Friday, July 29, 2016

Know Your Enemy: Brown

Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day when talking about Brown, because in many ways, the scouting report doesn't seem to change - they find a little success when they can get goaltending, they generally play a physical game, and they've got one or two scorers that are worth looking out for leading a fairly thin attack otherwise. A lot of that does seem to still be true, only the names have changed.

Nickname: Bears
Location: Providence, RI
Founded: 1764
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 1993
Last Frozen Four: 1976
Coach: Brendan Whittet (8th season)
2015-16 Record: 5-19-7 (3-13-6 ECAC, 11th place)
Series: RPI leads, 62-26-8
First Game: December 28, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: March 5, 2016 (Troy, NY)
Last Brown win: February 13, 2015 (Troy, NY)

2016-17 games: November 4, 2016 (Troy, NY); December 10, 2016 (Providence, RI)

Key players: G Tim Ernst, sr.; F Davey Middleton, sr.; F Zack Pryzbek, sr.; D Tyler Wood, sr.; F Tyler Bird, jr.; F Charlie Corcoran, jr.; F Sam Lafferty, jr.; D Josh McArdle, jr.; D Ben Tegtmeyer, jr.; F Max Willman, jr.; F Alex Brink, so.; D Max Gottlieb, so.; F Tommy Marchin, so.; D Brady Schoo, so.; D Zach Giuttari, fr.; G Gavin Nieto, fr.

Key losses: F Nick Lappin, F Mark Naclerio, D Brandon Pfeil, F Joe Prescott

Previous KYE installments:
Brown having a bad season can sometimes fly under the radar - they have a lot of bad seasons. This past one was particularly bad on paper - the Bears won only five games for the first time since 2009, Roger Grillo's final season before his resignation and Brendan Whittet's hiring. The Bears' seven ties helped keep them from a second-consecutive 20-loss season, a mark of a truly terrible season for any Ivy League team (which have shorter schedules than the rest of the nation). They still haven't finished with a winning record in ECAC play since 2004.

The RPI-Brown series last year was rather incredible in many ways. Prior to last season, the Engineers had not come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a game in over a decade. They did it twice last year against Brown - first in the game in Providence, as the Bears went up 3-0 after 32 minutes, with RPI taking the lead for good less than 20 minutes later. Then it would happen again in what would prove to be Brown's final game of the season - a 3-0 first intermission lead evaporated over the final 40 minutes as the Engineers eliminated the Bears.

That was a cathartic series for RPI on two levels - first, it finally got that home playoff series monkey off their back, and second, it's worth remembering that Brown was partially responsible for the growth of that monkey with a pair of playoff series wins in Troy (2010, 2013). When Brown took that 3-0 lead in Game 2, the feeling around the Field House was very "oh, here we go again." But what followed was very, very indicative of the kind of season the Bears had - they simply could not hold leads.

Brown lost their first three games of the season to Holy Cross, Dartmouth, and Harvard - all games in which the Bears led at some point. They held a lead in each of their first five games of the season (including a game at RPI) and were 1-3-1 after those five games. For the entire season, the Bears lost seven games in which they had a lead at one point or another. Tack on the seven ties that they had as well, and you can see that they were more than game with some regularity, but they just couldn't get the job done by the final horn.

And they're losing a serious amount of talent and leadership. Lappin and Naclerio were major contributors to this team offensively throughout their college careers, both graduated as members of Brown's century club. Pfeil was just as important as a key defensive element for four years (although he rarely got enough help).

Putting this bluntly, Marchin is returning for his sophomore season as Brown's leading scorer for his active career with only 27 points - a fairly low bar that none of his teammates, even the rising seniors and juniors, have been able to attain in two or three full college seasons. By way of comparison, the Engineers have had their noteworthy struggles to score goals over the last few season, and five of them return this season with 27 or more points for their career. Marchin is a legitimate budding star in the ECAC - but in a lot of ways, he draws comparisons with guys like Matt Lorito, who graduated in 2015. When one player is the best guy on the team by far, or one line the best line by far, the opposition will find it fairly easy to focus their defensive efforts exclusively on them, daring the rest of the squad to pick up the slack. When they don't, the best players will look slightly more pedestrian.

