Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/08/2012

Thoughts from RPI’s exhibition

There was plenty to like and plenty to pick apart from RPI’s 6-2 win over Acadia. It can always be misleading to judge what you see out of a team in an exhibition game against inferior talent, but I’ll give it a whirl anyway.

— The sophomores looked a bit more grown up (duh). Notably Matt Neal and Jacob Laliberte had fun games. Creative with the puck, no seemingly dumb plays, and helped push the offense. RPI needs that badly.

— I knew going into the season goaltending was going to be fascinating to watch and the exhibition left me thinking freshman Jason Kasdorf (pictured) and sophomore Scott Diebold are going to make senior Bryce Merriam a resident of the bench more often than not this year.

— Yes, I know that’s potentially a dumb thought to have after each guy got 20 minutes of action but my feeling is that Merriam’s leash is going to be really short this year.

— I dig Milos Bubela. If I was still doing photoshops, there’d be one of Mike Myers as Linda Richman yelling about her favorite bubbelah being Bubela. I like puns.

— I think Mark McGowan is going to have a nice year. He’s shaping up to be a solid all-around player and the goal he scored sure looked pretty. Granted the Acadia goalie was playing too deep in his net and he reacted late, but still.

— The defense is going to be fascinating to watch. Pat Koudys is gone, Nick Bailen is still awesome, and Curtis Leonard is just solid all around. Freshman Phil Hampton makes me curious. He showed a good shot from the point and seemed to just be involved in the play a bunch.

— Bo Dolan still looked like a freshman. He’s a third pair guy but I’d like to buy him some confidence.

— Of the freshmen (and there’s a bunch) I think Mike Zalewski and Mark Miller are going to be insta-helpers. Zalewski’s size and skill should help him evolve into a solid scorer while Miller seems to have the makings of a good checking line type player.

Obviously this is a really small sample size to judge from, but there’s reason to keep your head up if you’re an RPI fan. The team is crazy young though so there’s going to be mistakes and missteps along the way.

Teams are going to play tighter defensively and be a bit faster than Acadia was so they won’t get to skate circles around everyone. Add in the ECAC being a mostly trap-and-bore league and it makes for a hell of a grind. If they don’t get worn down and overly frustrated by the league schedule this could wind up being a very fun team to watch.

06/26/2012

Finally

For the few years I was scribbling nonsense on the Internet before I landed over at NBCSports.com’s ProHockeyTalk, every June would turn into a soap box for me to sound off on why Adam Oates belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His case was always easy to make. No, really, it was super easy to make.

Now? Now he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The fight is over and a childhood hero is enshrined for eternity. Bias accepted here, there’s never been a doubt as to Oates’ career being Hall-worthy.

I am as happy as a hockey fan can be. The complaining, the indignant stat-prattling, the case-making, the whining about it all… It’s over. I don’t have to crow about an open-and-shut case anymore.

There’s no need to talk about the injustice of it all and continue alternating between banging my head against the wall and shouting from the mountain tops. Adam Oates: Hall of Famer.

Back in late September during the preseason, I wanted to interview Oates about being snubbed by the Hall. With him being the Devils assistant coach and it also being the team’s first preseason game of the year, the Hall was the last thing on his mind. All business, all the time. That’s part of what got the Washington Capitals to hire Oates as their head coach today on top of it all.

It feels a bit silly to feel as happy for what someone else accomplished, but that’s part of being a fan, right? Embracing those that helped bring the love of the game to you. Oates is the key figure on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of hockey. Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Teemu Selanne. There are plenty other players I have a great appreciation for, but those four? They turned hockey from something I watched and enjoyed into something I obsess over and love dearly, maybe a bit too much if you ask some of my friends.

But Oates? He was the guy who sparked it all for me. Seeing a guy like that play live in person when you’re a kid leaves an impression on you. Seeing him win your favorite local team a championship hammers it home even more. Watching him excel as a professional for nearly 20 years is icing on the cake.

Adam Oates is a Hockey Hall of Famer. What a great day.

 

01/22/2010

RPI: Back To Business

Six weeks ago, the RPI hockey team last played a home game.  A month and a half away from the friendly confines of Houston Field House sounds a bit insane except when you consider that those six weeks all come when the students at RPI are on winter break it doesn’t sound so bad.  After all, home games without the bulk of your vocal home crowd suck ferociously.

For fans of the team that are only aware of the team while they’re at home, a few things happened.  They beat perennial powers (albeit ones in a down year) Boston University and University of Michigan in front of their home fans.  They swept a road weekend conference series at Quinnipiac and Princeton, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2007. They were also humbled by a very tough Michigan State team to lose the championship of the Great Lakes Invitational and also dropped their final meeting with Union College over in Schenectady.

The loss to Union has some folks up in arms because it’s Union College and they’re a local rival and  because head coach Seth Appert was quoted after the game saying this:

“I refuse to believe that they’re better than us. I believe in our guys, I have a lot of belief in that locker room, what we have in there. I have a lot of respect for Union. I think they’re a really good hockey team. I think they’re a Top 10 hockey team. But I don’t believe they’re better than us.”

Cocky words?  Not at all.  After all, each game with Union was decided by one goal this season (Union scoring an empty-net goal in the final game notwithstanding) and Appert did go on to heap a ton of credit on the Union program saying, “They’ve earned where they are.  Don’t get me wrong by what I say in terms of that question. They’re in first place in the league and they’ve earned every minute of that.”

Obviously Seth Appert wasn’t going rogue on anyone and his faith in his own team is quite clear where it stands.  Unlike teams in RPIs recent history, this year’s team hasn’t shown the penchant for fading and letting teams dominate them on the scoreboard like they used to.  However, for this team to spend six weeks away from the friendly confines and play six games and come away with a 4-2-0 record in that span against a handful of difficult opponents in very difficult settings is saying a lot for this team.

In more than a few games this year, situations have arisen where previous Engineers teams would fold up the tents instantly.  The game against Michigan sticks out as a prime example.  It was a game where they were ahead, some shady calls are made against them and Michigan storms back to tie the game and then things hang in the balance.  If that game happens even a season ago, RPI cracks and gives up two more goals to end that game and lose.  Instead, Marty O’Grady says, “Screw this,” and scores on an impossibly accurate snap shot to put RPI up for good in a 4-3 win.  RPI played this exact type of game two seasons ago against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and lost in front of a huge and largely Gopher-biased crowd.  Things change and things are certainly different for this RPI team.  Now they’re back at home and back on the hardcore ECAC schedule the rest of the way.  This weekend they see a couple of teams who in seasons past have been in the upper-middle part of the pack and still lurk as dangerous.

Dartmouth College comes to town not having seen RPI since the Engineers unceremoniously disposed of the sixth seeded Big Green in the ECAC Tournament last year and if you think revenge isn’t on their mind, you’re crazy.  The downside for Dartmouth is they’re just not very good this year.  They’re severely lacking scoring and even more severely lacking good goaltending.  Juniors Scott Fleming and Adam Estoclet lead Dartmouth in scoring with 15 points each and Fleming is the team’s leading goal scorer with eight.  Only two other players on the team are in double-digits in points and their main goaltender, Jody O’Neill, has a save percentage lingering around .890 and a 3.79 goals against average.

This does not bode well for the Big Green against RPI who sits as one of the highest scoring teams in the ECAC averaging 3.10 goals per game in conference matchups while allowing  just 2.40 goals against.  Dartmouth, on the other hand, has been scoring 2.60 per game while allowing 3.60 per.  Dartmouth, in this case, is going to have to turn the tables on RPI the way the Engineers did to them in last year’s playoffs.  The Big Green stumble into this game losers of seven of their last eight and winners of four games all season.

As for RPI’s opponent Saturday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson, there’s reason to believe that perhaps the ship is finally being righted in Cambridge.  After an uncharacteristic and abysmal start to the season where after opening their season with a win over Dartmouth Harvard went winless in their next ten games going 0-8-2 in those ten.  Since then, they’ve won three of their last five games including a win over #6 Yale.  Their two losses in that span came on the road against Minnesota so those can almost be excused since Minnesota is certainly the better team. Harvard’s gotten wins against Quinnipiac and Dartmouth (again) in that time and considering the Crimson were a team many believed would battle in the top half of the ECAC this would seem to indicate they’re getting their act together.

Harvard’s success has come at the hands of freshman and Montreal Canadiens first round pick Louis Leblanc.  Leblanc and his linemates Michael Biega and Maple Leafs Lightning draftee Alex Killorn have been the one sure thing, scoring-wise, head coach Ted Donato can count on.  Those three players are the Crimson’s three top scorers and Leblanc, of late, has been scoring goals in bunches while finally showing off the talent that made him the Habs top choice in 2009 (aside from being French-Canadian that is).

In goal is where things have gone a bit astray for Harvard.  Junior Kyle Richter returned after a one year absence to attend to “personal matters” and he’s been less-than stellar.  Meanwhile, junior Ryan Carroll has stepped up and provided some sense of sanity of late backstopping the team to their last two wins over Yale and Dartmouth.  In about half as many games as Richter has played, Carroll’s goals against is almost a full goal lower than Richter’s and he’s sporting a slightly better save percentage.  While I’m not sure Coach Donato wants to totally write off Kyle Richter, I’d bet that Ryan Carroll will get the nod this weekend for Harvard.

For as innocent as an RPI-Harvard might seem to be, all is not as indifferent as it might appear.  For instance, one thing RPI is going to have to look out for against the Crimson is the antics of the flying Biega brothers.  Whether its senior Alex Biega, junior Michael Biega or the latest addition, freshman Danny Biega the Engineers and Crimson seem to get together in scrummy fashion when it comes to them.   It all starts with the sandpaper-like play of defenseman Alex who is no stranger to the RPI crowd and he’s usually good for a skirmish or five over the course of a game. Adding in the very talented Michael Biega and his ability to get on the board, that automatically makes him disliked on the road.  It’ll be interesting to see which big brother Danny plays more like.

This game also offers RPI fans the opportunity to once again boo and mock junior defenseman Chris Huxley.  Four years ago, Huxley initially committed to play at RPI but then jumped ship when then head coach Dan Fridgen was not retained by RPI.  Through semi-shady dealings Huxley ended up reneging on his RPI commitment to go to Harvard, something which RPI fans have not forgotten about because each time Huxley touches the puck in Troy he’s booed by the faithful and even given an obvious last-name based nickname.  If you can’t figure out what it is, I’m not going to help you.

The RPI Bedwetter Fan View Of The weekend:

“The Friday night game against Dartmouth lingers as a possible “Superman” game where Jody O’Neill has the game of his life and RPI is stuck looking for answers against a goalie that has the horseshoe firmly implanted in his rectum.  The Saturday afternoon tilt against Harvard sits like a trap game.  Harvard is a team that’s wildly down this year but playing better of late and RPI will find it hard to match up with Leblanc’s line.  Allen York will give up some softies and RPI still won’t get anything done 5-on-5.  I haven’t been happy since 1985.”

The Right Way To Look At The Weekend:

RPI should roll Dartmouth and the Big Green’s porous goaltending should do their part to help solve any questions about their play at even strength.  I’ve got the feeling the game with Harvard is going to be a one goal semi-classic type of game.  Maybe I’m giving Harvard too much credit here, but there’s too much talent all over that team for them to keep losing games all year long.  That said, a solid game out of Allen York and Harvard doesn’t stand a chance.

Listen to this weekend’s games on WRPI online. 6:45pm Friday, 3:45pm Saturday.

01/06/2010

RPI’s Jerry D’Amigo – American Hero

Filed under: Jerry D'Amigo,RPI,RPI hockey,World Junior Championships — Joe Yerdon @ 12:04 AM

Congratulations to RPI’s Jerry D’Amigo and the rest of the Team USA World Junior Championship team for winning the gold medal over Canada in an overtime thriller 6-5.  Without Jerry D’Amigo, Team USA ends up as cannon fodder for Canada and Sweden.  D’Amigo scored two goals against Sweden in the semi-finals and added another goal and an assist against Canada in the finals.

Despite D’Amigo being one of the top performers in the tournament and, dare I say it, clutch as hell, he was not named to the All Tournament Team.  Somehow just as many Americans were named to the All Tournament Team as there were fourth place Swiss (two).  I wonder what the third place Swedes think of this development.

When Jerry returns to Houston Field House in Troy, you’d better believe the USA chant is going to be loud and fantastic.  Hopefully the Canadians on the team don’t have too much of a problem with this.

For what it’s worth, D’Amigo (and Wisconsin’s Derek Stepan as well as Caps prospect and game-winning goal scorer John Carlson) were jobbed out of the MVP award by Canada’s Jordan Eberle.  At least he can take solace in a nice individual effort.

The win marks the United States first win in the World Junior Championships since 2004.  Canada had won five straight gold medals in the tournament going into tonight.  And for all of you looking for a sweet boost of American pride… Look no further than this video taken from the American locker room after the victory.  Watch this and then tell me you wouldn’t go sprinting into battle.  I dare you.

12/28/2009

GMH On The Road: The Rust Belt Awaits

This week I go on one of the more awesome, and slightly random, hockey-themed road trips I’ve ever done.  This has become a bit of a thing for me, going back to April 2007 when I made it to Denver for the Frozen Four.  That trip was so incredible and life-fulfilling that it’s inspired me to do other trips both great and small.  Whether it meant going to last year’s Frozen Four in, now hockey-mad, Washington D.C., taking a short drive over the Berkshires to take in a Division III NCAA Tournament game or going to Montreal for the NHL Draft it didn’t matter – hockey was the reason and everything about each of those trips made it 100% worthwhile.

The great secret I’ve discovered is the road trip itself and when the college schedule was completed and it was announced that RPI would be heading to Detroit for the Great Lakes Invitational I circled the date and started to ask around to some of the other RPI-mad fans I know to see if this might be something we could do and sure enough… Everyone else was more than fair game and driving (yes, driving) from here around Albany to Detroit seemed to be the way to go about it.  More folks were contacted and more people were interested.  Hey, more the merrier, right?

For two days, this annual Michigan-centric tournament takes over Joe Louis Arena and University of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech have a battle to see who can be the GLI champion and get a banner hung inside the Joe to state as much.  Every year a fourth team is invited and RPI got the call this time around.  North Dakota was there last year, so it’s not as if a patsy is invited to secure an easy win for someone, although some Michigan fans seem to find RPI to be the weakest team to be invited in a long time.  We’ll see how that goes as Michigan is having a bit of an off year.

Fun thing about getting this many heads together for a plan is other ideas pop up.  The NHL schedule was released and sure enough, the “traditional” New Year’s Eve game at Joe Louis Arena was back on, after being called off for preparation for the Winter Classic last year.  Detroit against Colorado is the game and so another call was made to secure tickets for the gang.  Three nights in a row our band of RPI fanatics (now tentatively bearing the moniker of Collar City Madmen) would be holed up at Joe Louis Arena for a total of at least three games, probably four or five depending on how ambitious we are to see the other games of the GLI.

For myself, getting to see a Red Wings game at the Joe is the icing on the cake.  Look at it this way, about 25 years ago my hockey fandom was kicked into high gear thanks to the local team from RPI winning the National Championship against Providence College… At Joe Louis Arena.  It was that same local team that provided another local team, the Adirondack Red Wings, with a soon-to-be Hall of Fame player in Adam Oates (who was later unceremoniously traded by the Red Wings in one of the worst trades of all time) but helped make that connection to the NHL team I now follow.  Fast forward to now and here I’ll be in the same arena getting to see BOTH of these teams.

This is about as close to a religious experience as this lapsed Catholic will ever get.  I’ll be at the Joe where Oates, Puppa, Carter and Servinis helped lead RPI to their last National Championship and I’ll be getting my photo taken at Gordie Howe’s statue and finding ways to get as many pictures of Steve Yzerman’s banner as one person can get.

It’s my moment damn it, keep your remarks to yourself.

As Ron Popeil might say, “But wait, there’s more.”

This schedule for the trip means that New Year’s Eve will be spent hoping the Red Wings didn’t lose anymore players to injury and maybe pull out a victory and then finding a bar to hole up with the gang, usher in 2010 and then get right the hell to sleep because a road trip to Buffalo is in order for the day of January 1st.  Sure, most everyone will be going bonkers over the Winter Classic in Boston but we’ll be getting geared up for Thrashers v. Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo because, really, you can’t have enough hockey.

Oddly enough, for the limited number of NHL games I get to see live this will be the second time I’ve seen Atlanta play in the last three or four years.  The last time I saw them was down at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers when the Thrashers won in overtime and Ilya Kovalchuk proved to me what a madman on the ice he can be.  Just an unreal, sick talent.  More fun than that, this helps make packing for a trip easy.

RPI jersey?  Check.  Red Wings jersey?  Check.  Old school Buffalo Sabres jersey?  Check.

Good to go!

I know it sounds insane to be fired up for a trip to two cities in the Rust Belt of the USA but here I am writing this up in the wee hours of the morning before hitting the road to get to Buffalo and stay the night there before trekking to Michigan.  What makes going to places like this in the dead of winter when the climate is at its bleakest and these cities are seemingly even less “fun” to visit?  It’s hockey, stupid.  Simple as that.  It’s cities like these where hockey lives and breathes the hardest even when things financially aren’t at their best.  The fans love their teams and when it comes to college hockey at Joe Louis Arena… Well, that’s a big deal there too because state bragging rights are more-or-less on the line and the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is vicious.  Even going as an “objective” hockey fan for an event like this I would be fired up so you can imagine what the adrenaline rate is now having horses in most of  the races involved here.

The NCAA has made it a point to have better “destination” cities for some of their bigger events (namely the Frozen Four) but it’s places like Detroit and Buffalo (and Minneapolis/St. Paul) where hockey encompasses the lives of the folks there.  Sure some folks can get up in arms over selecting Ford Field as a Frozen Four venue (rightfully so) but their line of thought was right.  For every Tampa Bay the NCAA picks out, they make sure to take care of St. Paul, Minnesota and the Denver too.

As for updates while I’m gone for the week… Don’t expect too much unless I witness something completely insane or I’m duly inspired and want to (potentially) drunkenly ramble when I return back to the hotel room.  If you’re wanting in on crazy stories from the road or photos as they happen, I strongly suggest following me on Twitter @HockeyJoeGM.

If you’re looking for the straight stuff about RPI hockey, you need to be reading Without A Peer and following along with Tom and Gary at their site and with them on Twitter as well @without_a_peer.  I’m sure there will be plenty of stuff to hear from us about while this newest chapter of hockey road trip madness unfolds.

10/30/2009

RPI Hockey Weekend: Rivals, Black Knights and Masked Men

Filed under: college hockey,RPI,RPI hockey,Union College — Joe Yerdon @ 4:18 PM

This weekend the RPI Engineers play one of a potential four games against local semi-rival Union College.  I call them a semi-rival because I’ve noticed through how the teams play these games that there’s a pecking order for motivation in games that are listed off as “rivalry” games where sometimes one of the opponents treats it like a blood feud and the other treats it like they’re play some other team.

That’s exactly what RPI-Union has been over the years.  Union is the kid brother of the pair, always looking to stick it to their big brother RPI and prove to them that they should be taken seriously at all costs.  Of course, RPI plays the part of the big brother rather well.  They’re the longer established hockey program, they have two National Championships and they have other schools that rank higher on the supposed pecking order as far as rivals go (Clarkson, Cornell).  At least those are the teams that RPI seems to get up for like they’re going to war.

The RPI-Union rivalry, for all intents and purposes, is similar to the baseball “rivalry” that the New York Mets and New York Yankees have and the similarities in comparing the two are striking.  Yes, they’re separated by just a few miles in locaation, that much is obvious.  In this case RPI plays the role of the Yankees while Union stands out the way the Mets do… Except that Union has a reason to have hope and they don’t have terrible management.

In baseball, the Mets go balls out to try and take down the Yankees, meanwhile the Yankees are caught up in worrying about what the Boston Red Sox are up to and being more concerned with taking them down in their divisional battles.  Of course, that’s where the one key difference between these rivalries exist, Union and RPI are both after the same ECAC crown meanwhile the Mets have the Phillies and Braves to contend with directly and the Yankees have the Red Sox and Rays.  So why is it that sometimes these travel partners can’t seem to mutually get up for games against each other?

The Engineers (and the Yankees) have the pressure to try and keep the local “kid brother” down so they (and their fans and the city rag newspapers) stay quiet but it’s often viewed to be more important to take care of business with the other rival(s) that the fans care more about.  In this situation, The Daily Gazette and Troy Record aren’t fighting each other for readers but the Union fans are just as vocal about giving grief to RPI as anyone. Call it an inferiority complex if you will as Union fans certainly get caught up in what happens in Troy whereas RPI fans could care less… Until recently.

During last Saturday’s game in Troy between RPI and AIC, out of town scores were being announced during the TV timeouts and when the announcement that Union was down 5-1 to Sacred Heart was made, a larger than normal roar went up from the home fans.  Is it because RPI had just dispatched Sacred Heart the night before and seeing them, at the time, throttling the travel partners from Schenectady was satisfying?  Perhaps, but it’s more than likely a huge case of schadenfreude.  That said though, if the fans are starting to care about what is going on with Union then perhaps this “rivalry” will get to drop the quotation marks and become a legitimate one.

As for the teams, given how well RPI has done against Union the last few seasons (4-9-3 since the 03-04 season) perhaps taking their “kid brothers” a little more serious might be a good idea.

How To Insult Army Cadets And Get Away With It

RPIs other game this weekend is against the United States Military Academy, you know them better simply as Army.  I don’t have much insight to offer about Army as I see them very rarely and they never quite land on the radar.  That said, the last time Army came to RPI, RPI drubbed the Black Knights 4-0.  The hilarious and insulting moment of the game came in the third period as the Engineers were strolling away with the victory and a sousaphonist from the RPI band made his way around Houston Field House until he was just behind the Army bench playing a tune:

Yup, the fight song of the United States Naval Academy. Nothing like rubbing a little salt in the wound especially to guys in the military. Hockey, the only sport that allows the nerds to beat up on the future officers of the military.

God bless America indeed.

Goalie Art Via Shoddy Photographs

A couple weeks ago I showed off goaltender Allen York’s mask and how I want to steal credit for the inspiration of him having Troy native Uncle Sam painted on the mask, and hey, it was cool enough to get noticed by Brian Sullivan at USCHO too.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t help this process along but also wanted to make sure I could get some photos of the other side of the mask as well and to get some photos of backup goaltender Bryce Merriam’s sweet helmet.  Besides, it’s Halloween weekend so what better to do than take a look at masks.

So without further ado, here we go.

RPIGoalies 004aThe other side of Allen York’s mask: Lady Liberty

RPIGoalies 005aBryce Merriam sports the RPI crest and Puckman on the front/side.

RPIGoalies 007aCan’t quite make out what that says?  Fear not…

RPIGoalies 001aThis reeks of confidence for the future.  I dig it.

RPIGoalies 002aThird-stringer Joe Harkenrider in an artsy-looking motion shot.

10/19/2009

RPI Hockey – We’ve Gone Full-Blown Viral

Filed under: college hockey,RPI,RPI hockey — Joe Yerdon @ 7:01 PM

While I’d like to say I was able to make the trip to Alaska to watch RPI go 0-1-1 (3-0 loss to Anchorage, 1-1 tie against Fairbanks) against the native denizen teams of the 49th state… I can’t.  Instead, I shall point out a couple of things that I find to be completely awesome and demonstrate the wonders and the power of the Internet.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I took a look at the ECAC ahead of time and talked about RPI and why they’ll be better than some might think?  Oh come on, it wasn’t that long ago.  Anyhow, recall this little piece of artwork I posted courtesy of yours truly.

unclesamwantsrpi

Now keep that in mind while I show you this picture I took of RPI goaltender Allen York in Amherst, Massachusetts where RPI lost 5-2.

RPI-UMASS 004

Say… Who is that on the side of the helmet?  That’s right – it’s Uncle Sam telling you to support RPI hockey.

All right, so he’s not saying that directly there, but I don’t care I’m stealing credit nonetheless.  Suffice to say, I’m pretty psyched to see Allen York adopting Troy, NY folk lore to adorn his mask.  That is clutch.

What else is clutch?  Getting visual reports of my artwork being seen around the RPI campus.

Who knows where else things like this might turn up around Troy but if there’s anything that can get people talking it’s more things like this.  The team playing well and winning games will only help add fuel to the viral fire for sure and with Sacred Heart and American International College coming to Troy this weekend… Well, a couple of wins shouldn’t be asking for too much.  Here’s to hoping the Alaska trip didn’t take too much out of them.

09/28/2009

ECAC Polls Released – RPI Sits Under The Radar

Filed under: ECAC,RPI hockey — Joe Yerdon @ 9:25 PM

I’ve made it known here that one of the few things I will be a fanboy about are my college hockey allegiances, and in Division I it’s all about the RPI Engineers from the ECAC.  So if you’re expecting level-headed stuff here, well, just forget it while I let my hair down.

Today the ECAC released the conference coaches poll and the media poll.  Full disclosure here, I was, indeed, one of the voters in the media poll and something I’m quite flattered to be asked to take part in.  Thanks to Ken Schott at The Daily Gazette for giving a little bit of love to this Internet-only media freak.

Ironically enough, I did take off my homer hat for my rankings in the poll.  At least I thought I did.

My list went this way:

  1. Yale
  2. Princeton
  3. Cornell
  4. Harvard
  5. St. Lawrence
  6. Dartmouth
  7. RPI
  8. Clarkson
  9. Union
  10. Quinnipiac
  11. Colgate
  12. Brown

Compared to what the ECAC Pre-Season Media Poll turned out to be, I’m apparently the outlier they’re looking for.  The final Media Poll results:

  1. Yale   (15) 278
  2. Cornell   (7)  272
  3. Princeton  (2)  253
  4. Harvard  (1)  224
  5. Dartmouth  183
  6. Union  143
  7. St. Lawrence  134
  8. Clarkson  125
  9. Colgate  106
  10. RPI  102
  11. Quinnipiac  90
  12. Brown  35

The numbers in parentheses are first-place votes and the larger number is total points in the poll.  As expected, the top four teams were pretty universally chosen by all the voters and even yours truly managed to stay on point with everyone that way.

What I didn’t quite expect was how, seemingly, the rest of the pollsters stayed in line with each other in regard to how wide open everything in the conference is below the top four.  From how it shakes out, the only thing most everyone had in agreement was that Brown was going to finish last – something which all the coaches agreed with – ouch.  Everything between fifth and tenth though?  Crap shoot.

I won’t lie, I was toying with the idea of pulling names from a hat for those spots but instead tried to do the right thing and look at things logically.  Apparently my logic is a bit off from the herd.  I won’t break down why I picked the teams in the top four because that’s the consensus and you can juggle and mix and match all you want there.

The amount of love Harvard got in the poll, including a first place vote, is something to take note of.  Harvard will get goaltender Kyle Richter back this year (after missing last season for “personal reasons”) and they’re bringing in a solid freshman class lead by Montreal Canadiens 2009 first round pick Louis Leblanc.  Harvard does manage to do very well and they’ve got a solid defensive team as it is, but clearly Harvard’s stunning lack of offense in last year’s playoffs which saw them get shutout by last place Brown in back to back games didn’t cause voters to hold off on the Crimson appreciation.

For me, it was more about Richter being back in goal (because he is a very good goaltender) and providing the stability back there.  I’m not much of a fan of coach Ted Donato’s system so if the team struggles to score goals this year I’ll happily start pointing the finger there but I do believe that they will be better and embarrassments like the one against Brown in the playoffs last year won’t happen again.

I mention Harvard in particular because what is rightfully being lauded about them is their incoming freshman class.  Leblanc I’ve mentioned but there’s a few other names here that help the Crimson instantly with Minnesota Wild fourth round pick Alex Fallstrom and Marshall Everson from Edina High School in Minnesota.  These guys will all be solid producers for the Crimson this season and they’re guys that folks know about pretty well at this point in the ECAC.

Which leads me to wonder why, exactly, RPI sits under the radar.  Oh I know, they were bad last year.  Really bad.  Before the playoffs came around, RPI was 11th in the conference and was one of the lowest scoring teams in the NCAA all while winning seven games in the regular season.  If the season ends at that point ranking out the Engineers low is just about the only thing you can do.

Thank goodness for the playoffs.  RPI swept Dartmouth in the first round riding goaltender and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Allen York to victory in Hanover, New Hampshire.  RPI would lose their quarterfinal series to Cornell two games to one, with York shutting out the Big Red in game one.   Something RPI did in Game One scared Cornell so much that coach Mike Schafer decided to blame the officials for why his team couldn’t score and earning him a suspension for Game Two while ECAC officials made a mockery of the rule book after being scared by Big Mike.  Cute.

Shouldering the scoring “load” for the Engineers in the playoffs were members of the youth movement.  Conference All-Rookie team member Patrick Cullen along with other freshmen Christian Morrissette and Jordan Watts notching goals and instilling pride in the program once again.  Losing a hard-fought Game Three at Lynah Rink is a pretty decent moral victory but one that leaves the guys returning this year with a bad taste in their mouth because they know they could’ve had that series and made their first ECAC Championships appearance in Albany.

Having younger guys like Cullen, Morrissette, Watts and Alex Angers-Goulet show up and score in the playoffs helps plant a seed, at least in my mind, that the new guys on the scene this year with Blackhawks second round pick Brandon Pirri and Maple Leafs sixth round choice Jerry D’Amigo as well as USHL product C.J. Lee and Pirri’s Hockey Canada teammate Marty O’Grady there’s a lot of good reasons to think that RPI can break out and “show up out of nowhere” this year.  Being ranked low by the media might serve to be a good motivator for this group, we know that coach Seth Appert certainly will put it to use.

pirri-damigoBrandon Pirri and Jerry D’Amigo (Photo: Tom Killups – Troy Record)

So if there’s this huge influx of talent… What gives media folks?  My thoughts on why I slotted RPI seventh include these points:

Everyone between fifth place and tenth place in the ECAC are all just about equally on par with each other.  That means these teams will all be knocking the crap out of each other and splitting season series with each other are possible.  Some teams are going to take chunks out of the top four on occasion (even RPI managed to manhandle Princeton once last year) and get a point or two on occasion.  The point differential between teams five through ten is going to be minuscule and the race for home ice in the first round (teams in fifth through eighth all get it) is going to be rough and for three of those four teams, it will mean a tough match-up right off the bat.

All of these teams have huge questions, all of these teams (even Brown) have done something in the off-season to try and make improvements.  The case with RPI that I’m willing to stick my neck out for is that while placing them seventh isn’t really a huge mind-blowing decree, it does mark a stark improvement for the program and one that coach Seth Appert will need to have show on the ice in order to keep the “Defenders of ’85” off of his back.

The “Defenders of ’85” are the folks in the RPI fan base who have been wildly unhappy with everything that has gone down in Troy since Adam Oates, Daren Puppa, John Carter, George Servinis and coach Mike Addessa brought RPI their last National Championship in 1985.  These fans can generally be found on the side of Houston Field House across from the student side and are questionably and amazingly mute during games.  This is an especially fascinating phenomenon when you consider that college games should be loud, raucous affairs.

I digress.  For Appert’s sake, the solid recruiting classes have to start paying off this year.  Last year’s surprising success in the playoffs helped whet the appetite for a lot of fans but another single-digit win season will not suffice.  Fortunately, the building blocks are set and this year brings the offensive weaponry.  Appert started by building from the back on out, starting with York who carried the team at the end of last season to show that he was, indeed, ready to be the top man in goal for the Engineers.

ibelieveinsethappert

From there, it’s up to the defensemen and new captain, junior John Kennedy, strikes some as a surprising choice.  He’s not a guy that shows up on the scoreboard with goals or assists but what he does is exemplify playing hard in your own zone.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times where another defenseman would end up out of position and Kennedy was always the “1” when the opposing team would have a 2-0n-1 opportunity going the other way.   For Kennedy, it’s not about putting up the huge numbers, it’s about doing his job the best way he can to help the team win.  Now it’s up to his other blueline mates Bryan Brutlag, Peter Merth, Jeff Foss, Mark Zarbo, and Christian Jensen to follow his example rather than feel pressured into doing too much.

