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Fresh Face Giving RPI Early Spark

Forward Helfrich Leads Solid Cast of Newcomers

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, November 2, 2007

TROY - With nine freshmen on his roster, RPI hockey coach Seth Appert knew he would need several immediate-impact players. So far, so good.

"Normally you have five or six or seven new players," said Appert, who is skating his first full recruiting class. "This year we have 10 (one is a transfer who can practice but is ineligible to play). With that are a lot of positives in terms of the freshness of attitude, the skill level, the talent and the competitiveness they can bring to the table. A lot of our freshmen come from highly successful programs, whether juniors or in high school. They bring a winning flavor and attitude to the team."

None has been more impressive than Tyler Helfrich, who already has been named ECAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week twice and is tied with junior Andrei Uryadov for the team scoring lead with six points (two goals) in seven games.

"Tyler's doing the things we anticipated him being able to do when we recruited him," Appert said. "He's an extremely talented young man. He sees the ice very well."

Helfrich, a compact 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Calgary, has flashed some terrific moves and stickhandling ability in the early stages of his college career.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that Helfrich is only 20, but one area that inexperience has manifested itself is on the power play, where the Engineers (5-2) have managed only one goal from 33 man-up situations.

"He's been very good early in his freshman year," Appert said. "Outside of his play on the power play, he's been very good, and the beautiful thing about Tyler is that he's got room to get better in terms of physically engaging and moving his feet a little bit more consistently. Those things are going to make him a more dominant offensive player because he's going to have the puck more than he does right now instead of relying on his teammates to get it for him."

Helfrich, who sees himself as more of a playmaker than scorer, is fully aware of that.

"My linemates, (Jake) Morissette and Uryadov, sure make it easy on me," said Helfrich, a 2007 Atlantic Junior Hockey League All-Star. "It's just a real treat playing with them, just basically creating the chances they give me to put the puck on their stick. I think my puck work along the wall has been real good so far this season. My linemates are getting open and it's making my job a lot easier."

Helfrich isn't the only freshman who is performing like a veteran. Forward Chase Polacek and defensemen Bryan Brutlag, Jeff Foss and John Kennedy all have played well.

"I thought Chase Polacek had an outstanding weekend at the Governor's Cup," Appert said. "He really was one of the best forwards on the ice in both games. He created a lot of offense, really utilized his speed to create havoc on our opponents. That was good to see, as well, out of another freshman."

Ice chips

Union's penalty kill (16 of 17) ranks 10th nationally. ... Former Union G Steve Baker, the school's first NHL player, will be inducted into the Union Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday between periods. ... RPI goaltender Jordan Alford has a scoreless streak of 198 minutes, 42 seconds in games played in the Capital Region. He has three shutouts this season, three behind Joel Laing's single-season RPI record. ... Union F Josh Coyle (knee) missed last weekend's Governor's Cup, but may be ready to play this weekend. ... F Matt Angers-Goulet was a healthy scratch for RPI in the Governor's Cup championship game.