The college hockey offseason was a tumultuous one, the likes of which had never been seen.
It was strange enough to have 10 coaching changes, including three ECAC Hockey teams (Union, Clarkson and Princeton).
But the announcement that the Big Ten Conference would start a hockey league in 2013-14, thanks to Penn State starting a program, triggered enormous changes that will take place in two years. Another new league, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, will start at the same time as the Big Ten. The CCHA and WCHA are struggling to survive, and Notre Dame is considering whether to go the independent route or to join the NCHC or Hockey East.
There is speculation that if Notre Dame joins the 10-team Hockey East, the league would invite Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as the 12th team.
RPI athletic director Jim Knowlton addressed that issue at the Engineers’ media day Tuesday at Houston Field House. He said the school is happy where it is.
“We’re absolutely confident that the ECAC is a superb league,” Knowlton said. “Academically, it’s the same kind of institutions that we want to be surrounded by, and we feel very, very comfortable where we are. I’ve talked to many folks in the league, and our concern is we want to be members and partners with those teams on our league. I’m very confident that everyone feels good about our league and wants to be part of that league.”
This isn’t the first time RPI has flirted with Hockey East. The Engineers stayed in the ECAC when six teams left the league to form Hockey East in 1984-85. Nearly 10 years later, there appeared to be some interest in RPI joining Hockey East, but that didn’t happen.
Knowlton seems to be shooting down the current speculation.
“We’re happy with ECAC Hockey,” Knowlton said. “We do not want to be making decisions because of what someone else is doing. I feel very confident that we’re in a good spot. We’re where we like to be, where we want to be and we have a lot of great rivalries in our league that I would not want to lose by going someplace else.”
Seth Appert, who begins his sixth season as RPI head coach, doesn’t want to leave the ECACH, either.
“I have tremendous respect for our league,” said Appert, who guided the Engineers to their first NCAA tournament appearance in it since 1995 last seasaon. “In the five years I’ve been here, I’ve seen the league continue to grow and get better, with three teams in the national tournament last year. We were one percentage point from a fourth team going. I see our league getting stronger.
“With all the changes to the different conferences, our league has gained strength because we’ve stayed together, and we’re getting stronger as individual members, which makes our league collectively stronger. I really enjoy competing in this league. One through 12, it’s the most competitive league in college hockey. You can see by what was accomplished last year, with so many teams being ranked in the top 20 in the country and by three teams making the national tournament, that we can, once again, make ECAC Hockey one of, if not the premier league in college hockey.”
Junior goalie Bryce Merriam, who is expected to take over the No. 1 spot with the early departure of Allen York to the Columbus Blue Jackets, won’t play in Saturday’s exhibition game against Acadia because of a slight knee injury.
“I’m just rehabbing right now,” Merriam said. “[It happened] in practice. I never felt it during practice. A couple of hours after, it started hurting. I went to the doctor and got it fixed.”
Merriam hopes to be ready for the season-opening games next Friday and Saturday against Minnesota State at the Field House, but Appert won’t push it.
“My gut feeling is he’ll be out for that weekend,” Appert said. “He’ll be close, but we’ll probably hold him out because if he’s not at 100 percent, we’re not going to risk it because it’s October.”
If Merriam can’t play, freshman goalie Scott Diebold will get the starts.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Ken Schott at 395-3159 or [email protected] Read his take on college hockey any time by checking out his blog, Parting Schotts, at www.dailygazette.-com/weblogs/schott.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: