Friday, November 30, 2012

Lee, Schroeder in the lineup; so is Kasdorf

TROY -- So, C.J. and Zach Schroeder are in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey lineup tonight, even though each is still sore -- Lee in the knee, Schroeder the lingering wrist ailment that's kept him sidelined for the past four games.
   The Engineers are without assists leader Brock Higgs,Mar k McGowan and Johnny Rogic but the lineup isn't as weakened as coach Seth Appert had feared earlier in the week.
   In fact, it should be good enough to get the Engineers, 3-5-2 overall, into the ECAC Hockey win column after an 0-4-0 start.
   Should RPI lose tonight and Saturday night against Quinnipiac, the 0-6-0 mark might prove to be too difficult to overcome enough to reach seventh place in the league and thus be home for the preliminary round of the playoffs.
   Princeton has not lost a road game to RPI in six years. If you believe in the law of averages, RPI should have an edge tonight. To beat Princeton, they'll have to play well throughout. They'll have out-physical the bigger Tigers without parading to the penalty box.
   That assignment has been quite difficult for the Engineers in recent seasons.
   Appert, going with his gut to name a starting goaltender, went with freshman Jason Kasdorf. An NHL draft pick (Winnipeg), Kasdorf is has the biggest upside of RPI's trio of netminders and is the goaltender of the future.
   Whether or not he's the top goalie on the team right now is open to debate.
   He has tonight's important game on his shoulders, though.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Much-needed win for RPI; Lee out tonight

   Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior captain C.J. Lee will not play in tonight's game against Mercyhurst, sidelined by injuries suffered during Friday night's 4-2 victory over the Lakers. More on that below.
   Mercyhurst is not the best team on the Engineers schedule, not even on the November portion of it -- even if you were to exclude Union.
   However, the Lakers are decent and came to town having won three of their previous four games at Houston Field House (one over Princeton in a tournament title game. They are no pushovers.
   The Engineers, winless in their previous seven games, were in desperate need of a victory on Friday night and they went out and earned one.
   They weren't perfect. The power play was "flat", to use coach Seth Appert's word, on its first two tries, RPI put only 23 shots on the Mercyhurst net and the Engineers struggled in the third period, nearly surrendering a 3-0 lead.
   The Engineers tightened up, though, down the stretch and got an insurance goal within the final minute on a power-play goal by Nick Bailen, his second tally of the game.
   Rensselaer really could use another triumph tonight and how much Friday night's success will carry over to tonight will be seen shortly. Resuming ECAC Hockey play non Nov. 30 against Princeton with an 0-4-0 league record and winless in nine games overall, may have been too big a hole from which to climb for the Engineers.
   New group clicks on PP: Rensselaer's second power-play unit is often whatever forward line -- and whatever two defensemen -- are rested.
   On that late Friday night power play, though, Appert put Bailen, the first-unit quarterback, out there with fellow first unitmen Brock Higgs and Ryan Haggerty, freshman Mark Miller and defenseman Curtis Leonard.
   "That group had never been out there together," Appert said, lauding the qunintet. "I told them exactly what I wanted them to do and they went out and executed it at an incredibly high level without (ever) practicing (together) because they were commited to doing it right for their teammates. Credit to all of them but Mark Miller had never touched power play time, he's a freshman.
  "I just thought it was a good example of what I mean by executing."
   What had Appert told "exactly" what to do?
  "Play keep away," Bailen said, "and if there was an open lane, get a shot on net. I just shot it and luckily it hit him (goalie Max Strang's glove) and went in.
   "I wouldn't call it a must win," said Bailen, who termed the victory "much-needed.
   "We all pulled together and stuck together and that's what you have to do when you're struggling," he said.
   Lee tried to go: Lee was on RPI's original line chart but simply couldn't go. His back, his foot...
   "All over; sore all over," he said.
   Still looking for his first point of the season, Lee, who led the Engineers in goals (8) last season, hopes to return for that aforementioned Princetron game in 13days.
   Get the best real-time on-line highlight's of tonight's game at

