Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Now?

OK, so... you might have noticed we took a little bit of a break after the season ended. It's been a very long year, of course. 75 games covered on the year between the men and the women, with 49 of them losses and only 19 of them wins... I think you can understand just wanting to exhale for a few weeks.

At the end of the day, neither the men's nor the women's team really did any worse than they were expected to do at the outset of the year. The women's side had the coaches picking them to finish 10th, they managed 9th. The men's side had the coaches picking 10th and the media 9th, they finished 9th. Look at it this way - both polls on the men's side had Union finishing 2nd. Who really had the worse season, eh?

The question from the outset of the season for the men was never really answered: "who's going to score the goals?" It needed to be a team effort. In the end, it was, but unfortunately there just weren't enough coming from enough people with enough consistency to be competitive night in, and night out. Jason Kasdorf, the team's rock in net, struggled through another season with injury woes. When he's on and healthy, he's hard to beat, and he proved that in the playoffs.

RPI graduates a senior class that always showed a lot of potential offensively, but never seemed to live up to that potential. We thought the Engineers could have a decent season last year based largely on that unrealized potential being tapped, and it just didn't pan out.

Now, the Engineers boast a significant number of underclassmen with the potential to be outstanding and even stars in this league. Drew Melanson, Lou Nanne, Riley Bourbonnais, and Viktor Liljegren all showed at times during the season that they were ready to be key elements in a successful hockey team. Next season is the time for them to grab that brass ring and help pull this team to bigger and better things. They are set to be joined by a number of freshmen who've displayed high potential - Evan Tironese, Brady Wiffen, Alex Rodriguez, and the just-committed Jesper Ã–hrvall, especially.

What RPI needs now is for potential to be realized. For a long time, we've seen solid freshman seasons lead to higher expectations down the road - as one usually should expect from still developing players - but more often than not seeing more stagnation than growth, and from the ones that grow, we've seen some early departures.

The women have found their greatest successes when working from the net outward. Sonja van der Bliek didn't always have the most scoring in front of her, but when she was on she was one of the best goaltenders in the league and the team had more success than failure. Her replacements between the pipes, Kelly O'Brien and Brianna Piper, were solid Division I goaltenders, but neither could really carry the team by themselves when the offense struggled. Next year's team features a pair of new goaltenders, Kira Bombay and Lovisa Selander. We don't know a lot about either of them due to the limited amount of information that comes out about women's hockey recruits that aren't international-level prospects, but Bombay a season ago had a season in which she finished with a GAA under 1.00. Enough to raise the eyebrows, at least.

So there's really only one thing to say about the future.

There is hope. But we need to see that development.

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