RPI also expects to get a lift to their defensive corps with the return of sophomore (and Dallas Stars draftee) Mike Bergin.  Bergin was injured six games into last season and was granted an injury redshirt by the NCAA.  Bergin came in last year as a highly touted and highly talented defenseman, but a shoulder injury short-circuited his year.  His do-over year should be a huge boost to the Engineers.

What would also be a huge boost would be for Erik Burgdoerfer to stay off the ECAC officials Most Wanted to Throw In The Box List.  Burgdoerfer accumulated 106 penalty minutes last year in just 34 infractions.  That’s a lot of major penalty action for the senior and much of that helped RPI opponents gain a five-minute power play and cause RPI to be down a man for parts of the game.  While officiating can sometimes be suspect in the ECAC, you have to go out of your way to earn a reputation like that and with the number of defensemen back in the fold for RPI, Burgdoerfer will find himself wearing a suit instead of a uniform should he fall back on old habits.

Up front, youth dominates the forward corps for the Engineers.  The “old stalwarts” amongst the scoring forwards for RPI now are juniors Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich.  Polacek was RPIs leading scorer last season with 11 goals and 21 assists.  Helfrich was third on the team with 5 goals and 18 assists.  Like I said, RPI had some issues scoring last season.

Seniors Garret Vassel and Paul Kerins should expect to get “grind line” type duties this season although the competition for playing time amongst the forwards should be epic.  RPI lost four forwards to graduation, three of whom saw steady play and now see four very talented forwards join the team this year as freshmen.   Provided the defense can do their job and be responsible and the forwards can do their job and attack and everyone does their job and stays out of the box – this RPI team could turn the tide in the ECAC right away.  The additions of Pirri and D’Amigo alone are huge for the program as Pirri is a born and bred offensive maven and D’Amigo is seemingly made for the college game.

There’s reasons to stay hopeful in Troy and if Allen York can pick up where he left off at the end of last year and provide the stability in goal to cap off all of those other things… Hockey in Troy is going to be a lot more enjoyable really soon.

unclesamwantsrpiPay attention when a legend speaks.

07/31/2009

RPI Plans To Take More Money From Fans

One of the collegiate guilty pleasures you’re going to have to get better accustomed to if you’re a follower here is my fandom of the ECAC’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, if you’re nasty). The majority of my college hockey watching takes place at Houston Field House and I can virtually always be found there taking in an RPI game during hockey season.

So if you want to get into stalking me, enjoy beautiful Troy, NY.

So if you’re curious as to why this latest bit of information from RPI found its way onto my radar, well, there you go. It reads like the standard “season is approaching, get ready to buy tickets” type of news, but this year there’s a new spin.

The general public price remains as it has been in recent years for 14 home games, while four games feature premium pricing. The majority of contests will cost $10 for adults and $7 for children & seniors, while the four premium-priced games are $13 for adults and $10 for children & seniors.

The games with premium pricing are those against Cornell University on December 4, Union College on December 9, Clarkson University on February 6 and Princeton University on February 20.

That’s right, premium ticketing comes to ECAC Athletics. At long last fans can feel like they’re part of the big time as they’ll pay up more for tickets to the games they REALLY want to be at.

Great.

What do you think of this Dr. Horse?


Hmm… No sir, I don’t like it.

OK so I’m having some fun here because being dreadfully serious is dreadfully boring and this isn’t a topic that deserves to be lambasted, but it is a bit troubling for the future.

Premium ticketing for certain games is something that’s not new to sports fans in general (many NHL teams already do this including the Sabres) and, let’s face it, the cost for RPI games isn’t outrageous by any means. A weekend homestand will run you $20, there’s no price for parking and you’ll get a good night out of hockey in, at the least, a semi-festive college environment.

What’s a bit disturbing about this is, of course, the timing. RPI appears to be a team headed in the right direction.

After a poor regular season, the Engineers found their way in the playoffs upsetting and sweeping sixth seeded Dartmouth in the ECAC tournament first round and then taking ECAC Tournament finalists Cornell to three games in the quarterfinals before losing.

This year, the Engineers bring in two 2009 NHL Draft Picks with forwards Brandon Pirri (2nd round 59th overall to Chicago) and Jerry D’Amigo (6th round 158th overall to Toronto) as well as other forwards C.J. Lee and Marty O’Grady to join an already very young team. RPI has struggled and head coach Seth Appert has, for all intents and purposes, rebuilt the program in the last three years at the helm.

Whether the progress continues to bring success hinges a lot upon what this new crop of players can do immediately and with that the folks at RPI have apparently decided that folks will pony up no matter what, especially for certain games. The games they’ve got picked out are the traditional big ticket games each year taking advantage of the opponent or the situation.


Puckman wants to see you in Troy… And make you pay for it.

In the case with the game against Cornell, RPI is looking to capitalize upon the swarm of visitors that descend upon Troy from Ithaca each year and looking to make a few more bucks off of the fans from Cornell… Well really, paying more to come to Troy will really stick in their collective craws and that’s just fun to make them upset.

Much is the same with the fans coming from Schenectady from Union College. Making those folks pay a few bucks more for the pleasure of visiting Troy makes me laugh because they hate to do it.

RPI’s games against Clarkson and Princeton in February actually are premium tickets as far as RPI fans are concerned.

