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Appert Aware of Challenges That Await Him

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, April 22, 2006

TROY - The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team led the ECACHL this season with 13 players on the league's All-Academic team. But the Engineers didn't make it past the first round of the league tournament.

Seth Appert believes the Engineers can be successful on the ice as well as in the classroom.

The 31-year-old Appert was introduced as the Engineers' 12 th men's hockey coach Friday night at a press conference at the Mueller Center. He replaces Dan Fridgen, who resigned March 21 after 17 years at the school, the last 12 as head coach. Appert, who becomes the youngest coach in the ECACHL, spent the last nine years as an assistant coach at Denver University, where he won NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005.

Appert was accompanied by his wife Jill and 1-year-old daughter Addison. As they entered the room after being introduced by RPI president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a tape of "Hail Dear Old Rensselaer" was played, and several RPI fans who attended the gathering enthusiastically applauded.

Appert knows his first head coaching job will be a challenge to get the right type of players who fit RPI's academic profile. But he is ready for that challenge. In two of the last three years, Denver had the winner of the WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year award.

"The standards were high at Denver academically," Appert said. "Our average incoming student-athletes were about a 3.3 [grade-point average] and 1,170 SAT. That's fairly high. I don't have a full sense of what's the low end and what's the high end. I know what the averages are. Anybody can see that on the Internet."

"There will be academic challenges here. There will be challenges to get kids in school. Being at Denver, we had to recruit good students. If they were under that average, they better come in and perform academically once they're on campus."

With Appert in charge, Dr. Jackson believes the team can win with the tough academic standards.

"We have talent right here," Dr. Jackson said. "The combination and the chemistry will work. He'll have the opportunity to recruit additional players. And we're going to upgrade [Houston Field House] so they have a first-class place to play."

Despite being a college goalie at Ferris State from 1992 to 1996, Appert wants to play an up-tempo style. Even though the ECACHL has a reputation as a clutch-andgrab league that slows down offensive flow, Appert believes the Engineers can reverse the trend.

"Skill wins," Appert said. "Skill usually beats out a team with lesser skill. From there, it's a matter of recruiting enough skill to play that up-tempo game. You can't play an up-tempo game without skilled players. We're going to recruit players that can skate. That is going to be No. 1, probably, above all else, [finding] speedy players. When you have that speed, that can negate a clutch-and-grab team."

Hearing that RPI will be more offensive brought a smile to the face of junior forward Kevin Broad, who was at the press conference along with the rest of his teammates.

"We'll see how things work," said Broad, who scored seven goals during the season. "But in the ECAC, I think it's going to be some refreshing hockey to see out there. Like he told us earlier, we're going to try to catch the league by storm when we come out in the fall. The fact that he's going to let us go out there and really show what we've got shows the kind of coach he is, and I think we're all embracing that and look forward to showing what we have."

Earlier Friday, Appert met the players. Broad came away impressed. "He's just got a presence about him," Broad said. "There's nothing but smiles on the players' faces when we talked to him. I was ready to put my equipment on when he was talking to us, even though it's April."