be a turning point.

You're tired of losing to Union. We're tired of losing to Union. We get it. It hasn't been much fun lately (which is why we tried to spruce things up with the #HateUnionWeek hashtag back in November - at least get your laughs in while you can).

There honestly shouldn't be any pressure at all. Union has the longest unbeaten streak in the nation. RPI hasn't won in over a month. Nobody expects the Engineers to win.

That's why, if they do... what a game-changer it would be.

Perhaps the worst thing is that Union's certainly "in their heads," those men in cherry and white. They want to win and they know they haven't in a while. If it was Princeton or Harvard running this streak, who'd even notice? But it's not, and it's noticed. It's a mental struggle that has to be won in the locker room before they do battle on the ice.

Just know this when the Engineers and Dutchmen are skating at the Times Union Center on Albany - just as much as it could be another embarrassing defeat to that glorified community college up the road, it could just as well be the start of a rebirth. Keep that in mind.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pipeline 2014: A Bunch of College Kids

It's becoming increasingly difficult to predict things when it comes to recruiting, but without a doubt, there's one thing that never changes - recruiting is element number one dictating success in the future, and even if it's getting harder to pinpoint exactly when that future is coming, the grander look at things offers a glimpse of what is to come.

Welcome to Without a Peer's annual pipeline feature, which takes a close look at the future of RPI hockey by running down the details of players who have made their commitments to don the Cherry and White in the near future.

This season, we have profiles of ten players, all of which we are expecting to be a part of the next two classes at the Institute - the Class of 2018 and 2019, respectively. Who's coming when... well, that's a tough one to nail down, especially when it comes to the defensemen. With four defensemen anticipated to graduate in 2014 and 2015 - Guy Leboeuf, Bo Dolan, Luke Curadi, and Curtis Leonard - the Engineers have five blueliners ready to come in during that time period, three of which are either 18 or turning 18 this year, making it a bit difficult to hammer down exactly who is coming when. We'll get to that within.

The ever-changing demands at forward weigh heavily as well. In 2009-10 at the start of the season, the Engineers had 18 forwards on their roster. A year later, it was down to 16. This season, there are only 15 forwards, meaning that there are only three scratches up front on any given night. It's not a very strong cushion for injuries, which increases the likelihood of additional players coming on board soon - maybe.

Big ups as always to Reilly Hamilton, who for the fifth straight year did up some awesome looking graphics for each incoming recruit. The recruit's current jersey number is followed by their position and their birth year. The "projection to replace," as in years past, is an attempt to visualize where they will fit onto the roster compared to contemporary recruits and graduating/departing players, and isn't necessarily a direct correlation of talent, play style, or output expectations.

Bear in mind also that none of us have actually seen any of these recruits play, a lot of this is a fusion of scouting reports, statistics, and observation from afar coming together to produce the best look we can provide of the future of RPI hockey.

Doing this a bit different this year - rather than strictly list every recruit in the order of their commitment and expected arrival, let's take a look at each position individually.


Team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Projected to replace: Johnny Rogic

Appearing in our pipeline feature for the third time since his commitment in January 2011, we thought at this time last year that we'd be seeing Melanson in Troy in time for the current season. For the second straight year, we got the call wrong on a forward we thought we'd see sooner rather than later - in 2012, we predicted Riley Bourbonnais would be at RPI in time for the 2012-13 season, and of course he's only now in his freshman year.

Melanson's signing of a National Letter of Intent in late 2012 seemed to indicate that he was bound for Troy in 2013, but apparently there's not a hard and fast rule mandating that a signed NLI results in matriculation the following school year. However, it's at least a decent indication that 2014, previously long expected to be his arrival time, is in the cards after all.

Starting last season as a 17-year-old in the USHL, Melanson had a 13-16-29 line with the Omaha Lancers, not bad for a guy who was younger and smaller than most of the other players in the league. Even still, it was good enough to be 4th on his team in scoring. Some NHL scouts suggested last year that he had reached his upside, but he has shown growth since then. This season, Melanson is operating at nearly a point per game on a much better Waterloo team than the Omaha squad he was with last season (although Omaha is now back in their usual spot near the top of the USHL).

