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Appert Has High Hopes for Engineers

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, September 25, 2007

ALBANY - Seth Appert hasn't really had much chance yet to evaluate his second team as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head hockey coach.

He promises the Engineers will improve during the 2007-08 season, however.

"We'll be a better team than we were last year," Appert said flatly Monday at the ECAC Hockey Media Day. "Our upperclassmen have a year underneath us (coaching staff), so we've learned about them as they've learned about us. They understand our expectations, they understand how we want to play, the attention to detail that's needed to have success at (this) level."

The Engineers will be better from a physical strength standpoint, too, Appert said.

"The training; they trained hard this summer," he said of the players. "They came back in tremendous shape, much better shape than they were a year ago. Not only physically, but also in their shots."

Appert said coaches encouraged players to shoot between 500 and 1000 pucks per week.

"You can see that difference on the ice," he said. "So, there are a lot of things in place for the returners, then you add to that nine freshmen ... a talented class, a depth of talent in that class. That combination, the maturation of our upperclassmen makes us a stronger team."

Forwards Joel Malchuk, Tyler Helfrich, Scott Halpern and Ben Contini, and defensemen Bryan Brutlag and John Kennedy, are the leaders of a solid freshman class that has Appert, his assistants and returning players excited.

The skill level of the group is regarded as higher than any RPI class in nine, 10 years, and the quickness of Contini, Helfrich, Malchuk and Kennedy appreciably improves the Engineers' team speed.

Appert says, however, the skill level and the quickness of the returning players will be noticeably better.

"It also comes from training the upperclassmen," he said. "Young men like Jake Morissette, Seth Klerer, Andrei Uryadov, Mathieu Angers-Goulet, Paul Kerins, Jon Ornelas, our returning points-producing players, all had strong summers. They've gotten faster, they've gotten stronger, some have gotten more explosive, some have added muscle. Depending on what we decided they needed; Paul Kerins added muscle, (sophomore defenseman) Peter Merth trimmed down (from 235 pounds) and gained some speed and quickness."

"And our captains (Morissette, Andrew Lord, Ornelas) are in outstanding shape," Appert said. "Andrew Lord, as an alternate captain, his work ethic is really unparalleled with most young men I've been around. And they're really setting the tone with what they expect from everyone else."

"Add to that the freshmen," Appert said. "We recruited a lot of talent across the board. It's a quick group. Of the six (freshmen) forwards, I'd say four of them can really go, really good skaters, a couple of them being really high-end explosive skaters." (Appert added that Contini is likely the team's fastest player.)

"It's a skilled group," he added. "And then with our three (freshman) defensemen, at least two if not three of them can really get up and go, as well. We've added a lot of speed and that's really going to help us."

Of course, better defensive-zone play and more consistent play in goal are essential for the Engineers to make significant improvements on last year's 10-18-8 record.

Appert likes what he's seen thus far, no matter how early.