Saturday, April 13, 2013

Appert stays at RPI

   TROY -- Seth Appert is staying on as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's head hockey coach.
   He informed the University of Denver Saturday to withdraw his name from consideration to replace 19-year Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who was fired on April 1 and whom Appert terms "my mentor."
   Appert has signed (or will sign) an eight-year contract extension with RPI through the 2020-21 season at an undisclosed pay raise.
   He chose not to into details of the financial aspects of the pact, or on the particulars of his discussions at Denver, where he was an assistant under Gwozdecky for nine years.
   Appert did express happiness to be staying in Troy and gave praise to RPI and president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Athletic Director Col. Jim Knowlton and Dr. Dr. Timothy Sams, Vice President for Student Life.
   "I'm thrilled about it," Appert said. "The level of trust and commitment Dr. Jackson and Jim Knowlton and Dr. Sams  ... I'm humbled by the trust and belief they've shown in me and these things matter to me at the highest level.
   "We still have a lot of work left to do at RPI," Appert added, "and I'm proud to be the guy leading the charge."
   More later.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bailen gets All-American wish

    PITTSBURGH -- Having recently become a professional hockey player, there was one more thing  Nick Bailen wanted from his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute career.
   The star defenseman received that on Friday when he was named All-American for the second time in his career at the NCAA Frozen Four.
   A Second Team East selection in 2011, Bailen gained a First Team East berth this year.
   Bailen was not available for comment, playing with his Rochester Americans against Oklahoma City on Friday night (Rochester visits the TU Center on Sunday to play the Albany Devils) but said recently of the All-American award, "I hope it comes. Not many guys can say they'r two-time All-Americans."
   Bailen, a First Team All-ECAC Hockey selection, led the Engineers in scoring with 12 goals and 19 assists in 35 games. Bailen, who was named to the first team All-ECAC Hockey, finished his career with 33 goals and 72 assists in 149 games and is No. 2 among defensemen on RPI's all-time career scoring list.
 Union sophomore defensman Shayne Gostisbehere was named to the East Second Team.
He tallied eight goals and 18 assists in 36 games and was a catalyst on Union's power play.
Gostisbehere also played a big part in Team USA's gold-medal performance  at the World Junior Championships. He was as Second Team All-ECACH pick.
Gostisbehere was selected in the third round of last June's NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
 Quinnipiac senior goalie Eric Hartzell, who'll lead the Bobcats in the NCAA championship game on Saturday night, and St. Lawrence center Kyle Flanagan were the other ECACH player who were First Team East selections.
 Flanagan's linemate, left winger Greg Carey, St. Lawrence defenseman George Hughes and Yale senior center Andrew Miller all made the Second Team.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Circumstances not ideal for Appert

  TROY -- Seth Appert has long considered the head hockey coaching position at the University of Denver a “dream job.” Same could be said about the same position at Ferris State, Appert’s alma mater, it should be added.
Appert, though, interviewed for the open job at Denver earlier this week.
Being named head coach at Denver to replace his mentor, George Gwozdecky, after Gwozdecky retired is one thing. Replacing Gwozdecky after he was summarily fired by Denver’s athletic director (Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation) Peg Bradley-Doppes could be quite another matter.
Appert was an assistant under Gwozdecky at Denver for nine years and recruited many of the players who helped the Pioneers win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2004 and 2005.
Knowing Appert as I have over the past seven years, I’d suspect he wouldn’t take the job under theses circumstances unless Gwozdecky personally gave him his blessing.
The 59-year old Gwozdecky certainly had plenty of chances to do so earlier this week when Appert was in town for his interview with Bradley-Doppes and other UD officials.
Some sources list Appert and former Denver assistant Derek Lalonde -- who actually replaced Appert when Appert took the RPI job -- as co-favorites to fill the vacancy. Others suggest Lalonde is the leading candidate.
Lalonde currently coaches Green Bay of the United States Hockey League, one of the top junior leagues on the continent, where he led the Gamblers to the league championship in his first season (2012) and the team lost only nine of its 60 regular-season games.
Lalonde is a Denver alumnus, while Appert, as mentioned, is not. The 38-year old Appert has been unavailable all week.
Speculation on the reasons for Gwozdecky’s firing abound (Bradley-Doppes has declined to discuss the matter): Recent postseason failures, numerous early departures to pro hockey by top UD players, which of course, plays to the first reason.
Most who are close to the Denver situation, though, believe that when Gwozdecky, who had one year remaining on his contract at $221,000 per year, sought a contract extension two years ago with three years remaining at the time, and Bradley-Doppes tabled the matter, the relationship between coach and AD went beyond strained.
That, of course, is hardly a reason to fire a coach who turned around a struggling Denver program 19 years ago, made the Pioneers a national power again, won two national championships reached the NCAA Tournament eight times in the past 12 seasons, had 12 straight 20-win seasons and a trio of 25-win campaigns among the past five. Apparently, however, that’s what Bradley-Doppes did.
And that, it would seem, is something that Appert would consider at great length if he’s offered the position; as a boss, Bradley-Doppes’ is said to be tough to work for/with.
Appert’s relationship with Rensselaer AD Col. Jim Knowlton is ideal.
(Knowlton’s son Chris is a graduating senior on the Denver team and was second on the squad in goals (13) and points (29) this past season Also, ironically, Denver will play two games at RPI early next season).
It’s assumed that Denver would not offer Appert the same salary Gwozdecky was being paid.
Rensselaer does not divulge what its coaches’ salaries but it’s widely believed Appert’s does not approach Gwozdecky’s. He has five years remaining on his contract.
Again, as mentioned, I highly expect Appert will question himself long and hard if he wants to replace his mentor under these circumstances.
Back to the early postseason exits. The Pioneers lost their NCAA Tournament opener in five of the past six years. This year, after being upset by rival Colorado College in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Pioneers lost to New Hampshire, 5-2.
In 2010, at Albany's Times Union Center -- with Appert looking on -- the Pioneers lost their NCAA tourney opener to heavy underdog Rochester Institute of Technology, 2-1.
Still, the Pioneers were 443-267-64 under Gwozdecky and won four WCHA playoffs championships and three regular-season titles. He’s still young. Denver players and fans love him.
Appert knows quite well about postseason exits, more so in the ECAC Hockey playoffs than the NCAA tourney. Three times in the past four years, higher-seeded RPI teams have lost to lower seeds at home; to a No. 11 seed as a 6 seed, to a 12 seed as a 5 and last month, the 2nd-seeded Engineers lost in the quarterfinals to 7th-seeded Brown.
Appert’s record at RPI is 99-136-31 but the Engineers have enjoyed three winning seasons among the past four after losing a total of 50 games in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Their NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011 was the school's first since 1994.
Another factor for Appert is Denver assistant coach Steve Miller, who’s one of Appert’s “best friends.”
Gwozdecky says he “will coach again” and would Miller wait to remain on Gwozdecky’s staff elsewhere, or would he remain at Denver under head coach Appert?
What will former Denver assistant Bryan Vines, who joined Appert’s RPI staff in 2009 do, stay at Rensselaer, or -- more likely -- return to Denver with Appert?
The speculation -- and the angst of RPI fans -- will end soon. The University of Denver has said it will fill the position quickly, by early next week at the latest.
Will Appert accept the position if it’s offered? That depends on quite a lot -- and his decision will be long thought-out.