Puckman rpihockey.net

What's New

Game Pictures
ECAC Standings
Odds & Ends

Contact Me

Down in Polls, Not in Hopes

Votes Don't Faze RPI's, Union's Hockey Coaches

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, September 25, 2007

ALBANY - Last year marked a return to past glory for the storied Clarkson University hockey program, and coaches in the ECAC Hockey League are expecting more of the same from the Golden Knights when their season begins a week from Sunday against arch-rival St. Lawrence in a nonleague contest.

Clarkson was a unanimous choice among the league's coaches with 11 first-place votes. (Coaches may not vote for their own teams.) That pick was endorsed by 23 media members who also put the Golden Knights comfortably on top in their poll with 18 first-place votes and 279 total points.

Quinnipiac, the biggest surprise of last season, was voted second in both polls. Last year's regular-season champion, St. Lawrence, was third in both polls.

The news was not as optimistic for the Capital Region's two hockey teams, RPI earning no better than a ninth-place nod from the media and 10th among the coaches. Union had the dubious distinction of being picked 12th in both.

"I don't think our standing ever reflected what we really had," said fifth-year Union coach Nate Leaman, whose team finished last (14-19-3, 7-14-1 ECACHL) despite contending for a home playoff spot late in the season. "I knew where we were going to get ranked. I'm not scared of it; I'm not intimidated by it. The important thing is we control what we can control. If we do that, I know we're going to have a good season."

Union has 18 lettermen returning, including five of its top six scorers. The Dutchmen lost leader T.J. Fox to the pros, but Josh Coyle (14-17--31) returns to lead the offense and Lane Caffaro (7-18-25) tops the blue-line corps. Leaman has goaltenders Justin Mrazek and Rich Sillery back, and he says freshman Corey Milan should also contend for ice time in goal. John Simpson and Adam Presizniuk are among the promising freshman forwards.

Seth Appert welcomed a new child and a contract extension this summer during his first full year of preparation at RPI. And despite losing inspirational leader Kirk MacDonald to graduation, Appert is confident his team can surpass the pundits' picks and his team's ninth-place finish (10-18-8, 6-11-5).

"Last year, up until the last minutes of summer, we were trying to find a couple more defensemen to just fill the roster," Appert said. "When we got on board in May we had five defensemen returning. It was a scramble of a summer in terms of trying to get your hands in the program, trying to get your recruiting established, trying to get the family moved, hiring two assistants and then understand all our student-athletes and what they can bring to the table for us."

The Engineers lost their best defenseman (Jake Luthi) among eight players in all, but Appert hopes some of the recruits acquired by assistants Shawn Kurulak and Jim Montgomery will supplement the 17 returning lettermen. He has two solid goaltenders already in Mathias Lange and Jordan Alford.

Clarkson will be the main target coming off the Golden Knights' league tournament championship at Times Union Center last March, a defense they hope to make on March 21-22. RPI and Union have never made it to Albany for the league's final four since the tournament came to Albany in 2003.

The Knights (13-5-4 ECACHL) lost South Glens Falls star Shawn Weller to the pros, but return 17 lettermen that includes all-league goaltender David Leggio (2.16 GAA) and all-league forward Nick Dodge (18-21-39).

"We're excited," said coach George Roll, whose Knights lost in overtime in the East Regionals as the top seed. "It's been a long ways we've come in four years. The guys are very focused and came back in great condition. It was tough losing Shawn Weller late. It was a situation where I think it was the right thing for him, but certainly we feel the core guys back are going to be awfully competitive in our league and hopefully on the national scene as well."

ECACHL commissioner Steve Hagwell also announced the appointment of former NHL referee Paul Stewart as the league's new supervisor of officials.