2006-07 Men's Hockey Season Outlook
A new era of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) men’s hockey begins this fall as the Engineers welcome three new coaches and seven freshmen as well as a team leader back from his medical redshirt. The trio behind the bench will also have 17 letterwinners with which to work, including two of the top scorers and the starting goaltender from the 2005-06 season. Seth Appert takes over as the head coach, joined by assistant coaches Shawn Kurulak and Jim Montgomery. They will have the opportunity to mentor 12 returning forwards, three defensemen and all three goalies who are back. Of the newcomers, three are forwards and four play defense. “From what the staff has seen and heard from the players, we believe we will be very competitive with every team on our schedule,” said Appert, who comes to Troy after nine years as an assistant coach at the University of Denver. “With our solid mix of speed and size we expect to play an up-tempo but physical style.”
THE FORWARDS Of the three positions on the ice, the Engineers’ most experienced is at forward, where four seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen will line up. Kirk MacDonald (Victoria, BC/Victoria Salsa), who had 16 goals and 20 assists for a team-high 36 points in 37 games two seasons ago, returns after battling testicular cancer. A rugged forward and fierce competitor, he tallied eight power play goals and four game-winners – both of which ranked among the leaders nationally – during his junior campaign. Among those back from last year’s team, which posted a 14-17-6 overall record and an 8-8-6 ECAC Hockey League mark, is Oren Eizenman (Toronto, ON/Wexford Raiders). A senior center, he was second on the team with 38 points, including a team-best 16 goals, in 37 games. A fine skater with good vision and solid face-off skills, he dished out 22 assists, which was second on the team. Twelve of those helpers – and seven of his goals – came in 22 league games. Classmate Kevin Broad (Humboldt, SK/Chilliwack Chiefs) is a fearless competitor who provides a spark with his hard hitting, timely scoring and leadership. He finished with seven goals and one assist in 23 games, missing 14 games due to injury. Fellow senior Tommy Green (Martensville, SK/Melfort Mustangs) looks to take advantage of the new staff’s offensive style and finish his career with a flourish. Junior Jonathan Ornelas (Mississauga, ON/Milton IceHawks), who has outstanding speed with a finishers’ touch, was third on the team with 22 points (13 goals, 9 assists) as a sophomore. Seven of his 13 goals came on the power play, tying Eizenman for tops on the team. Classmate Andrew Lord (West Vancouver, BC/Vernon Vipers) used his solid frame (6-3, 200) to make things difficult for the opposition, tallying seven goals and six assists in the process. Each of the other junior forwards, Jake Morissette (Fruitvale, BC/Williams Lake Timberwolves), Dan Peace (Ann Arbor, MI/Toledo Ice Diggers) and Tyler Eaves (Queensbury, NY/Shattuck St. Mary’s), skate well and are very effective two-way players. They, too, look to flourish in RPI’s fast-paced attack. Sophomores Kurt Colling (Ripley, ON/Vernon Vipers) and Matt Angers-Goulet (St. Augustin, PQ/Notre Dame Hounds) are both coming off strong freshmen years and look to establish themselves as dominant two-way players. Colling earned 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) while Angers-Goulet had ten points (5 goals, 5 assists) in limited ice time in 28 and 34 games, respectively. Seth Klerer (Thornhill, ON/North York Rangers) and Andrei Uryadov (St. Petersburg, Russia/South Kent), another pair of sophomores, expect to use their skating abilities to become solid point producers at the collegiate level. RPI’s incoming forwards are Jordan Cyr (Winnipeg, MB/Brockville Braves), a left wing, Paul Kerins (Weston, ON/North York Rangers), a center, and Garett Vassel (Northampton, NY/New York Apple Core). Cyr tallied 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 45 games while Kerins had 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in the same number of contests. Vassel led the Apple Core in scoring, notching 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 44 games. He also has the ability to play defense for Rensselaer.
THE DEFENSEMEN The Engineers return three defensemen, including two seniors and a sophomore. Jake Luthi (Palmer, AK/Sioux Falls Stampede), a senior, is the top blueliner returning, having tallied 11 points in 37 games. A smooth skater with a hard shot, he scored three goals – two on the power play – with eight assists while also picking up 50 penalty minutes. Fellow senior Ryan Swanson (Woodbury, MN/Soo Indians), who is 6-3, 210 pounds, gained valuable experience as a junior, seeing time in 35 games. The team’s Most Improved Player had a goal and seven assists after notching one helper in his first two seasons. One of the most respective competitors on the team, Swanson brings out the best in his teammates in practices and games. Sophomore Reed Kipp (Victoria, BC/Vernon Vipers) showed offensive promise as he tallied two goals and six assists in 26 games during his rookie campaign. Rensselaer’s incoming blueliners bring size, toughness and offensive abilities. Erik Burgdoerfer (East Setauket, NY/New York Apple Core), who is 6-2, 210 pounds, had six goals and ten assists with 60 penalty minutes in 45 games a year ago while Jason Fortino (Stoney Creek, ON/Milton IceHawks), who is 6-0, 205 pounds, had 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and 102 penalty minutes in 39 games. Christian Jensen (Watchung, NJ/Chicago Steel) is a solid 6-3, 210 pounder who had a goal and eight assists with 22 penalty minutes in 42 USHL games last season, including 24 with Chicago. He is a draft pick of the San Jose Sharks, having been selected in the ninth round (289 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest blueliner to join the Engineers is Peter Merth (New Westminster, BC/Burnaby Express), who is 6-3, 225 pounds. He finished his final junior season with 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) and 102 penalty minutes in 60 games, winning the Canadian National Junior Championship, where he was named the top defenseman. THE
GOALTENDERS The Engineers should be strong in goal as they return all three netminders, including senior Will Neubert (Painted Post, NY/Capital District Selects), junior Jordan Alford (Red Deer, AB/Canmore Eagles) and sophomore Mathias Lange (Klagenfurt, Austria/New York Apple Core). Lange, the team’s workhorse, played in 35 games, including 34 starts, with a 13-15-6 record as a freshman. He posted a 2.70 goals against average and a .901 save percentage while playing in over 2041 minutes. A backstop who consistently keeps his composure, he was a unanimous selection to the ECACHL’s All-Rookie Team as well as one of RPI’s Most Valuable Players. Alford has a career record of 6-7-1 with a 3.36 goals against average while Neubert has yet to see any game action.
THE COACHES Appert, the 12th head men’s hockey coach in Rensselaer’s storied history, brings an offensive-minded transition style from Denver, where he helped the Pioneers average over 23 wins per year and capture two National Championships. Among the many nationally-ranked recruiting classes he helped attract were the 2006 Hobey Baker Award winner, eight All-Americans, a WCHA Player of the Year, 22 All-WCHA picks, three WCHA Defensive Players of the Year, two WCHA Student-Athletes of the Year and 22 NHL draft picks. Appert also played a big role in the development of Denver’s goaltenders. A former netminder at Ferris State, he individually coached one All-American, two All-WCHA honorees, two WCHA Playoff Most Valuable Players and two Frozen Four Most Outstanding Players. Three of his goalies were draft picks of the NHL, including one Hobey Baker Award finalist, and two of those netminders played in the NHL last season. Montgomery, a two-time All-American and former pro standout, spent the past year as a volunteer assistant coach at Notre Dame, where he oversaw the video coordinator’s responsibilities, the team statistical program and face-off and scoring skills development. Prior to coaching, he played professionally for 12 seasons, including stints in the NHL with St. Louis, Montreal, Philadelphia, San Jose and Dallas. As a collegiate player at Maine from 1989-93, Montgomery tallied 103 goals and 198 assists for 301 points in 170 career games. He led the team to a 138-25-8 record with two Hockey East Championships and captained the 1993 National Championship team. The Montreal, Que., native ranks fourth in NCAA history in points and assists. Kurulak spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Army, where he was responsible for recruiting, player development, especially with the defensemen, and coordinating video instruction while helping direct the Black Knights to their most successful season at the Division I level. He has also been the head coach of Fargo-Moorhead of the NAHL, which he led to a 33-21-0 record in its expansion year, and an assistant at Bemidji St. for two seasons, recruiting the classes that have led the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament the past two years. A native of Calgary, Alb., Kurulak graduated from Denver in 1999 and spent one season as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater, where he was a four-year letterwinner on the blueline for the Pioneers. He wore the alternate captain’s "A" for three seasons and was a three-time WCHA All-Academic selection.