Friday, November 16, 2012

Appert seemed at a low point

   I was sick virtually all week folks and was barely able to get through the basics but I still wanted to share this with you; even though it's somewhat dated, it's still relevant.
   When I spoke with Seth Appert last Friday night after Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 4-0 loss at Dartmouth, the seven-year RPI coach was as down as I've ever heard him.
   After Saturday night's loss at Harvard, also 4-0, he was more reserved; almost resolved.
   Now, after three days of practice, he and the Engineers appear to be in decent mental shape to go out and end their five-game losing streak and seven-game winless skein with a victory over Mercyhurst.
   Back to Friday night.
   "I wasn't down, I was angry," Appert said.
  "You sounded down, more than angry," I replied.
   "Well, I was on the bus in front of the team," he said, and indeed, that thought occurred to me.
   Let's just say, though, among the many chats we've had by phone following road defeats, it wasn't among his more positive moments.
   Here's what he told me about that conversation.
  "I was angry with the way we responded to the adversity of the prior weekend," he said, referring to a pair of losses (4-2, 7-3) to rival Union. "Angry that we didn't respond with more resolve. So, I was angry."
   The next night, after he'd benched several lineup regulars such as top-line right winger Ryan Haggerty, Matt Tinordi and defensemen Bo Dolan and Curtis Leonard, Appert seemed resolved to the fact that any improvement the Engineers show, may take some time.
   He had dressed only 11 forwards and five defensemen, and veteran forwards C.J. Lee, the team captain, and Brock Higgs, didn't play in the first period at Harvard.
   "You never want it to get to that point," Appert said of the short lineup, which was already weakened by the injuries to leading-scorer Jacob Laliberte and to Zach Schroeder.
   Appert made the moves "for the long-term betterment" of the team.
   "And again," he said, you never want it to get to that point but eventually you've got to send a message. As coaches, we're teachers. We work with (players), try to help them, show them the path to success, to doing things the right way and you try to get them to take ownership of it. We watch videos with them, Bryan and Nolan (assistant coaches Bryan Vines and Nolan Graham) go on the ice early with them (before practices), we talk to them and sometimes I yell at them, all those different things.
   "But if it's not working," Appert continued, "eventually it's ice time. It just is. That's what every coach in every sport has -- playing time. You don't want it to get to that point with players you believe should be in the lineup but sometimes it has to be. I'm not the first coach to do it, I won't be the last."
   "We are a team," Appert continued, "and that's about making sure the guys, all of them, understand that the team comes first. It's on me to get them to buy into it and it's on them to buy into it."
   Appert gave a somewhat extreme but quite common example:
   "At the end of your shift and you're stuck out there for 50 seconds and you're dead tired, I don't care, an neither do your teammates, how much you want to get off the ice. What I care about, and so do your teammates, is, can you finish your shift the right way; will you continue to execute even though you feel your lungs burning and your legs burning, will you still block a shot, will you still take a hit to get the red line, or will you mentally check out at the end of that shift and just go through the motions the last 15 seconds because you're mad that somebody turned the puck over and you're still stuck out there?
   "Those are things we just have to get tougher at and we're getting there," he added. "It's a matter of me making sure they're getting that message better and a matter of them taking ownership of their own situations and what their teammates expect of them. That's what Saturday was about."
 Fans -- get all the Mercyhurst-RPI highlights on Twitter tonight and Saturday night at


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tough league openers for RPI

TROY – When the ECAC Hockey schedule was released, many Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey fans bristled. “Why do we have to play Union right away – first two league games,” they wondered.

Sure Kelly Zajac had graduated and Jeremy Welsh left one year early for a pro hockey career but still, the Dutchmen were most powerful team in the league.
Freshman left winger Daniel Carr has a pair of 20-goal seasons. Right winger Wayne Simpson had proven himself as a goal-scorer and senior center Kyle Bodie could certainly step into Zajac’s role effectively.
Max Novak, Matt Hatch and Kevin Sullivan, as good as any third-line forwards in the league, have all shown the ability to put up points.
The Dutchmen also have, led by sophomore Shayne Gostisbehere, the best group of offense-contributing defensemen who are solid in their own end. And of, year, they have an All-American goaltender in Troy Grosenick and are a veteran team; the Engineers are a young team – two-third sophomores or freshmen.
Well, the Union-RPI league openers were just the ECACH’s rotation, one surmises, but those fans’ fears certainly were realized over the weekend as the Dutchmen maintained their recent domination of RPI with a pair of victories.
They didn’t play anywhere near the top of their game on Friday night but still left Houston Field House with a 4-2 victory. Then on Saturday, Union took advantage of a controversial major penalty call on RPI defenseman Luke Curadi to score three power-play goals within 2:04 to turn a 2-1 lead into a four-goal cushion.
Just a few minutes later, Engineers goalie Bryce Merriam stopped Simpson on a shorthanded breakaway but the rebound caromed in off the skate of RPI defenseman Nick Bailen, who’d been chasing Simpson.
Another goal late in the period, on some poor defensive zone coverage, put the Engineers in a 7-2 hole much too deep.
On Friday night, as mentioned Union wasn’t at its best offensively but emotionally the veteran Dutchmen kept to their game plan, kept their poise and used a deflected goal and Simpson’s pretty breakaway backhander goal to earn the triumph.
Many felt that the contact-to-the-head penalty by the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Curadi, which knocked the 5-11, 165-poundGostisbehere should have been a minor, even though Gostisbehere’s facemask was bent and he incurred a cut to the bridge of his nose.
Appert, while terming the call on Dolan “poor” and agreeing that Curadi’s penalty “could have (he later said should have) been a minor, he was quite clear that neither the missed call on Sullivan/Dolan or Union’s extended power play “was not why we lost.
“We lost because of our lack of discipline, both nights,” he said. “That (Curadi’s major) was a turning point in the game but (the game) turned on the way we handled it, not the call itself.
“It was not a dirty hit … but it was a violent hit but it wasn’t intentional (to injure). It probably looked worse than it actually was. But I don’t have an issue with it being a 5. Again, that’s not why we lost.”
Appert said, “what cost us both nights was our lack of discipline, not just the penalties but some other mistakes and I take full responsibility for it.”
Don’t the players have to share some of the blame, he was asked.
“I recruited them, I’m their coach,” he said. “I take responsibility.
“And I believe in every one of them,” he said.
As for the weekend, Appert repeated he’s “angry. But I still like our team. We’ve done some good things. Four our six games have been against Frozen Four teams (Ferris State and Union) from last year. We have to learn from our mistakes and we will. We’re going to get better and we’re going to make great strides.”
That better come soon. The Engineers are on the road at Dartmouth and Harvard this week and will come home with an 0-4-0 league record and seven-game winless streak if their play doesn’t improve dramatically.
On Friday night, as mentioned Union wasn’t at its best offensively but emotionally the veteran Dutchmen kept to their game plan, kept their poise and used a deflected goal and Simpson’s pretty breakaway backhander goal to earn the triumph.
Classy: Union center Kyle Bodie showed some class in which the rest of the Dutchmen can share during Union’s long power play after Lee’s penalty.

