Did You Know: The Clarkson Hockey program has amassed 10,001 goals since the 1920-21 season?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ECAC Season Preview - RPI

Rensselaer Engineers

Last Years Finish - Tied for 6th, lost tie break to Union

Key Returnees - Oren Eizenman Sr. F, Mathias Lange So. G, Kevin MacDonald Sr. F

Key Losses - Kevin Croxton F, Keith McWilliams D, Brad Farynuk D

RPI got off to a good start in 2005-2006, despite not having would be captain and potential All American Kirk MacDonald. RPI pulled an upset at Boston University's Agganis Rink and used that win to start off 4-2-0. However the optimism quickly dissipated and RPI finished the year with a 14-17-6 mark and was upset at home by Quinnipiac in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. This was the last straw for long time coach Dan Frigden as he resigned from the position following the season. RPI then began an 'international search' for a new head coach and in the end selected Seth Appert, a then assistant coach at Denver. RPI is hoping this pays off long term dividends for the program, in the short term it is hard to tell what the results could be.

Up front the Engineers need to compensate for the graduation of their top scorer Kevin Croxton. Croxton and Eizenman supplied about 30 percent of RPI's offense. With Croxton leaving RPI is taking a big gamble that Kirk MacDonald will fill the void of Croxton. MacDonald, who took a medical red shirt last year to battle testicular cancer, was RPI's leading scorer two years ago, but it remains to be seen if he can put up the same type of numbers after a year long absence. MacDonald will provide a mental and psychological spark to the team but RPI needs another forward to step and provide Eizenman with the chances to rack up big numbers.

On the blue line RPI lost four seniors to graduation. Three of these four were major contributors to the offense. Combine this loss with a defense that allowed 2.55 goals per game in conference play and throw in a new defensive system under a new coach and RPI could be looking at a rebuilding year. Appert will need seniors Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson to take command of the defense and not rely on Lange to be able to bail them out. Lange will steal a game or two, but if he faces too many quality chances RPI will not win.

In goal Mathias Lange had the starting job at the end of last year. Considering Appert was a goalie and a goaltender coach it will be anyone's guess to see if he stays with the status quo in Lange or looks to give junior Jordan Alford another shot. Lange would be the statistical first choice with a career .901 save percentage and 2.70 GAA compared to Alford's .875 and 3.36 numbers. However much can be said for a change of scenery and under Appert's tutelage, Alford may see more ice time this year. Lange can steal games but as shown in the Quinnipiac series, if too many scoring chances are thrown his way, he is not always equal to the task.

RPI's season rest firmly on three main questions. One, can Kirk MacDonald return to old form? Two, can the Engineers respond to changes up top, which haven't occurred in 12 years. Finally, can the Engineers find offense from more than the top line? If RPI can make marked improvement in two of these three areas, then the Engineers will be challenging for a first round bye. If they can not, then they will be on the road in the first round.

Best Case Finish - 5th
Worst Case Finish - 10th

CHF's Pick - 8th


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