THE SCHEDULE The Engineers, who open their 105th season on October 7, play 35 games, including 18 home games at the Houston Field House in Troy. Rensselaer’s season opener is an exhibition game against York University of Ontario at the Field House. The Engineers host perennial national power Boston University one week later before going to Denver for a two-game set on October 20-21. RPI returns to the Capital District for a pair of games at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on October 28-29, beginning with a matchup with area-rival Union on October 28. The Engineers face either Colgate or Quinnipiac the next day. Those two games are non-league affairs. Rensselaer kicks off its ECAC Hockey League schedule – and its longest home stand of the season – on November 3 when Princeton visits the Field House for the 4th Annual Black Friday. Quinnipiac, the Tigers’ travel partner, is in Troy the next night. The Engineers play just one game in each of the next two weekends, against Merrimack on November 12 and Sacred Heart on November 17. The home stand concludes with the 56th Annual Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Tournament, the oldest college hockey holiday tournament in the nation, on November 24-25. This year’s field features Colgate, Niagara and Ohio State with the Engineers opening against Niagara. RPI is on the road for four league games over the next two weekends, including a trip to Central New York, before returning to the Field House to close out the fall semester with a non-league game against UMass Lowell on December 16. Following a 13-day layoff, Rensselaer travels to Burlington to participate in the University of Vermont’s Tournament on December 29-30. The month of January begins with three straight home league games as Harvard (Jan. 5), Dartmouth (Jan. 6) and Union (Jan. 12) visit the Field House. The game against the Dutchmen is the start of a home-and-home series as the Engineers travel to Schenectady the next night. Following the games with Union, RPI hosts Clarkson on January 19 and St. Lawrence on January 20. The game with the Saints, which will be preceded by the Annual Alumni Game, is the 30th Annual Big Red Freakout! RPI will attempt to extend its Freakout! unbeaten streak to 17 games (12-0-4). Rensselaer returns to the road for its next four games, including trips to Yale (Jan. 26) and Harvard (Feb. 3), before welcoming Colgate and Cornell on February 9-10. The Engineers visit St. Lawrence and Clarkson on February 16-17 before finishing the regular season with home games against Brown and Yale on February 23-24.
SCHEDULE NOTES The Engineers’ Annual Red/White Game is September 30, followed by the Annual Skate with the Engineers … Rensselaer plays 13 non-league games, including seven at home … The Engineers’ start date of October 7 matches the earliest the team has ever opened. RPI hosted Ottawa last season on the same date … Rensselaer has never faced York … The game against Boston University is on Homecoming Weekend … RPI faces Denver for the first time since January 3, 1982, a 4-3 loss in Troy … The Engineers are 3-0-0 all-time on Black Friday … They are 18-7-4 all-time in the Big Red Freakout! … The last Freakout! loss came at the hands of St. Lawrence on January 27, 1990 … The Big Red Freakout! has been held in January on four occasions, most recently on January 31, 1998 … RPI is 1-3-0 in January Freakouts! … Three of the teams on RPI’s schedule played in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. They are Boston University, Cornell and Harvard … Based on the known opponents, the Engineers play one game against a Canadian school, four versus Hockey East foes, two games against a WCHA opponent, one each from College Hockey America and Atlantic Hockey and 24 against ECACHL teams … Rensselaer plays 15 games on Fridays, 18 on Saturdays and two on Sundays … The Engineers play six games in October and November, seven in December and eight in January and February … The ECACHL Playoffs run from March 2 to March 17, beginning with the best-of-three first round matchups March 2-4. The league semi-finals and finals are March 16-17 at Pepsi Arena … The NCAA Tournament runs from March 23 to April 7. The 2007 Frozen Four is at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.