RPI and Clarkson are big time rivals in the ECAC, at least they are from RPI’s standpoint. Clarkson tends to have more rivalry-like hate for the likes of St. Lawrence and Cornell. In this case, RPI has chosen their game against Clarkson to be Alumni night and they’ll be honoring the 1985 National Championship as it’ll be the 25th Anniversary of RPIs last national title and hey, you don’t need a good excuse to bring Adam Oates and Daren Puppa back to town now do you?

Putting this event the same night as their game with Clarkson is a really nice coincidence though.

The game with Princeton is a convenient double-whammy as Princeton, traditionally, brings very few fans on the road which will not help them as this game is RPIs annual Big Red Freakout as well as senior night.

As that link explaining the Big Red Freakout says, fans can thank RPI for the NCAA rule banning noisemakers at games as the gift given out to fans in 1987 were horns and well… Wild, rambunctious and boozed up college kids with horns at a hockey game? I can’t see how that ever turned out badly.

RPIs record in the Big Red Freakout is something quite remarkable (18-9-5 since 1978) and they’ll be looking to get off a three-year winless streak in 2010 as well as avenging their Freakout loss to Princeton two years ago that saw the Engineers lose 4-0 in a game that wasn’t even as close as that score indicates.

Four premium ticket games, two of which are actually premium games that will very likely be sellouts. It’s a shrewd financially-driven decision by RPI to do this and, let’s face it they’re going to get the money they’re looking for here. It is a choice that I worry will be taken advantage of in future seasons and leading to ticket prices going up.

After all, RPI does have a nice new athletic facility to show off and try to make money off of (not that it has anything to do with the hockey program) but since RPI has made headlines locally for cutting jobs and talking about financial hardships making a few bucks off their only Division I men’s athletic program should be no surprise.

That’s a whole ‘nother rant entirely however.

I wanted to really tear ass about this more, but I can understand why RPI is doing premium ticket pricing for these games, I just hope that this isn’t a harbinger of doom for the future.

Sure, college hockey ticket prices are a bit higher in the midwest (Denver University’s single game tickets range between $17-$35 for example), but the demand out there is much higher as well so it makes sense. If RPI starts winning again, the long lost dormant RPI fans will come back and the students will be out in force if for no other reason than to be seen at the games.

As it is, the exhibition game with Prince Edward Island on October 3rd is a date most RPI fans cannot wait for just so they can finally get a look at guys like Pirri and D’Amigo on the ice in cherry, white and black.

I’m sure the coaching staff is hoping that the new class is able to inspire more goals and victories and make the fans want to come to Troy on the weekends once again.

06/10/2009

A Break For Reality: Good-Bye to Nathan Marsters

I know this is the day when I should be wrapping up Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and getting psyched along with everyone else about a Game 7, but during last night’s game news came down that probably doesn’t hit on most of your radars about the passing of someone who I had the pleasure to watch quite a bit here at home and monitor his career from afar.

In the heights of Game 6, I broke the news on Twitter that former RPI goalie standout and 2000 Los Angeles Kings 5th Round pick Nathan Marsters was killed in a car accident. This morning, the details of the accident became available to me and it’s an even bigger gut-punch to read the information.


Nathan Marsters at RPI (courtesy of rpihockey.net)

I can’t say that I knew Nathan personally and I only know him as someone on the ice who always impressed me with his playing ability for teams that sometimes failed to support him with the goals needed to win. A good friend of mine blogging for the St. Cloud Times offers a a better and more personalized view of Nathan Marsters.

It pained me to try to reach him as best as I could while he’s on the move supporting our country in Iraq and proved why sometimes technology while helpful doesn’t offer the personal touch necessary to pass along terrible news.

Marsters was a four-year starter during his time in Troy, NY with the RPI Engineers, a credit to his game. At 6’4″ 200 he was a big, lanky goaltender and presented an intimidating figure on which opposing shooters had to deal with.

His tenure in Troy saw him put up stellar numbers three out of his four seasons (his junior year being the lone hiccup) and his senior season he saved the best for last finishing with a 21-13-1 record with a .922 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against, earning career marks in wins and goals against that year.

After college, Nathan became one of the many uncredited unknowns that move on to journeyman careers in the minor leagues hoping to hone his game and catch on in the AHL and eventually the NHL.

Round about 2006, Marsters got the call while playing for the Portland Pirates, then a Mighty Ducks of Anaheim affiliate. It would be a brief moment and there wouldn’t be any time seen on the ice, but the Ducks thought enough of him to call him up while Jean-Sebastien Giguere was out with an injury and Marsters dressed as the backup goalie for Game 1 of Anaheim’s Western Quarterfinal game against Calgary.

One cup of coffee had and in playoff time no-less, not a bad credit for the résumé. That 2005-2006 season in Portland for the Pirates, he went 23-9-2 with a 3.10 GAA and .900 save percentage. Marsters would get one more turn with Portland the follow season but for only a few games. From there, he moved on to the ECHL and this past season saw some work in the German Professional League playing in nine games for the Krefeld Penguins.

That’s the rough road of being a professional hockey player and the part of Nathan’s story that really brings this all home for me. He was a guy just about my age trying to do whatever it is that he can to make it stick and to make it count and maybe catch lightning in a bottle and in one, horrible instant it’s done and over with.

For Nathan, he was trying to be one of those guys that I hope to someday write about on the big scene and going anywhere he could just to keep playing.

To keep trying.

Hearing of this loss has really thrown me for a loop for a handful of reasons which would be immensely disrespectful to bring up here. For now though, it’s time to remember one of hockey’s fallen and honor him.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress