Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Right On Schedule

As the current season begins winding down, we're ready to start taking a look at next year's tentative schedule. Sometimes the official schedule is released by now, this year it has yet to be announced. However, we do know a few things about the 2015-16 season that we can share with you, including a skeleton schedule that covers 22 of the 34 regular-season games the Engineers will play next season, along with the dates for post-season play. Those are below, but first, what we know and what we've heard about the schedule in terms of opponents.

* First, exhibition(s). Usually, the Engineers kick the season off with an exhibition game against a Canadian college team from the Maritimes. If that's in the offing, the date for that would likely be October 3, 2015 based on previous experience.

Early in the year, we heard that the Let's Go Red! fund was seeking to fundraise for a trip to Europe for the men's hockey team. Technically speaking, any NCAA team is allowed to do a foreign tour once every four years, but few do. This has been done three times in the last two summers by ECAC teams: Quinnipiac and Dartmouth played games in Switzerland and Italy in 2013, Cornell did the same in 2014. Colgate has apparently also done this at some point in the last decade. We haven't heard peep on this since early in the season, but it could still be in the works.

One has to assume that RPI would put together some kind of travel package for alums and fans if this trip is going to happen - based on a cursory search Quinnipiac did this for their August 2013 trip and had information online for a fan package (priced at $2,350 before airfare) just before the 2012-13 season began. If this is still something that's in line to happen, it possibly won't be going down until the summer of 2016, but stay tuned nonetheless.

* Michigan will come to Troy for a single game this year (the Wolverines are in Schenectady for the other game). That was established in 2013 as being scheduled for October 24, 2015.

* Bank on RPI traveling to Ohio for a pair of games at Miami in return for the RedHawks' visit this season. That is practically certain.

* If the usual BU-RPI game is to take place, it's likely to be in Boston. Occasionally this game takes place twice in Boston before coming back to Troy, but pretty much never vice versa. This year's game was in Troy.

* Home-and-home matchups year-to-year with UNH are also pretty common, and this season was the first of a new cycle - expect a game against the Wildcats in Troy.

* RPI visited UConn this season in their first year in Hockey East, it wouldn't be a shock to see a return trip this coming year for the Huskies.

* 4th annual Mayor's Cup game, to be held in Albany. In line with previous editions and the existing ECAC schedule, this is almost certainly taking place on January 23, 2016.

* Arizona State is moving their club team to the varsity level next season, and Seth Appert has mentioned in multiple alumni meetings that the Sun Devils will be on the schedule. While Tempe in the winter is a dream road trip for pretty much anyone, expect to see them in Troy this season at least. Whether this is for one game (which would almost certainly be in conjunction with a game for ASU against Union) or two is unknown. A return trip to Tempe would then be in the offing in future seasons, so that's kind of exciting.

* At this point, it's possible that there will be no return trip to Troy for St. Cloud State to follow up from RPI's visit to Minnesota in 2012-13. If it doesn't happen this coming year, it's not happening at all, most likely. Since RPI's visit, St. Cloud has hosted Union for two (last year) and then came out to Schenectady for two (this year). So it may well just be off the table now.

* In a similar vein, we're probably pretty close to removing the rumored Western Michigan trip from the table as well, although now that Ben Barr is the associate head coach there, the coaching link that had the original series happening is now back in place.

* 22 ECAC games, as always. 20 of them are set by the ECAC (a schedule for which has already been released), with the Union games to be set by the Route 7 rivals. This has been a home-and-home weekend series for the past three seasons and 10 of the last 12 years, so expect something similar this time around. The likely dates for this would be either in the last weekend of October (creating Black Saturday on Halloween night for the second straight season) or during one of the open weekends in November (possible) or December (unlikely).

What's nice about next year's schedule is that, with the exception of the travel partner games, RPI goes through the entire league once, then goes back through it a second time. That used to be the norm, but the league got away from it in the last few seasons. This season, for instance, the Engineers completed their season series against Union, Harvard, Quinnipiac, and Princeton before facing Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Cornell, or Colgate for the first time (and you can add Dartmouth to the list before playing Clarkson/SLU).

* Adding up all of the potential games we've laid out comes out to 35 total games, which is one more than they're allowed and doesn't include the usual game(s) against an Atlantic Hockey team. So it's pretty unlikely that SCSU and WMU are going to be on the schedule, it's likely that neither will be. So stay tuned for more on next year's opponents.

In the meantime, here's the schedule as we more or less know it to be right now. It's subject to change.

Saturday, 24 October - MICHIGAN

Friday, 06 November - at St. Lawrence
Saturday, 07 November - at Clarkson
Friday, 13 November - YALE (potentially Black Friday)
Saturday, 14 November - BROWN

Friday, 04 December - DARTMOUTH
Saturday, 05 December - HARVARD

Friday, 08 January - at Princeton
Saturday, 09 January - at Quinnipiac
Friday, 15 January - CORNELL
Saturday, 16 January - COLGATE
Saturday, 23 January - vs. Union (Albany, NY)
Friday, 29 January - at Brown
Saturday, 30 January - at Yale

Friday, 05 February - ST. LAWRENCE
Saturday, 06 February - CLARKSON (possible Big Red Freakout!)
Friday, 12 February - at Harvard
Saturday, 13 February - at Dartmouth
Friday, 19 February - QUINNIPIAC
Saturday, 20 February - PRINCETON (possible Big Red Freakout!, definitely Senior Night)
Friday, 26 February - at Colgate
Saturday, 27 February - at Cornell

Fri-Sun, 4-6 March - ECAC First Round (at higher seeds)
Fri-Sun, 11-13 March - ECAC Quarterfinals (at higher seeds)
Friday, 18 March - ECAC Semifinals (Lake Placid, NY)
Saturday, 19 March - ECAC Championship (Lake Placid, NY)
Fri-Sun, 25-27 March - NCAA Regionals (Albany, NY; Worcester, MA; Cincinnati, OH; St. Paul, MN)

Thursday, 07 April - NCAA Frozen Four (Tampa, FL)
Saturday, 09 April - NCAA Championship (Tampa, FL)

It's worth noting that the Times Union Center is hosting the NCAA's East Regional for the first time since 2010. It used to be an every other year occasion that the tournament made a stop in Albany, but it's definitely been a while. One important thing has changed from RPI's perspective - whereas before RPI was always a host institution along with the ECAC for the East Regional when it was in Albany, in 2016 it will be hosted by the ECAC only. That's an key caveat, because it means that should RPI make it to the NCAA Tournament, they won't be guaranteed to be playing in Albany. The NCAA would likely move heaven and earth to make it happen (for the sake of ticket sales), but it wouldn't be a sure thing - like if putting the Engineers there would require them to play an ECAC team in the first round. If RPI were the host, it would be the other team forced to change sites. Not necessarily true now.

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