The word on Melanson has always been that he's got good speed and he's got a scoring touch. Now that he's certainly finding that scoring touch at the next level, hopefully there's more growth in his future when he comes to RPI. The only major knock on him for the last three years has been his lack of size, but that seems to be changing as well. He's gained weight to the tune of about 25 to 30 pounds since our last check in, and while there's still some room for improvement there too, it's more in line with what to expect from a freshman of his height. All in all, exciting things are hoped for with Melanson.

Team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Projected to replace: Brock Higgs

We've been excited about Tironese basically ever since he committed in May 2012, and there's been very little to change that opinion in the intervening time period. The big change this season for Tironese is certainly his change of scenery.

Originally expected to see a third season with the Alberni Valley of the BCHL - where it was thought that he would be one of the top point producers in the league after putting together 57 points in 51 games for the Bulldogs - Tironese was instead drafted in the 1st round (10th overall) of the USHL Draft by Green Bay, an unexpected turn of events. Most junior teams won't take a player in the first round that they don't know will be coming to play for them the following season.

What followed was a series of events that landed Tironese in Green Bay under the tutelage of Derek Lalonde. After attending Green Bay's preseason camp along with SLU recruit Ryan Lough (who also played for Alberni Valley), the Bulldogs placed both players on the trading block, essentially forcing both players to either play for Green Bay or be traded within the BCHL. In both players' cases, it was clear that Seth Appert and Greg Carvel preferred that they go to the USHL, so both made the difficult decision to go to Wisconsin rather than stay in British Columbia.

The USHL is a bump up from the BCHL, which is a decent league itself, and while he's not scoring at the same clip he was with Alberni Valley, that is to be expected to some extent playing on a team consisting entirely of guys who will be playing Division I hockey in the near future - the same isn't necessarily true in the BCHL. Regardless, as with Melanson, he's producing over three-quarters of a point per game, which is a benchmark for what you want to see - a point per game in the USHL would be better, but it's not terrible. The higher quality play he's seeing with the Gamblers will hopefully ensure that Tironese, who isn't afraid to get physical (as the penalty minutes show), will be better prepared for the level of competition that comes with playing in Division I.

In the past we've called Tironese a blue-chip prospect and so far there really isn't anything that has led us to believe that he won't be.

Team: Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Projected to replace: Matt Tinordi

When Nanne committed on Thanksgiving night 2013, it meant a reuniting of a player with a former coach and with a former teammate, but it also meant a pretty decent splash for the Engineers, landing a player from a well-established hockey clan and a 2012 draft selection of the Minnesota Wild.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it's probably because his grandfather is a US Hockey Hall of Famer with the same name; Lou Nanne was a star for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota North Stars in the 1960s and 1970s, later becoming the North Stars' coach and general manager. He captained the 1968 US Olympic team and was one of the architects of the Miracle on Ice, pushing the US Olympic Committee to hire Herb Brooks as the coach of Team USA.

We scouted Nanne as one of the then-uncommitted players on Appert's Ivan Hlinka team in 2011 and came to the conclusion that "had Gophers written all over him." That appeared true when he committed to Minnesota over Boston College and Harvard a month later. But in the two years that passed since that commitment, Nanne endured harsh criticisms on social media that his place at Minnesota (and drafting by the Wild) owed more to his grandfather and father, both Minnesota alums (and his father a Wild scout), than his own ability. In September 2013, Nanne decommitted from the Gophers after having spent a season in the BCHL, his first full year away from the state he grew up in. Noting that if his talent was legitimate, he'd find another Division I program soon enough, Nanne said he was determined to make his own name for himself. Two months later, he decided to become an Engineer.

Coming to RPI not only gets Nanne out of the bright but demanding limelight of Minnesota, it reunites him with Appert, who coached him three summers ago in the Czech Republic, and Parker Reno, who was a classmate of Nanne's at Edina High School until Nanne left after his junior season to play for the Penticton Vees in the BCHL last season. His commitment came just a few week after his return from double shoulder surgery that kept him sidelined for most the early season. He's just getting back into the swing of things, which explains his somewhat bare scoring line. Injuries also impacted his time at Penticton, unfortunately.

Under Appert at the Hlinka tournament, Nanne scored a goal and two assists in four games played. In Penticton last season before his injury, he had a line of 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 45 games, slightly behind Tironese's pace on a team that the previous season had just about the greatest year in the history of Canadian junior hockey, losing only 4 games out of 60 on their way to the Canadian national championship. He does project as a goal-scorer at RPI, assuming that he's able to come all the way back from his injury woes. If he does, we don't think he'll have any problems silencing the doubters (who'll probably start shrieking "EZAC," but that argument's getting weaker and weaker as time goes by).

As an aside, Nanne's younger brother Tyler, a defenseman, committed to Ohio State this month. He's a contender for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey award given to the top high school player in the state.

Team: Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL)
Projected to replace: Mark McGowan

We learned about Fornaris shortly after our pipeline feature ran last year when he committed last February. At the time, he was playing for Northfield Mount Herman, a prep school in western Massachusetts. Last year, he was the Hoggers' leading scorer as a junior.

The expectation with Fornaris was that he might play another year at NMH and then hit the USHL for a year before coming to RPI, but after making the Cedar Rapids roster through tryouts, he stayed on in juniors rather than returning to prep. Being in the top junior league certainly has its advantages, but unfortunately Fornaris hasn't gotten the regular ice time that is needed to grow. It's kind of a catch-22 situation, since he could have returned to NMH, but he was already reaching the heights of what was likely to be achieved at prep school, but he would have at least been getting some good ice time. At the very least, he's hopefully gaining through participation in practice at the higher level.

If there's one thing that Fornaris has shown throughout his career thus far, it's the ability to grow at the next level. After showing dominance in Florida at the high school level - admittedly, a place where hockey is still in development but is quickly growing - he went north to NMH after making an appearance at a USA development camp in Rochester, the only player from the Sunshine State to earn an invite in 2011. At NMH as a sophomore, he had some growing pains but quickly became a top scorer. There's a local player that had almost the same experience that you might have heard of - Shayne Gostisbehere. He went from playing in Florida to developing in a New England prep school to basically becoming the best player Union's ever developed.

US Hockey Report calls him a "decent skater who really relies on his hands to beat defenders and make opportunities for himself." That's probably true, especially considering that his size would probably otherwise make it pretty difficult to go up against a physical defender.

Since his commitment, there has been some debate over whether he was coming in 2014 or 2015, but after Nanne's commitment and given the way his debut USHL season has played out, Fornaris is almost certain to be coming in 2015. With any luck, he'll be back in the USHL next season a year older and getting more of an opportunity to contribute. We'll be keeping our eye on him, hopefully his upward trend continues.


Team: Austin Bruins (NAHL)
Projected to replace: Curtis Leonard

Making his third appearance since committing (in December 2011), Manley has been something of an enigma to observe until this season. For the last two years, he was at a prep school in Connecticut where it was difficult to track his progress. We caught a glimpse of him last year in the USHL, where he played a handful of games for Waterloo, and this year we thought he'd get a full season with the Black Hawks in preparation for his arrival in Troy.

Indeed, Manley arrived in Waterloo for the pre-season camp, but the Black Hawks had a glut of defensemen on their roster and ultimately, Manley did not make the cut for some reason or another that hasn't really been made clear. Waterloo apparently maintained their rights to him in the USHL, but instead of returning to the Selects Academy at South Kent in Connecticut, Manley went north to Minnesota to play for the Austin Bruins in the lower-level NAHL.

While Manley is the recruit we've known about for the second-longest amount of time behind Melanson, there's still a lot we don't know about him, and as a matter of fact, he's still the youngest known commitment for the Engineers by a couple of months over some of the other 1996 birthyears. He's been expected to be a 2014 arrival since his commitment a little over two years ago, so until that changes, we're keeping him on that line, but don't be too shocked given the number of defensemen on this list if it does change. It could make more sense to give Manley another full year of juniors before coming to play college hockey, since he's got a bit more time to develop than some other recruits do. Manley doesn't turn 18 until this coming July. Unless promises have been made to have him at RPI in 2014, an extra year might actually make the pieces fit together better.

Manley's season is playing out kind of similar to that of Melanson last year - a 17-year old playing on a team with all older players, and in Manley's case many of them are much older. He's getting plenty of ice time, but the Bruins have a rather high number of 1993 birthyears on the team, and Manley is the second youngest player on the roster by two days over the youngest. He may get the playing time but he certainly doesn't seem, sight unseen, to be getting the opportunity to show off his puck-moving skills.

A best case scenario for Manley could be a return to juniors next season, hopefully with Waterloo, and an arrival at RPI in 2015 about a month after his 19th birthday. A lot of it rides on what kind of promises were made when he committed.

Team: Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL)
Projected to replace: Luke Curadi

Sometimes, when a recruit commits, you know right away that it's a big "get." Other times, you slowly accumulate reasons to believe that an exceptional player is coming down the pike, and Prapavessis is certainly shaping up to be the latter. When he committed to RPI in February 2013, it wasn't immediately apparent what the Engineers would be picking up. We knew his brother, Matt, was at Bemidji State already, and that he was from the same hometown as juniors-to-be Travis Fulton and Phil Hampton.

But has time has progressed, Prapavessis has proven to be a very solid recruit and a potential blue-chip prospect for the Engineers. When he missed out on making the Lincoln Stars roster this summer (they'd drafted him in the 6th round of the 2012 USHL Draft), he looked like he might be something of a project. But since then, he's done nothing but shine. He leads OJHL defensemen in assists by a mile, and he's currently in the top five in the entire league in that category, an impressive feat for a blueliner.

His strong play earned him a place on the Canada East team for the World Junior Challenge this past November. While the team struggled in losing all five of its games during the competition, Prapavessis by most accounts performed admirably, picking up a pair of assists in five games. Hockey Canada, in listing him as one of three "players to watch" from Canada East, described Prapavessis as having "tremendous vision, an excellent passer who makes the smart and simple play." They also praised his hockey sense, along with his skating and shooting abilities. The Patriots have praised his abilities as a power play quarterback and his two-way abilities.

Before committing to the Engineers, Prapavessis was a 10th round selection by the Saginaw Spirit in the 2012 OHL Draft. This past November, with his stock continuing to rise, Saginaw dealt his rights to the London Knights for a 15th rounder in 2015, and if Prapavessis plays for London, a 5th round pick in 2016 - a good indicator of the worth they think he has. The Knights apparently made the trade with the thought that Prapavessis is still very likely to come to RPI, but one thing that should make Engineer fans nervous is London's reputation for showing utter disregard for college commitments when they are pursuing a player that they want in the fold. In fact, the Prapavessis trade led College Hockey Inc.'s Nate Ewell to quip that "'[o]btained by the (London) Knights' has to be among my least favorite phrases."

His play this season has led Prapavessis to become the highest rated RPI recruit on the NHL central scouting bureau's midterm rankings at 137th among North American skaters. He has a shot at being drafted in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in late June - he is one of only three OJHL players listed in the rankings.

We'll have to see what that development does to RPI's plans for the recruit who appears to have shown the most growth over the course of the season. Ideally, the Engineers would probably like to see Prapavessis playing for Lincoln next season in the USHL (and we're sure Lincoln would love to have him, too) ahead of a 2015 arrival, but if Appert feels London is likely to try and swoop in and convince Prapavessis (who turns 18 in a couple of weeks) to break his commitment, he could be brought in for the fall instead. It's worth mentioning that his coming to RPI doesn't necessarily preclude his eventual playing for London, as playing in the NCAA doesn't close the door to playing in the CHL - though the reverse shuts the door on the NCAA. London (perhaps especially London) could come just as hard after Prapavessis even if he's already in Troy.

Team: Fargo Force (USHL)
Projected to replace: Bo Dolan

When Moore committed to RPI in May 2013, it made the headlines in Northern Minnesota. Having captained Section 7AA powerhouse Duluth East to their 5th consecutive sectional championship and state tournament appearance, longtime Duluth East coach Mike Randolph called Moore "one of the best defensemen that I’ve ever coached."

Moore's high school bonafides came as an outstanding power play quarterback. Last year, he produced 19 goals and 30 assists for the Greyhounds, 10 of those goals coming on the power play on his way to being named Area Player of the Year by the Duluth News Tribune. In three seasons of high school play, he amassed 125 points in 92 games. In that sense, he projects well as the full replacement for Nick Bailen as a short-of-stature but offensive-minded defenseman who has dynamic ability with the man advantage.

Unfortunately, Moore's gap year of junior play hasn't been terribly productive, likely due to the two teams he's playing for using him in a fashion that may not gel with his style. In 20 games for the Sioux City Musketeers between the tail end of last season (after the high school season ended) and the early parts of this year, Moore didn't register a single point. After being claimed off waivers by Fargo, he's seeing more ice time, but has only the two goals to show for it. There's a question of whether his lack of size has been a hindrance in the USHL with these teams. Bailen himself had a very successful USHL career at 5'9", but it's hard to compare the two on different squads. Fargo, it should be mentioned, is in last place in the league by a country mile.

After committing, Moore told the News Tribune that Appert had offered him "from day one of (his) freshman year to run the power play and be the quarterback coming up the ice." He projects to be paired with a stay-at-home defenseman at even-strength, which could see him united with former rival Parker Reno, who faced off against Moore in each of the last three Minnesota state tournaments.

Since his commitment, Moore has always been expected in Troy this coming fall. The difficult season he's enduring opens the door to potentially making that 2015, but it's tough to say that would be a situation that would be amenable to Moore, given his comments about the role's he's expecting to have at RPI. Anything's possible, but we'd expect to see him on campus sooner.

Interestingly enough, Moore's father, Skeeter, played for Minnesota-Duluth from 1983 to 1987. Yup, you can do the math - he was part of the UMD team that fell to RPI in that epic triple-overtime game in the 1985 Frozen Four.

Team: Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
Projected to replace: Guy Leboeuf

Wilson committed to RPI in September 2013 while playing for Alberni Valley, reportedly turning down an offer from Cornell in the process, where he would have been a prototypical Big Red defenseman given his size. Instead, he's bound for Troy, where he projects to fit in very well with what we've seen from Appert recruited defensemen, especially with Appert's proclivity for getting d-men involved offensively. As with former teammate Evan Tironese, Wilson left the Bulldogs this season albeit through a trade rather than by changing leagues.

Like Prapavessis and Moore, Wilson also has a solid amount of offensive capability from the blue line. Around the time he committed to the Engineers, Wilson was touted by the US Hockey Report as having a chance at being an NHL draft pick in 2014 due to his size and talent. The Alberni Valley Times suggested that his play during the BCHL Showcase in September drew the attention of NHL scouts. Although he's not ranked in the midterm rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (only eight BCHL players are).

He also clearly has some size, which is why we're projecting him as Guy Leboeuf's replacement specifically. He could certainly afford to gain some more mass, but as Red Auerbach used to say, you can't teach height. It's not uncommon for incoming freshman to have the need to put on some more lean muscle, so it's not a major hangup here.

When he was traded from Alberni Valley to Vernon, Wilson led the BCHL in scoring among defensemen. He no longer has that distinction as the Vipers, a more rounded team this year than the Bulldogs, do not seem to need to lean on him as much for offensive output. However, he does remain among the top defenseman scorers in the league. He earned a spot at the Canada West selection camp for the World Junior Challenge, but didn't make the final roster.

We should see Wilson get the opportunity to play right away when he arrives on campus, likely with some pairings with upperclassmen - he could be a perfect compliment to a player like Curtis Leonard or Chris Bradley. We'll definitely get some chances to see time on the power play for sure, perhaps even matched along the blue line with Moore or Prapavessis to create a double threat from the point.

Team: Sudbury Nickel Barons (NOJHL)
Projected to replace: Andrew Commers

When Bell committed in September 2013 shortly after Wilson, it was apparent that Seth Appert was stocking up on defensemen with a demonstrated scoring touch. With Bell, it came with a pedigree that had already attracted some serious interest from OHL teams. According to the Sudbury Star, Appert invited Bell to take a look at campus after seeing his play in the Canada East tryouts for the World Junior A Challenge.

Bell is already playing in his hometown with the Nickel Barons, and has the opportunity now to continue playing in his hometown into major junior if he so chooses. Just a couple of weeks ago, Bell became the third RPI recruit to have his rights traded as the Mississauga Steelheads dealt him to his hometown Sudbury Wolves after having acquired his rights in the 3rd round of the 2012 OHL Draft, indicating Mississauga's high hopes for Bell ahead of his RPI commitment. The Wolves seem to have similar aims with Bell, saying that they "coveted" him in the 2012 draft, calling him "physically strong" and an "outstanding skater."