Twice Bodie, with the puck behind the net, had teammates open in front of the net but passed up the quality scoring chances, as is if to ask, ‘do we really need to make it 8-2.’
One of those open wingers was Daniel Ciampini, who was looking for a hat-trick goal but Bodie kept the puck, then passed back to the point.
Schroeder injury not long-term: Sophomore winger Zach Schroeder has a wrist injury but played through it on Saturday and will likely play this weekend.
Kasdorf makes debut: With Saturday’s game out of hand, Appert used the opportunity to give freshman goaltender Jason Kasdorf, a National Hockey League draft pick (Winnipeg) his first college minutes.
He played the entire third period, stopping all eight shots he faced, including a bang-bang shot off his blocker by the high-scoring Carr.
“It felt good to get out there,” said Kasdorf, who later made a brilliant sliding kick save. “It wasn’t the ideal game, the situation, but it was pretty exciting.
“I thought our guys played pretty well in front of me, clearing pucks and helping me out. It was only 20 minutes but it was fun.”
Bubela notches first: Freshman winger Milos Bubela scored his first collegiate goal in the third period Saturday night.
“(Mark) McGowan gave it to me in the slot,” Bubela said. “I put a (deke) on one guy and shot from the backhand. It felt good to get it.”
Numbers take a beating: Merriam’s goals against average saves percentage, and to a lesser extent, Scott Diebold’s, took a hit over the weekend. Nothing like the Engineers’ penalty killing and power play figures, however.
Prior to the weekend, the Engineers had killed 12 of 13 shorthanded situations for an efficiency rating of 92.3 percent, among the top six in the nation.
After Union buried five power-play goals in 13 chances, that glowing rating lost its shine, falling to 76.9 percent on 20-of-26.
On the power play, RPI had been successful 35.3 percent of the time with six goals among 17 power plays. After a 1-for-9 weekend against Union’s aggressive and effective penalty killers, that marked dropped to 26.9 percent (7-of-26).
Merriam entered Saturday’s game with a GAA of 2.86 and a saves percentage of 90.3 percent. He’s now allowing 4.71 goals per game and his saves percentage nose-dived to 85.6.
Diebold, Friday night’s losing goalie, saw his GAA go from 1.92 to 2.62, his saves percentage from a sparkling 92.9 percent to 89.2.
Stats have their place, however limited, but RPI has much bigger problems now than lowered numbers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