Can Marchin get some help? There are possibilities around. Willman reportedly turned heads in a very positive way at the Buffalo Sabres' development camp this offseason. His classmates, Bird and Lafferty, are the other two NHL draftees at Brown, and all three have struggled to live up to their potential. We'll likely see one or two of these guys alongside Marchin this season (since Marchin usually paired with Naclerio and Lappin last year), and that could boost their output, but the one-line wonder problem will persist.

In net, Ernst and classmate Tyler Steel have split time across their three years in Providence, but Ernst was the clear starter last season. Neither have produced numbers that would have them even approaching the league median - which should honestly give Nieto, who comes in having just won an NAHL championship in Fairbanks alongside RPI's Todd Burgess, the opportunity to compete for the starting job right away unless one of the seniors can really step up their game. Good goaltending can make a mediocre team into a very respectable team, and the Bears are in desperate need of at least that.

The physical game that Brown typically plays was not always visible last season. In fact, the Bears were the least penalized team in the entire nation last year - not always something to brag about (although given that they also had the third-worst penalty kill in the country, it probably helped a bit). We'll have to see if this trend continues into the coming season. Historically, Brown has been a lot more successful when they're muscling the other team off the puck efficiently and effectively. Doing that well almost always means pushing the envelope on what's a penalty and what's legal, which is why it might be a little alarming that the Bears had so few PIMs.

Brendan Whittet has some definite tools in his toolbox to work with, especially with sophomores Marchin and Gottlieb at his disposal. These guys would be easy starters on any team in the league. But if Brown is going to buck the trend and have success this year, the Bears are going to have to be a lot more than the sum of all of its parts, especially if Ernst, Steel, or Nieto can't provide that big spark they need in the crease.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Know Your Enemy: Union

The tables have most undoubtedly turned in the Route 7 Rivalry, and they turned rather quickly. Season after season over the last decade-plus, it was Union getting the better of the Engineers with regularity. And now, here we stand, two years removed from the Dutchmen's national championship, and RPI can now claim six wins in the past seven games with their bitter rivals from Schenectady, including four consecutive ECAC victories and two Mayor's Cup titles. Will that continue this season? Who knows. While RPI has finished ahead of Union in the final standings of the last two ECAC seasons, it still seems like all of that can basically be thrown out the window when these sides square off.

Nickname: Dutchmen
Location: Schenectady, NY
Founded: 1795
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 1 (2014)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2014
Last Frozen Four: 2014
Coach: Rick Bennett (6th season)
2015-16 Record: 13-14-9 (6-10-6 ECAC, 9th place)
Series: RPI leads, 51-34-10
First Game: February 26, 1904 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: January 23, 2016 (Albany, NY)
Last UC win: January 24, 2015 (Albany, NY)

2016-17 games: October 28, 2016 (Troy, NY); October 29, 2016 (Schenectady, NY); January 19, 2017 (Albany, NY)

Key players: F Eli Lichtenwald, sr.; F Michael Pontarelli, sr.; G Alex Sakellaropoulos, sr.; D Jeff Taylor, sr.; F Mike Vecchione, sr.; D JC Brassard, jr.; D Nick DeSimone, jr.; F Spencer Foo, jr.; F Ryan Scarfo, jr.; D Greg Campbell, so.; F Brett Supinski, so.; F Brendan Taylor, so.; F Sebastian Vidmar, so.; F Ryan Burton, fr.; D Vas Kolias, fr.; D Ben Newhouse, fr.

Key losses: F Matt Wilkins, D Sebastien Gingras, D Noah Henry

Previous KYE installments:
The ECAC tends to have some pretty distinct tiers of teams and they typically group together somewhere in the middle. Whenever there's a tier of one, it's frequently at the top (like Quinnipiac last season) or at the bottom (like Princeton in 2014 and 2015). Union, unusually, had a very firm grip on 9th place for much of the late run of the season - not close to catching a home playoff spot, yet not likely to fall even lower.

That was indicative of a team that had at least a little bit of capacity to it, but wasn't terribly strong at anything. 36th in the nation on offense (2.53 GPG), 27th in defense (2.67 GAA), 31st in power play (17.5%), 38th in penalty kill (80.8%) - pretty much perfectly average all around when put up against the rest of the country, within eight spots from the national median in each category. Not so bad any anything, not so great either.

The Dutchmen were a fairly streaky team at times. Unbeaten in their first five games (all at home, 2-0-3), they then proceeded to drop four straight (including the home-and-home with RPI) and six out of seven in a row overall. That was followed by a seven game unbeaten stretch (6-0-1), but after the first weekend of 2016, the Dutchmen won just four games the rest of the season.

