Puckman rpihockey.net

What's New

Game Pictures
ECAC Standings
Odds & Ends

Contact Me

Appert Not Concerned with What Could've Been

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 28, 2008

Seth Appert doesn't sit alone with his thoughts and wish Rhett Rakhshani or Brock Trotter were sitting in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute lockerroom. "No, he's not, so it doesn't help us to wish that he were."

Offensive players like him, or Brock Trotter?

"No," Appert said, seemingly reflecting on how much he likes Rakhshani and Trotter, Denver University stars he recruited as a U. of Denver assistant coach, as fine people, not just hockey players.

Then the RPI coach motioned down the hall to the Engineers' clubhouse.

"Those are the players we have," he said. "Those are our guys, my guys, and I'm couldn't be happier to coach them."

The Engineers are the lowest-scoring team in ECAC Hockey and just one big goal scorer could have made a big difference in their season. Appert was again asked if he dreams of such players.

"Well, you always go recruit (for them)," Appert said. "We spend a lot of time on the road, especially Shawn and Jim (assistant coaches Shawn Kurulak and Jim Montgomery), looking for players who are going to help the program get back to where we have a chance to compete for championships. That's what our goal is. But it doesn't do our team any good or me any good to dream about Rhett Rakhshani or Brock Trotter or any of those kids. They're not going to help our program because they're not here. The guys who are going to help the program are the three of us (coaches) and the guys in that room."

Appert, in what's basically been one year-plus of recruiting time, has proven he and his assistants can entice players to Rensselaer in whom Denver and other teams from the powerful WCHA have shown interest.

Both Chase Polacek and Bryan Brutlag are Minnesota natives who drew extensive interest from many WCHA schools.

Does RPI have to get them at a young age, though, 17 or 18, right out of high school? "That's a good question," he said. "But I'm not sure the WCHA teams can get those kids older now. either (or as many as they want). Go look at their rosters, look at whom they have committed).

"Everybody is taking kids younger now," Appert said, partially because many quality players such as Trotter are leaving school early to turn professional. Appert said that wants the make the Engineers an older team to help hasten their improvement.

"We don't want to be as young as we (are) with this (current) freshman class," he said. "But when you think back to when I got the job here, it was the end of April. So, when I hit the ground running in May, we still needed two defenseman for that fall (2006-07). And (we had) no assistant coaches until July 1.

"When we got going in terms of the fall of '07, it was middle of July, and at that point there were probably 70-100 kids already committed for the fall of '07, most of whom were the older kids. So, the choice was, do we take older kids with average talent, or do we take younger kids who can come in and help improve the talent level of our program.

"I like our freshman class very much," Appert said, "so I think we made the right decisions. Now we have to continue to make the right decisions."

Appert noted that the 2008-09 freshman class, with defensemen Mike Bergin and junior Bentley transfer Mark Zarbo, and forwards Patrick Cullen, Christian Morissette, Jordan Watts, Matt Angers-Goulet's brother Alex and Justin Smith, as well as goaltender Allen York, "is going to be older."

"You have to take calculated risks with recruiting," Appert said. "If you look around the country, I think the so-called elite programs are taking more risks than anybody is right now because they're committing kids in 10th grade. No matter how good that player is in 10th grade, that's a major risk because players can change, evolve (or not)."

Appert said his staff is "not recruiting players who going to be great NHL players. If that turns out to be the case, that's great. But we're recruiting kids who are going to be very good college hockey players and are going to help us win at RPI. But there are a lot of really high-end college players who aren't going to play in the NHL but they can help you win a lot of college games."

Thrilled: Rakhshani recently turned in one of the most spectacular individual efforts of recent years, scoring three goals within a span of 5:21 of the third period – late in the period – to lift Denver to a 3-2 road victory at St. Cloud State.

The first one came at 14:11, shorthanded, the game-winner coming with 28 seconds remaining.

Appert watched the outstanding on tape late that night.

"I was really happy for him," Appert said. "He's a wonderful for young man. I enjoyed recruiting him and enjoyed seeing him come into his own as a dominant offensive force.

On the first goal, Rakhshani went in one on two, cut to the defensemen and beat the goalie.

On the second, he banked the puck off SCS goalie Jase Weslosky from behind the net and high-cycled past the defenseman on the third.

"Those were three outstanding individual plays," Appert said.

Roster spots remaining: The only thing the Engineers need for next season is a backup goaltender.

That doesn't mean that, otherwise, RPI's 2008-09 recruiting is completed.

"Never done recruiting," Appert said. "Numerically we have five forwards replacing five forwards, one goaltender replacing on goaltender and we have two defensemen coming in, giving us nine," he said. "So, our thought process is that we would be done," Appert said, "but we need to get better. Battling for ninth place is not where I envision our program being in the near future and if a players emerges who can help our program get better ... we've got to get better."