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Appert Confident the Puck Stops Here

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 15, 2008

TROY - When your head coach comes out in the media and claims you and your partner will combine to provide the "best goaltending" in the league, it can be a little disconcerting; especially when one of you is a freshman who's yet to appear in a college game.

Well, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head coach Seth Appert, a former goaltender himself, did say that about senior Mathias Lange and freshman Allen York but neither RPI goaltender was at all distressed.

"No, not at all," Lange said. "We're both very confident in what we can do, how good we are and in what our team can do. If anything, it's a confidence booster, coming from Coach."

York echoed Lange's words.

"Obviously, he (Appert) has a lot of faith in both of us," he said. "And I feel the same way. If we do our jobs, and adhere to what he's taught us, we probably will do that."

That's not intimidating, though?

"No, not really, it's actually the opposite," York said. "It shows a lot of confidence that he has in us."

Though he won only six of 23 decisions (6-14-3) last season, Lange's goals against average (2.47) and saves percentage (91.6%) were decent. With RPI's brigade of junior and sophomore defensemen getting stronger and more mature, and with new defensemen Mike Bergin and Mark Zarbo helping the transition game, Lange's job in net should be easier this year.

"There's no question that experience helps out a lot, especially for a college D-man," Lange said. "And, yes, that helps out us goalies, too. The more experience they get, the more accustomed to the game they get, that makes our job easier."

York is a sixth-round draft pick of the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets whom, Appert says, is capable of stepping right in and becoming the Engineers' top netminder.

"I'd say I'm ready to play as much as I'm asked to play," York said. "I feel comfortable at this level, in practice. I probably wouldn't have told you that four, five weeks ago. I feel I've come a long way since I've been here, so I think I'm ready to play when I'm called upon."

That could come this weekend, either at New Hampshire on Friday night or in the Engineers' home opener on Saturday night vs. Bentley.

"I'm really happy with where Mathias is at," Appert said. "He looks by far the best he's ever looked in his college career. I fully expect him to have an outstanding senior year and be a real leader on our team."

On the other hand, Appert was asked if he'd be comfortable if, for some reason, York were to become the only goaltender on the team.

"Oh yeah, very much so," Appert said. "Allen's probably further ahead one month into his young career than any goaltender I've ever worked with. His ability to pick things up and to implement them into his game very quickly has been impressive. He has habits that he still needs to break that could get exposed at this level ... and that's important and he needs to add more strength to his body but how well he's starting to use his size instead of just his athleticism and his competitiveness ... yeah, I'd feel comfortable."

York, a stringbean (6-foot-4, 180-pound) Wetaskiwin, Alb. native, described his goaltending style.

"I'm a big (tall) guy, who moves fairly well. I play my best when I keep it simple. Control rebounds, track pucks, keep it a simple game."

York is still thin but he looks like a muscle man when compared to when he arrived on campus in mid-August.

"Almost 20 pounds," he said when asked how much weight he's added. "I was a little over 160 when I got here. I'm about 180 right now."

His mobility hasn't suffered at all.

"No, it's really helped my game actually," York said. "My movement has gotten a lot better just from getting stronger."

Each goaltender says he's comfortable with the goaltending rotation that Appert has employed in most of the past two seasons, though Lange did start much more often down the stretch last season than did then-senior Jordan Alford.

"I've been a part of a team where I played almost every game my freshman year," Lange said, "and a part of a team where we rotated (most of) the past two years. I got comfortable with all of the situations. Obviously, you want to play, you want to be the guy who's in the net but ultimately it's Coach's decision and whatever he decides to do, hopefully, will be better for the team."

"It doesn't matter," York said. "I've done both. I've been a backup for a month straight and not played at all, then had to play. And I've been in (a rotation). It really doesn't matter. You just have to stay focused and do your job when you have to."

Lange says his goaltending has evolved during his three seasons at RPI and that fact has helped raised his confidence level.

"It's definitely more technically-sound than it used to be," the Klagenfurt, Austria native said. "Before coming here, I didn't have a goalie coach and I'd just pick up (instruction) at goalie camps in the summer, which are just a week or two weeks at a time. Having Coach (Appert) having been a goalie himself has really helped me a lot over the past couple years. He's worked a lot on my technique and lateral movement. That stuff has improved a lot."

York believes he's made strides toward making the big adjustment to the college game.

"Early on, it was the (added) speed," he said. "Now, it's just trying to incorporate everything that Coach and Langer have helped me with, like the technical parts of the game, the little things. I've started to pick them up and use them but now I have to make them happen all the time, be strict with them, more consistent and not get lazy."

"I don't think the college game itself will (beat) me," York added, "I think what will get me is if I start getting lazy in my habits, or don't do what I need to do to be successful."

Lange enjoys being a mentor to York.

"I think I can help him out with my experience here," he said. "I wish I'd had somebody when I was a freshman to help me out and give me pointers here and there. I try to do that for him. I definitely see myself in a role like that."

Lange is confident that, with the goaltending a big factor, the Engineers can win more than the 10 and 11 games they've won over the past two seasons.

"We can be a lot better," he said. "If you look at the overall record, we didn't improve that much last year but if you look at how the games went, we definitely made a couple steps in the right direction last year. A lot of those games, we played some real good teams close until the end and I think that experience, and with our incoming freshmen, we can get more wins than we did in the past."