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Appert: Engineers Will Win More Games

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 2, 2007

ALBANY - Second-year Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head hockey coach Seth Appert greeted the press on Media Day Monday and stated flatly that the Engineers in 2007-08 "will score more goals and win more games."

How many more?

No predictions please. But remember that horrible skein last season when the Engineers lost five straight games and were outscored by (Vermont, Union twice, Harvard and Dartmouth) 24-4; and the previous 0-4-3 streak in which they surrendered 31 goals in those seven games?

Be assured, while things will go wrong from time to time, simply because the Engineers are still a young team, streaks such as those will almost certainly not be repeated.

Appert said the 2006-07 season, in which the Engineers won just 10 of 36 games (10-18-8) after a 4-1-3 start, was a chance for to improve within our program, to get to know our players, to understand the league a little better.

"This is a year to start making more headway in terms of where we see our team in terms of our league (ECAC Hockey) picture and in the national picture."

With a significant upgrade in talent, Appert says, "we're very excited as a staff and a program to start making those steps."

A quintet of freshmen forwards should give the Engineers' attack a much-needed upgrade.

Center Bryan Brutlag has playmaking abilities but can also create scoring chances with his puck-digging, hustle and forechecking.

His aggressive, hard-nosed style has been missing from RPI center-icemen for years and Appert has stated several times, "it's needed around here."

Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich are both big goal-scoring possibilities.

"Ben Contini can absolutely fly," Appert said, "and will be one of our more individually talented on our team right away. He may be the fastest player on our team and might have one of the hardest shots on the team."

With five defensemen graduating from the 2005-06 season, Appert had to bring in a load of freshmen defensemen - and do so quickly - and the Engineers suffered through 'youthful blue line syndrome' all season.

Junior defenseman Reed Kipp was not invited back and three more freshmen defensemen have been added - physical John Kennedy, big Jeff Foss and offense-minded Bryan Brutlag.

One of Appert's big preseason refrains has been, "we're going to be young on defense again but we're going to be more talented."

"They area of concern defensively is less than last year," he added.

Not only do the freshmen have talent but, Appert says, they also bring a "freshness of attitude, the skill level and competitiveness that they can bring to the table but on top of that, a lot of our freshmen come from highly successful programs, whether juniors (hockey) or in high school and they bring a winning flavor and attitude to the table as well."

Senior goaltender Jordan Alford had a decent season last year, mostly in a backup role. Junior Mathias Lange had a dismal campaign.

Each must improve dramatically for the team to be successful.

"That's true," Appert said. "They'll be better for one reason because we'll be better in front of them."

"There is open competition for the No. 1 spot and one of them, if not both, needs to (attempt to) assert himself as the No. 1 man," Appert said. "They both had times and moments last season that they were very strong. They did some really good things and won some big games, on the road, and home, in different situations. But the consistency from Mathias, and from Jordan last year, wasn't where it needs to be if we want to be a top team in our league."

Appert likes to play an up-tempo, wide-open game but the Engineers just didn't have enough players fitted to that style last season and ran out of gas. He's confident the team has the personnel to successfully play that style this year.

"I believe we do in a number of ways," he said. "There will be a lot of talk about our freshmen but I think it's as much as our upperclassmen gaining an understanding of how we want to play that style and also having a year of playing under us, our expectations, our terminology, how we phrase things, how we want them to anticipate offense in certain situations and even - I hate to use the word cheat, but even cheat (gamble defensively) to offense in certain situations, when the time calls for it."

"'Calculated risks' we like to call it," Appert said. "Also, in the strength and conditioning component. Our foundation for success is so much further ahead (than) last year, from a physical and strength standpoint."