Puckman rpihockey.net

What's New

Game Pictures
ECAC Standings
Odds & Ends

Contact Me

Freshmen Will Be Keys to RPI's Season

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 5, 2006

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's fans are hoping the Engineers can finish much higher in the ECAC Hockey League standings than the ninth-place finish that both league coaches and media have forecast for them.

Can they?

The obvious keys are a full, physical recovery by captain Kirk MacDonald from the ravages of testicular cancer and the quartet of surgeries he endured after his treatment, which would allow the big right winger to again put up big scoring numbers, and the rapid development of the team's five freshmen defensemen.

Actually, all seven freshmen will be keys.

Forwards Paul Kerins, a right winger-center, and Jordan Cyr, a left winger, both appear able to contribute offensively.

During last week's Red-White Scrimmage, though none of the freshmen exhibited instant star abilities, each conducted himself well, even though seniors on both teams dominated the game.

Here's a short capsule on each:

Peter Merth, 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman - Hard-checking blue-liner played well in every zone, threw his weight around a bit and showed some offensive skills. He could contend for a spot on the second power-play unit. He scored a goal for the Red on a long bouncing shot that somehow slipped under Mathias Lange's glove and assisted on Cyr's empty-netter.

"I felt pretty good out there," he said. "I was happy but there's a lot to improve on."

Merth was Appert's first recruit after he took the RPI job.

Garett Vassel, 6-foot-2, 195-pound defenseman-right winger - Vassel was Appert's second and "a pretty good, very late pick up, eh," Appert said. The lanky, strong puck-handler scored the first goal of the game for the white, firing a loose puck past Jordan Alford. He nearly scored again later and assisted on Kevin Broad's second goal of the game. He should help the Engineers at both positions.

Christian Jensen, 6-foot-3, 202-pound defenseman - A ninth-round draft pick of the NHL's San Jose Sharks looked a bit tentative but concentrated on playing a strong defense positionally, though he did set up Oren Eizenman's goal. Jensen has shown offensive skills in the past and should develop into a college star.

Erik Burgdoerfer, 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenseman - Signed by Fridgen early last fall, it was felt the Long Island native may need a couple months to get into the lineup but that certainly wasn't evident in the Scrimmage game. He was sound positionally, checked effectively and battled for the puck.

Jason Fortino, 6-foot-0, 205-pound defenseman - Aggressive defenseman who was one of Fridgen's last recruits. He took a couple of cross-checking penalties also knocked some guys around. He'll press the other 'D' men.

Paul Kerins, 5-foot-10, 177-pound center-right wing - Considered by some to be the team's top freshman, the Weston, Ont. native didn't show all of his skills - perhaps because he'd been bothered by a sore back - but he did rush the puck into the offensive zone effectively a couple times. He's effective around the net and will be in the middle or on the right of RPI's third, or quite possibly the second, forward line.

Jordan Cyr, 5-foot-10, 182-pound left winger - Fluid winger who handles the puck well and can shoot it. He set up MacDonald's one-on-one goal just out of the penalty box with a nice feed. He could come along slowly, or contribute right away, depending on a number of things.

In all, it's a good group with plenty of potential and the group will be given ample opportunity to play - and plenty of responsibility.

New style, old style: Rensselaer top line center Oren Eizenman is arguably the most skilled player on the team.

The Toronto native says he never felt contained under coach Fridgen's more direct style of play.

"No, I never felt that way at all," he said, "because my line's always got the freedom to do a lot of things. It's not that I was held back, nothing like that."

"I think this year, with the whole team philosophy being built around offense ... just more wide open. I do feel that is going to help my game but I don't think last year held me back or anything."

Future Engineer hurt: Right winger Joel Malchuk, Fridgen's final recruit, missed a few games a couple of weeks ago after being injured in a Manitoba Junior Hockey League game.

Malchuk took a hard elbow to the head, reportedly after the whistle had been blown, and incurred a broken nose, six chipped teeth and a slight concussion.

"He's fine," Appert said.

Malchuk will join the Engineers next season.

Plenty of NHL hockey on TV: Once again this season, 74 of the Buffalo Sabres 82 games will be televised locally by Madison Square Garden Network.

The other eight will be televised nationally by Versus, formerly Outdoor Life Network, or regionally by NBC on late-season Sunday afternoons.

When the Sabres are idle or on the road, and the NBA's New York Knicks are not playing, New York Rangers on MSGN.

Some 35-40 New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders games will be seen on Fox Sports New York.