The best news Union got this offseason was that Vecchione, the team's leading scorer, would return for his senior season, spurning NHL offers for the second consecutive off-season to finish up his career in Schenectady. He will be a key offensive element on a team that returns 10 of its top 11 scorers from last season, including Scarfo and Foo, who tied for the team lead in goals with 12 each. Union certainly isn't scoring goals at anywhere near the pace they had when they won the national championship in 2014, but they aren't even remotely helpless in this part of the game.

The biggest issue for the Dutchmen to overcome this coming year is in becoming more consistent. Too often, they were either getting good offense for long stretches without getting defensive support, or vice versa. For instance, in their final three games last season, Union managed to keep the opposition away from that "magic" three-goal total, but they dropped all three games while scoring only twice at Colgate and Cornell. Similarly, in six of the team's nine ties, they themselves scored three or more goals but couldn't produce a victory.

The ECAC was so deep in goaltending last season that the uneven offensive outputs can certainly be forgiven to a significant degree. Netminders stole games with such regularity last season that it's hard to fault what appears to still be a decent enough attack. What Union needs more of is stability in its own crease. Sakellaropoulos has yet to put up numbers that would rank him among the top-half of the league in net and while he's a proven, capable Division I goaltender, he hasn't been among the elite and that has been a hindrance to Union's success in the last two seasons.

But again, as we say every year when it comes to analyzing Union up against RPI, none of this even remotely matters. We've seen far superior Union teams taken down by plainly inferior RPI squads and vice versa throughout the last 15+ years. RPI-Union has reached a point where guts, heart, and attitude go farther than anything else in determining a winner - which is a reason many of their games can get chippy, since both try to bring all three in spades. The only thing that RPI's streak of six wins in seven contests means is that the Engineers know they can win these games, a serious reversal from the previous 14 out of 15 won by the Dutchmen.

There are certainly enough questions with both of these squads heading into this season that "anything goes" remains a very viable statement. It's exceptionally easy to see either of these teams being able to sweep all three games this year - or anything inbetween. In terms of Union's standing in the ECAC, however, expect at least a little bit of a bump just on experience alone, as the team was light on seniors last year. But unless they can find some more consistency, especially on defense, the possibility of continued tire-spinning is there as well.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Know Your Enemy: UMass-Lowell

The final non-conference opponent of the season for the Engineers is a team that, a few years back, looked to be having a boomlet of success to the casual observer. But with some of Hockey East's power teams going thorough prolonged periods of struggle, there's naturally going to be someone there to take their place - nature abhors a vacuum and all. Enter the River Hawks. Their sustained successes under Norm Bazin have left no doubt that they are now a program to be reckoned with on a year in, year out basis.

Nickname: River Hawks
Location: Lowell, MA
Founded: 1894
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 3 (1979, 1981, 1982 - all Division II)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2016
Last Frozen Four: 2013
Coach: Norm Bazin (6th season)
2015-16 Record: 25-10-5 (12-6-4 HEA, 4th place)
Series: UML leads, 12-10-1
First Game: December 30, 1982 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: December 16, 2006 (Troy, NY)
Last UML win: October 9, 2015 (Lowell, MA)

2016-17 game: January 3, 2017 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Evan Campbell, sr.; F Joe Gambardella, sr.; D Michael Kapla, sr.; D Dylan Zink, sr.; F John Edwardh, jr.; D Chris Forney, jr.; D Tyler Mueller, jr.; D Tommy Panico, jr. F C.J. Smith, jr.; F Ryan Dmowski, so.; D Niklas Folin, so.; F Nick Master, so.; F Guillaume Leclerc, fr.; F Ryan Lohin, fr.; G Garrett Metcalf, fr.; G Tyler Wall, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
2016 represented the fourth time in five seasons that UML reached the NCAA tournament (they were the first team out in 2015) and their fifth consecutive 20-win season. This is truly the best stretch of seasons in Lowell's Division I history, and their best overall run since they were beasts of Division II in the late 70s and early 80s.

Last season, UML rode their strong defense to fourth in a stacked Hockey East table, then swept Boston University in the league quarterfinals and survived a 3OT marathon with defending champions Providence in the semis before falling to Northeastern in the league championship game. In the NCAA tournament, Lowell had to tangle with the best two teams in Connecticut playing in the Eastern Regional in Albany. The River Hawks dispatched Yale in overtime in a measure of revenge for the Bulldogs' 2013 Frozen Four triumph, but could not overcome a championship game-bound Quinnipiac, falling 4-1.

On defense, Lowell will be looking to replace Kevin Boyle between the pipes, and they have a pair of incoming freshmen in Metcalf and Wall who are both NHL draftees that are the likely options. But in front of their young netminder, whoever that ends up being, the core of the remainder of the defense that brought UML within a game of their second Frozen Four in four seasons will be almost entirely untouched - and chock full of experience.

All six regular defensemen return from last year's team. Five are juniors and seniors, and as a group they missed a total of nine games last year, five of which were missed by Folin in his freshman season. In front of Boyle, they established the fourth-stingiest defense in the nation last year with a team GAA of 1.88. No doubt their return will help ease the transition in net.

The River Hawks didn't light the planet ablaze offensively last season but it was far beyond adequate at a rate of 3.02 goals per game, certainly enough to win most of time. UML lost just twice last season when reaching three goals - both times on the road in December. Of the five players who recorded 10 or more goals last season, three (Gambardella, Zink, and Smith) return this year, and all three repeated the feat from a season prior. Campbell, who missed the last 11 games of the season to an injury, will also be back in the lineup - he cracked double-digits along with his three teammates in 2015.

At the final accounting, 11 players on this year's team had 10 or more points last season, including four defensemen. Bazin's men have plenty of options for scoring, no doubt. On first glance, UML doesn't have any individual scoring option that will necessarily be striking fear in the hearts of opponents, but they have plenty of outstanding options collectively that will likely make again for a strong enough attack to make the River Hawks dangerous in any game.

That adds up to a difficult final non-conference opponent, even at the Field House, for the Engineers, who have lost four of the last five games against Lowell. RPI's loss last year at Tsongas Center to kick off the season was really one of the Engineers' worst performances of the entire season, but it wasn't entirely their fault - UML also looked very, very good, every inch one of the best teams in the nation. Give them the edge in this year's matchup, although with RPI being at home and likely being improved offensively compared to what they had early in last season, it should at least be a little bit closer, an excellent test at a time when the Engineers will be heading into the meatiest part of their ECAC schedule.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Know Your Enemy: Arizona State

The new kids on the block are new no longer, and they more than paid their dues in their first season as a varsity program. College hockey's southwestern outpost is poised for another rough campaign or two, but there's no question that they've got the groundwork laid out very nicely for supporting a much brighter future in the Valley of the Sun.

Arizona State
Nickname: Sun Devils
Location: Tempe, AZ
Founded: 1885
Conference: Independent (Pac-12)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: None
Coach: Greg Powers (7th season)
2015-16 Record: 5-22-2
Series: RPI leads, 2-0-0
First game: December 11, 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: December 12, 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last ASU win: Never

2016-17 games: November 25-26, 2016 (Tempe, AZ)

Key players: F Robbie Baillargeon, sr.; F Ryan Belonger, sr.; F Sean Murphy, sr.; F Wade Murphy, sr.; D Brock Krygier, sr.; G Robert Levin, sr.; D David Norris, sr.; F Dylan Hollman, jr.; D Ed McGovern, jr.; D Jake Montgomery, jr.; F Anthony Croston, so.; F Cody Gylling. so.; D Nicholas Gushue, so.; F Matt Kennedy, so.; F Joe Lappin, so.; F Jordan Masters, so.; G Ryland Pashovitz, so.; D Joey Raats, so.; F Ryan Stevens, so.; D Brinson Pasichnuk, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
It was actually colder in Tempe than it was in Troy when the Sun Devils were in town, as bizarre as that seems, especially in December. That seems unlikely to happen again this season, when the Engineers stop by after Thanksgiving for another pair with ASU.

Expectations certainly were not high last season, but the Sun Devils cleared the low bar that was more or less set for them. They crushed their archrivals from Tucson (still playing club hockey) by 8-1 and 6-0 margins at opposite ends of the season, somewhat proving their advancement from club level. Against club teams as a whole, they went 5-0-0 and outscored opponents 35-3.

Against D-III competition, ASU was also undefeated, sweeping Southern New Hampshire at home in October by a combined 16-3 score, and tying UW-Eau Claire twice in February. Also a positive sign.