RPI upperclassmen must play better

   SCHENECTADY --Did Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach call out his handful of upperclassmen after Friday night's 4-2 loss to Union?
   Not really, but he did clearly express that he expects them to be more mature, to provide leadership.
   The young Engineers, who entered tonight's game at Union on a four-game winless streak after a season-opening victory -- they are 1-2-2 overall -- are a sophomore- and freshman-laden team.
   Appert has often said, however, that any team needs its seniors to perform well, to provide leadership, for the team to enjoy success.
   He was displeased with the team's "lack of maturity" during Friday's game and said, "it wasn't just the freshmen and sophomores, it was some of our older guys" as well.
   Appert didn't name captain C.J. Lee -- or anyone else for that matter -- but he was displeased with the 10-minute misconduct penalty Lee incurred, along with a slashing minor, at 8:24 of the second period.
   Junior defensemen Bo Dolan and Guy Leboeuf have to step up their play.
   Even star defenseman Nick Bailen has made mistakes in the defensive zone, as have veteran forwards such as Lee and Brock Higgs and the Engineers have had several communications breakdowns.
   "I know our juniors and seniors have more in them," Appert said. "And I know they believe in what we're about, but now they need to apply that in those key moments of the games."
   Mistakes happen, both mental and physical -- and the Engineers were hurt by both Friday night while allowing Union just 18 shots on goal -- but Appert expects players to not repeat the same mistakes.
   "I don't expect our guys to be perfect," he said, "but if you really care about something, you'll resolve yourself with your commitment and your discipline to not make those mistakes again."
   Merriam in net tonight: Appert continued to rotate his two veteran goaltenders, as senior Bryce Merriam starts tonight. Sophomore Scott Diebold was not stellar on Friday night, though he had been sharp in his previous two games.
   Appert says he hasn't "thought about" when he may give a start to freshman goalie Jason Kasdorf, a National Hockey League draft pick (Winnipeg).
   As for the lineup, freshman winger Mike Zalewski, still without a shot on goal in five games, was benched for tonight's game and senior Johnny Rogic, who sat on Friday, put back in.
   The high-scoring Jacob Laliberte line -- Matt Neal on the left, Ryan Haggerty on the right -- remains intact but Appert broke up the other lines.
   Lee went from left wing on Mark McGowan's line to right wing on Higgs' line, Matt Tinordi from RW to LW on that line.
  Freshman Milos Bubela is on right wing on McGowan's line, with soph Zach Schroeder moving to left wing.
   Freshman Mark Miller, a left winger in previous weeks, centers with Rogic at LW, Greg Burgoerfer on the  right. Miller centered for Bubela and Burgdoerfer on Friday.
   Log on to for the best highlights of tonight's action throughout the game.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Engineers need a victory

   TROY -- Make no mistake, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's hockey team needs a victory over Union this weekend. Tonight at home would be preferable but a triumph at Union on Saturday night would be almost as nice.
   No, it won't derail the Engineers' season if they lose both games this weekend. However, getting this Union monkey of their back -- six straight losses, one win over the past 11 meetings -- and showing they can beat a better team are of major importance.
   Most teams don't go through a season without a victory or two over better teams. Rensselaer needs one of those victories tonight or Saturday.
   Coming off a pair of games in which they blew a two-goal, third-period lead in each, getting back into the 'W' column soon is a top priority.
   If the Engineers play hard and fast, get to loose pucks, clear pucks from in front of the net and stay out of the penalty box, they can win.
   A must-win situation. Of course not. But they certainly need one.
   McGowan will return: A groin injury kept sophomore center Mark McGowan out of the lineup last weekend at Minnesota State. He will return tonight.
   McGowan wasn't given the fanfare that Jacob Laliberte and Matt Neal when last season's freshman class was announced. After a slow start, however, McGowan was arguably the Engineers' most improved player after the holidays. He finished with three goals and eight assists.
   He scored goal in this season's-opening, 3-1 victory over Ferris State but was hurt the following night.
   "I'm playing. I'm OK," he said prior to Thursday's practice.
   Rensselaer coach Seth Appert said that early last season, he told McGowan: "If you want me to play you, you've got to get in shape and show me (in practice) that you want to play and deserve to play.
   "Credit to Mark, he responded and he had a very good second half."
   McGowan had learned a lesson -- that you can't expect a spot in the lineup just by showing up at practice every day.
   "What I learned is that you've got to come to the rink with a great attitude every day and work hard to get better," he said. "It took me a while to really get into last year. Then I started doing the right things."
   And, he played in 33 of the Engineers' final 34 games and his consistency makes him one of the more important players on the roster.
   Further, he not only came to camp this season in shape but also with noticeable added muscle.
   "Over the summer I tried to continue (his progress of last season), trained hard, came down (to Troy) for a month (early), doing extra things on my own to get better."
   McGowan has played with captain C.J. Lee (who tied for the team lead in goals last season with 8) on his left wing and Zach Schroder (6 goals-6 assists-12 point) on the right.
   The line shows promise, though it could be broken up when senior center-right winger Marty O'Grady returns from injury later this month.
   "I think any line could be a top line on the team," McGowan said. "We have much better depth at forward."
   Join a chat: Hey, fans, we'll have a Live Chat at 4:30 today to discuss tonight's big game. Join in at And we'll tweet the best highlights of the game tonight at the same site.