The Steelheads seem to have made him an offer to play in the OHL this season, but he passed on that offer to return to the Nickel Barons with the intent to draw a scholarship offer from an NCAA team. That the Steelheads were interested in him, at his size, as a 17-year-old speaks volumes on what their expectations were for him. That they dealt him to Sudbury probably means that Mississauga believes he's going to college, that Sudbury traded for him probably means they think they can attract him as the hometown team.

Bell's low game total from this season is likely due to an injury, since he didn't play in any games between early November and early January, a layoff spanning almost two full months. He missed 14 games during that stretch. As his numbers show, however, he has the capacity to provide offensive spark in much the same way Prapavessis, Wilson, and Moore all seem to have - in fact, like all three, he's been described as a potential power play quarterback.

Of all RPI's committed defensemen, Bell seems at first glance the least likely to come in 2014 given his age, his more recent commitment, and his injury issues this season, but one never can tell anymore. He's listed in many different places, especially articles about the trade to the Wolves, as a 2014 arrival. He himself said that he was committed for the 2014-15 on Twitter shortly after it became known that he was planning to become an Engineer. However, there are also several different outlets, including long-time college hockey recruiting guru Chris Heisenberg, that indicate that he could be a 2015 arrival.

At the very least, it seems highly unlikely that Bell arrives with either one of Manley or Prapavessis in August, given the expectations that Moore and Wilson are virtual locks to be coming in next season. The threat of a major junior team swooping in to sign a committed player has spooked more than one college program into bringing players to school earlier than previously expected, and he's been listed since his commitment as either 2014 or 2015. Practically a coin-flip at this point.

That really leads on to this bonus segment here.

Whither the defense?
There's so much going on with the defensemen - all of which are at least listed as potential 2014 arrivals, if not basically confirmed - that it's worth taking a good hard look at the situation on the blue line.

Here's what the current situation is in the back.
Seniors: Bo Dolan, Guy Leboeuf
Juniors: Luke Curadi, Curtis Leonard
Sophomores: Craig Bokenfohr, Chris Bradley, Phil Hampton
Freshmen: Parker Reno
Recruits: Bradley Bell, Charlie Manley, Meirs Moore, Michael Prapavessis, Jared Wilson

That makes for a total of eight defensemen currently active. That was also true in 2013, as Reno replaced Nick Bailen on the roster. All five defensemen that have been recruited have, in one place or another, been listed as potential or thought to be confirmed arrivals for 2014 - but there's only two players graduating. Throw in the uncertainty over major junior interest in potentially poaching Bell and Prapavessis, and there's a real conundrum when looking at who's coming when.

Looking back on the recent history of rosters, Appert has had as many as 8 defensemen on the roster and as few as 6, which is a bare minimum (2007-08, Garett Vassel was an emergency backup). Dan Fridgen frequently carried as many as 9 defensemen on his rosters, the last time being in 2004-05. Two of those players saw only nine games between them that year (Jake Schuster, who left the team, and Ryan Swanson, who became a regular the following season).

So it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Engineers could go to nine defensemen, especially considering that there's an open spot available on the roster since Andrew Commers' departure last summer. Unless someone has plans to leave the team for the pros or otherwise, that in fact seems to be the plan, which is why we've got Bell, a defenseman, listed as a replacement for Commers, a forward.

It can be said with some certainty that Craig Bokenfohr, who has competed (as a top player) on the varsity golf team the past two seasons, is not on an athletic scholarship - he would be ineligible to play Division III golf while on a Division I hockey scholarship. There's been some murmuring on the Internet that perhaps he might leave the team to focus on golf, but that's kind of irrelevant. Since he's not on scholarship he could stay available as a 10th option on defense - he's only appeared in six out of 59 games since his arrival, or about 10% of games. So let's just leave that alone.

That means that, if he really wanted to, Appert could probably have the leeway to bring in up to four of the defensemen that have been recruited. That seems unlikely.

Making things more difficult is the fact that, technically, none of the five defensemen that have been recruited absolutely have to be on campus next year. None of them will turn 21 until after next season is over, which is the cutoff for when players start to lose eligibility if they remain in juniors.

Wilson, out of all of the recruited defensemen, has the combination of age and performance that would suggest that he's pretty much confirmed to be coming to Troy this fall. That's about the only thing we think is a given.

Moore and Manley have not been listed as potential 2015 arrivals anywhere that we've seen, but given the tough seasons each has had in their respective situations, deferrals wouldn't be exceptionally shocking, especially for Manley given his age.

Bell and Prapavessis are both having tremendous seasons, but are putting up their numbers in Ontario. That doesn't mean they won't be successful, but the trend in recent years has been to try and get players into the USHL or the BCHL before coming to RPI. In a perfect world both of those guys would get that chance next season, but the threat from the OHL certainly could make 2014 arrivals for one or both of these guys possible.

Our guess? Wilson, Moore, and Bell, with the possibility of Prapavessis as well depending in part on what current players are doing. In the aforementioned perfect world, we see Wilson, Moore, and Bell in Troy, while Prapavessis goes to Lincoln and Manley to Waterloo, then both arrive in 2015 as 19-year-olds with a USHL season under their belts.


Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Projected to replace: Scott Diebold

Seth Appert is 2-for-2 in recruiting top-end goaltenders at least a year or two out from their arrivals, having essentially hit home runs with Allen York and Jason Kasdorf. His third entry in this area looks very ready to eventually be in that same mold. Appert likes his goaltenders big, and he's had them with York (6'3") and Kasdorf (6'4"), getting one even bigger now with Dillon, who committed in September 2013.

Playing for his hometown Grizzlies, Dillon has helped position his team at the top of the BCHL standings. Although the Grizzlies take the pressure off him by scoring a ton of goals, Dillon's numbers are among the best in the league as well. As with Wilson, Dillon earned a call to the Canada West try-out camp for the World Junior Challenge but didn't get selected for the final roster. He did, however, get a ranking on the NHL's midterm sheet from Central Scouting, 26th in North America. Dillon is the top ranked goaltender from the BCHL and the tallest goaltender in the world with a ranking.

Like Prapavessis and Bell, Dillon's strong play in juniors has drawn enough attention from major junior teams to result in a speculative rights trade - in this case, with Dillon hailing from the Western Hockey League's territory. Just days after Prapavessis' rights were dealt in Ontario back in November, the Swift Current Broncos sent Dillon's rights as part of a trade to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Dillon certainly looks like the presumptive heir to Jason Kasdorf, with whom he might get to spend a season (or two, depending on Kasdorf's play and his redshirt) learning from as part of an understudy freshman season, which is how York spent his freshman year and how it appeared Kasdorf was intended to spend his freshman campaign last year.

Since none of RPI's three goaltenders are graduating or leaving this year - Kasdorf is coming back, mark it down in pen - Dillon certainly isn't going to be in Troy until August 2015, he's about the only recruit that we can pretty much know that for sure. The three questions to watch with Dillon: will he join York and Kasdorf in being drafted prior to his arrival, will the Oil Kings make a play for him, and what's the plan for next season? There are worse fates than a second season in the BCHL, but will Appert do as he did with Kasdorf and make a play for him to get to the USHL? We'll find out.


As always, we end with a quick glance two and three seasons down the road, looking generally at where recruiting is at this point in time. The ambiguity over the forwards and goaltenders in the coming seasons has to deal with medical redshirts - Zach Schroeder has one and thus has eligibility through 2017, and Jason Kasdorf is practically guaranteed to receive one, which would extend his eligibility through 2018. Whether either player uses the extra year is difficult to know until it happens, in the recent past Joel Malchuk used his redshirt to play a year beyond what he would have otherwise, Mike Bergin did not. Schroeder will be an academic senior next year and Kasdorf an academic junior, but will be redshirt junior and sophomore respectively.

Leaving: 1 goaltender, 2 defensemen, 4-5 forwards
Currently incoming: 1 goaltender, 1-2 defensemen, 0-1 forwards

The situation here with forwards is a little bit disconcerting, since ideally we'd have at least two forwards that we know for sure are going to be replacing a core part of the current makeup of the team, those forwards who are currently juniors. Don't be surprised, however, if we start learning of some commitments in the next month or two, based on recent examples.

Leaving: 0-1 goaltenders, 3 defensemen, 4-5 forwards
Committed: none

This is the Class of 2020, FYI. Yeah. Sneaks up on you quick, doesn't it?