Against D-I teams? A much different story. Just three wins all season against 22 losses, 17 of which were by three or more goals. But even here, there's a silver lining. In their very first D-I matchup, the Sun Devils took Alaska-Anchorage to overtime before losing, and in their second, they defeated Alaska (Fairbanks) for their first ever Division I victory. They also swept an admittedly bad Lake Superior State team on the road in November.

Scoring was anemic against D-I teams, and this was ASU's biggest problem all year. They never scored three in a D-I game, and only reached two on four occasions (both Alaska games, a game against Clarkson, and a home game against UConn). At their worst offensive stretch between mid-December and mid-January, the Sun Devils scored just six goals in 11 games. The D-I season came to a brutal end in late January (as basically all teams are focused on conference play in February) with three games in three days against UMass-Lowell and Merrimack, which they lost at a combined 22-2, including a 10-0 loss to the Warriors to conclude the D-I portion of their first D-I season.

So there is still a gap, and that was always to be expected. But that gap should start closing sooner rather than later. ASU's 1.59 goals per game was worst in the country, but that's not some new benchmark for goal-scoring futility - Princeton a year earlier was at 1.30. Ultimately, Arizona State last year was about where they wanted to be, and where one would expect - better than club or D-III programs, but not quite ready to be steadily competitive in D-I.

They should be better this coming season, but it would have to be by absolute leaps and bounds for them to improve significantly over last year's D-I results.

Baillargeon is a graduate transfer from BU, where he led the Terriers in scoring as a freshman, although he hasn't been able to duplicate his numbers from that season he should still add a shot in the arm for the Sun Devils on experience alone. Masters had a decent freshman year as the pace-setter in scoring, as we mentioned last season he had some bonafides as a very strong player on his way into school and we can certainly expect him to continue to be a focal point for the ASU attack.

One of the bigger items on Arizona State's bucket list right now is defining the conference that they'll be joining in the near future - hopefully as soon as 2017. For a short time they were thought to be contestants for the Big Ten's eighth spot, that was shot down in late April. About the same time, they were rumored to be joining the NCHC, the conference that would probably make the most sense for them. That still has yet to happen, and the NCHC specifically shot down that rumor. The Sun Devils do need to finalize a conference sooner rather than later, if only to remove one of the remaining question marks on the program's long-term viability. With travel costs already weighing heavily on the WCHA, it seems like they may not be able to find a home there either if the NCHC balks.

Everything else, however, seems to be trending in the right direction. Greg Powers is doing a good job sectioning out the classes early on in order to avoid what is frequently a decade-long struggle for new programs to balance recruiting classes due to a usually abnormal-sized freshman class in the first season. With any luck, the Sun Devils are probably only a season or two from looking like a normal program in terms of class sizes. When that happens, expect the type of talent the program is already attracting to make the team far more formidable.

This season, for the third and fourth games in the nascent RPI-ASU series, even in the desert, it's almost certainly still a pair of games that the Engineers should be able to win, but the improved team and the change in venue will make for two games that will be more difficult than the two they fairly easily won in Troy - so there's going to be a natural let-down alert here. If RPI allows the Sun Devils to stick around, they'll be leaving things open for a serious upset.

By the way, if you are interested in attending either of these games, the recommendation is going to be to get tickets absolutely as soon as possible. Both will be played at ASU's super-small rink in Tempe that seats fewer than 1,000 people - and with the number of RPI alums that have likely retired to Arizona along with the likelihood of more than a few fans taking this unique trip, the tickets are likely to be in high demand. Two sold-out games are almost certainly going to happen here, so if you want to go, find out when tickets go on sale and get them quick.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Know Your Enemy: New Hampshire

This isn't your brother's New Hampshire. This might be your father's New Hampshire - if your father is older. The Wildcats are in a bad way, and some of their very brightest elements of what was a very rough season won't be returning to Durham, which means perhaps now, more than ever, UNH might be depending on some serious production from its freshmen in order to salvage what could be another dark year in the Granite State.

New Hampshire
Nickname: Wildcats
Location: Durham, NH
Founded: 1866
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2013
Last Frozen Four: 2003
Coach: Dick Umile (27th season)
2015-16 Record: 11-20-6 (4-12-6 Hockey East, 10th place)
Series: UNH leads, 25-23-0
First Game: February 7, 1964 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: November 24, 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last UNH win: January 6, 2013 (Durham, NH)

2016-17 game: November 22, 2016 (Durham, NH)

Key players: D Matias Cleland, sr.; F Jamie Hill, sr.; F Tyler Kelleher, sr.; D Dylan Maller, sr.; F Shane Eiserman, jr.; D Cameron Marks, jr.; F Michael McNicholas, jr.; G Daniel Tirone, jr.; G Adam Clark, so.; D Matt Dawson, so.; F Chris Miller, so.; F Ara Nazarian, so.; F Marcus Vela, so.; F Liam Blackburn, fr.; F Justin Fregona, fr.; F Brendan van Riemsdyk, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
UNH boasted one of the best lines in the country last year - and little else. RPI got to see that line up close and personal when Andrew Poturalski put the team on his back in Troy and just about single-handedly brought the Wildcats back from a 3-0 hole, tying the game up with a natural hat-trick before Alex Rodriguez's first collegiate goal doomed UNH to their third straight loss against the Engineers.

11 wins last year is the fewest in any season during Dick Umile's tenure. You have to go all the way back to 1988 to find the last time the Wildcats had fewer wins in one season, and almost as far for their previous 20-loss season, 1989. If UNH misses the NCAA tournament this season, the Class of 2017 will be the first to graduate without playing in the national tournament since 1991 - Umile's first season in charge in Durham. He is expected to retire at the conclusion of his most recent contract extension, which runs out in 2018.

The trio of Poturalski, Kelleher, and Dan Correale was simply outstanding, as the three combined for 48 goals (22 by Poturalski alone) and 75 assists (36 by Kelleher). Unfortunately Poturalski is forgoing his final two years of collegiate eligibility after signing with Carolina (the first NCAA player to sign an early pro deal at the end of last season), and Correale has graduated, as has Maxim Gaudreault, third behind Poturalski and Correale in goals for the Wildcats last year.

Forward Warren Foegele's defection to the OHL after one month of his sophomore year certainly hurt as well, and John Furgele, who missed just four games on the UNH blueline in two years, is transferring to Quinnipiac (where he'll be 26 as a senior in 2018 - cue the moans from around the Big Ten). If nothing else, this makes for two more unexpected roster holes that needed to be filled for the coming season, never a good position to have.

Mike Robinson has been described as the "goaltender of the future," and the third-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2015, was initially expected to bring some badly needed defensive capacity to a program that occasionally looked like it would struggle to keep a beach ball out of the net last year, but after being drafted in the 2nd round of the Phase II USHL Draft in May, it appears he is still another year out after an injury kept him sidelined much of last season. Ditto to Kelleher's younger brother Charlie, taken in the first round of the same draft - he is also a year out.

But speaking of younger brothers, the third and final van Riemsdyk brother - the tallest of the trio - arrives this year. You may remember James (now of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Trevor (now of the Chicago Blackhawks) both coming through Durham, and Brendan will likely be leaned on to provide some additional offense early in his collegiate career. Adding Blackburn to the fold should also be a solid shot in the arm, as he was one of the top scorers in the BCHL last year, playing for the Royal Bank Cup champions West Kelowna.

There may also be sort of a returning answer in net. Clark hurt his shoulder last year and played in only two games (a scenario that undoubtedly sounds familiar to Engineers fans), and he returns this year as a redshirt sophomore. He's had an interesting college career thus far, coming in two seasons ago for the spring semester as an emergency measure, and then getting hurt last year.

It does seem like any success UNH is going to have in this coming season will bank largely on Clark's ability to live up to his expectations, Kelleher's capacity to function as well as he did last year without Poturalski, and potential contributions from the freshman class. That probably translates to another difficult season in Durham. The Wildcats are a team searching for the bottom, and hoping that last year represented that bottom - but that's far from a given.

This game will be on the road for RPI, and will be the third game in five nights as it comes on a Tuesday following the two home games with Ohio State. We've seen this set-up before, in fact, this will be the third consecutive season that the RPI-UNH game takes place on a Tuesday. The timing should provide a good test for the Engineers' fitness, but much as with OSU, UNH enters this season with too many question marks to make this them solid favorites in this matchup.

Much depends on how the Engineers find goals and how the Wildcats find defense, and we should know quite a bit more about that by the time these teams do battle. But Seth Appert certainly has found UNH's number in the last few years, and there's nothing to immediately suggest that the recent trends are about to change.