Opening Faceoff: Waiting for RPI to announce a new deal for men’s hockey head coach Smith

Dave Smith is introduced as the new RPI Hockey coach at Houston Field House on April 6, 2017. Pictured with Smith are RPI athletic director Lee McElroy and RPI President Shirley Jackson. (Gazette file photo)

Dave Smith is introduced as the new RPI Hockey coach at Houston Field House on April 6, 2017. Pictured with Smith are RPI athletic director Lee McElroy and RPI President Shirley Jackson. (Gazette file photo)

Dave Smith has done a good job as the head coach of the RPI men’s hockey program since replacing Seth Appert five years ago.

Don’t let the 68-103-14 record he has compiled fool you. Smith had a lot of work to do. The Engineers had lost over 20 games in two of Appert’s final three seasons, which included an 8-28-1 record in Appert’s final season in 2016-17.

Smith has had the Engineers on the verge of making the ECAC Hockey tournament final four the last two times the team has played. Unfortunately, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the Engineers’ 2020 best-of-three quarterfinal-round series against Harvard at Houston Field House. This past season, the Crimson eliminated the Engineers in three tough games in the quarterfinals at Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Game 3 3-1 loss was the last one for Smith under his five-year contract. Many fans are wondering if Smith will be back. I share your curiosity.

There has been, for the most part, silence from RPI regarding Smith’s status. Things took a strange turn Tuesday when RPI released its 2022-23 men’s hockey schedule, a schedule that Smith certainly had to have put together. Initially, the press release didn’t mention Smith in it, not even a quote about the schedule from him. I researched last year’s schedule, and there was a quote from him.

I reached out to RPI’s hockey sports information director to see why Smith wasn’t mentioned in the press release. He said he would add him in. Sure enough, Smith was added to the second paragraph of the release later in the day.

In the meantime, I exchanged text messages with RPI athletic director Lee McElroy about Smith’s status.

“Dave is our coach!” McElroy texted. “The University does not discuss personnel matters.”

I then asked when an announcement would be made.

“Soon!” McElroy wrote.

It makes you wonder why RPI is waiting to announce a new deal for Smith. It seems like they are letting him twist in the wind. I sent a request to speak with Smith, but I had not heard back.

Here are two signs that I believe Smith will be behind the RPI bench when the season starts. The first is I saw him at the New York State Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony May 22 in Troy. He was in good spirits, although he declined to discuss his status.

The second is earlier this week, he retweeted an RPI’s men hockey treat promoting its golf outing Aug. 8 at Shaker Ridge Country Club.

“This is a great day to play golf and spend time with @RPI_Hockey. We hope to see another huge turnout!!!” Smith tweeted.

I have the feeling that the school will make an announcement on July 1, the day Martin Schmidt takes over as RPI president from the retiring Dr. Shirley Jackson. Why they want to wait after Jackson leaves is strange.

Also, July 1 falls on a Friday, right before the July 4 holiday. I have a strange feeling that it could be a 5 p.m. news-dump holiday press release announcing Smith’s new contract.

Then again, Union named Josh Hauge its new men’s hockey coach on April 15, which was Good Friday, and even held a press conference. Maybe RPI will do the same.

SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN

The Engineers will play 37 games (34 regular season, three exhibitions). Here’s a quick breakdown of the schedule.

  • RPI will open the regular season Oct. 7-8 at Houston Field House with a two-game series against Mercyhurst. In fact, the Engineers’ first four games will be at home (Oct. 14 against LIU and Oct. 15 against Army West Point).
  • All three exhibition games will be played at home: Oct. 1 against Colgate, Oct. 2 against the University of Toronto and Oct. 21 against the U.S. National Development team.
  • RPI opens the ECAC Hockey season hosting Capital Region-rival Union on Oct. 28. That will also be the team’s Blackout night. The teams meet at Union on Oct. 29.
  • RPI and Union meet in the Capital District Mayor’s Cup game Jan. 28 at MVP Arena at 6 p.m.
  • The 45th Big Red Freakout! Will take place Feb. 11 against Yale.

SCHEDULE

Home games in CAPS

e-denotes ECAC Hockey game

OCTOBER

1 — COLGATE (exhibition), 4; 2 — UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO (exhibition), 4; 7 — MERCYHURST, 7; 8 — MERCYHURST, 7; 14 — LIU, 7; 15 — ARMY WEST POINT, 7; 18 — at Canisius, 7; 21 — U.S. NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TEAM (exhibition), 7; e-28 — UNION, 7; e-29 — at Union, 7.

NOVEMBER

e-4 — at St. Lawrence, 7; e-5 — at Clarkson, 7; e-11 — HARVARD, 7; e-12 — DARTMOUTH, 7; 18 — ALASKA FAIRBANKS, 7; 19 — ALASKA FAIRBANKS, 7; 25 — at Vermont, 7; 27 — VERMONT, 4.

DECEMBER

e-9 — at Quinnipiac, 7; e-10 — at Princeton, 7; 29 — at Bowling Green, 7; 30 — at Bowling Green, 7.

JANUARY

e-6 — COLGATE, 7; e-7 — CORNELL, 7; e-13 — at Yale, 7; e-14 — at Brown, 7; e-20 — CLARKSON, 7; e-21 — ST. LAWRENCE, 7; 28 — vs. Union in Capital District Mayor’s Cup at MVP Arena, 6.

FEBRUARY

e-3 — at Cornell, 7; e-4 — at Colgate, 7; e-10 — BROWN, 7; e-11 — YALE, 7; e-17 — at Dartmouth, 7; e-18 — at Harvard, 7; e-24 — PRINCETON, 7; e-25 — QUINNIPIAC, 7.

MacDONALD CHANGES JOBS

After serving as the head coach and director of the ECHL’s Reading Royals for the last five seasons, former RPI forward Kirk MacDonald resigned to take the head coaching job with the U.S. Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints.

MacDonald won 167 games with the Royals. They tied the team record for points this season with 99. They made the Kelly Cup Playoffs in four of MacDonald’s five seasons.

“It has been an honour to be the head coach of the Royals for the past five seasons,” MacDonald said in a press release on the team’s website. “First I’d like to thank GM David Farrar and the BCCCA [Berks County Convention Center Authority] for the opportunity to lead this team. You are only as good as your ownership in pro sports and they have given us all the tools needed to succeed and then some. Assistants Pat Wellar, Mike Marcou, Nick Luukko, and James Henry have made my job easy with their knowledge and work ethic. Jason Macdonald and Sean Berberich are the best training staff in the ECHL and I have been lucky to work alongside them for all these years. I need to thank all the Royals players for their hard work and effort while wearing the Royals jersey.

“Lastly, I’d like to thank my wife, Caroline for her support and understanding since I started coaching back in 2013. We are looking forward to this new challenge but will always look back on our time in Reading fondly.”

MacDonald played for RPI from 2002-07. He missed the 2005-06 season battling testicular cancer. He played minor league hockey for seven seasons, including 23 games over two years with the AHL’s Albany River Rats. He won a Kelly Cup in his final season in 2012-13. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach with RPI in 2013-14.

UNION WOMEN’S AWARDS

Forward Cassidy Michalicka was named the Union women’s hockey team MVP, as well the winner of the Garnet Glue Award, at the team’s banquet last Thursday. 

Other award winners were defenseman Emma Hebert (“Ancora Imparo” Process Award for most improved player), forward Grace Heiting (Ashley Kilstein Award for community service) and defenseman Emily King (Hana Yamashita ‘Award, which is given to the player who shows supreme competitiveness).

RPI WOMEN’S SCHEDULE

After hosting the University of Quebec at Montreal in an exhibition game Sept. 18 at Houston Field House, the RPI women’s hockey will open the 2022-23 regular season Sept. 30 at St. Cloud State.

The Engineers’ home opener is Oct. 14 against Mercyhurst. RPI starts ECAC Hockey play Oct. 28 at St. Lawrence.

RPI will host Capital Region-rival Union on Nov. 11. The two teams play the next day at Messa Rink at Achilles Center. The teams meet in the fifth Capital District Mayor’s Cup game Jan. 28 at MVP Arena.

SCHEDULE

Home games in CAPS

e-denotes ECAC Hockey game

SEPTEMBER

18 — UNIVERSITY OF QUEBEC AT MONTREAL (exhibition), 3; 30 — at St. Cloud State, TBD.

OCTOBER

1 — at St. Cloud State, TBD; 7 — at Boston U., 7; 8 — at Providence, 3; 14 — MERCYHURST, 3; 15 — MERCYHURST, 2; 21 — RIT, 3; 22 — RIT, 3; e-28 — at St. Lawrence, 6; e-29 — at Clarkson, 3.

NOVEMBER

e-4 — DARTMOUTH, 6; e-5 — HARVARD, 3; e-11 — UNION, 3; e-12 — at Union, 3; 19 — POST, 3; 25 — at Stonehill, 6; 26 — at Stonehill, 2.

DECEMBER

e-2 — PRINCETON, 6; e-3 — QUINNIPIAC, 3; e-9 — at Yale, 6; e-10 — at Brown, 3.

JANUARY

e-6 — at Colgate, 6; e-7 — at Cornell, 3; e-13 — CLARKSON, 6; e-14 — ST. LAWRENCE, 3; e-20 — at Harvard, 6; e-21 at Dartmouth, 3; 28 — vs. Union in Capital District Mayor’s Cup at MVP Arena, TBA.

FEBRUARY

e-3 — BROWN, 6; e-4 — YALE, 3; e-10 — at Quinnipiac, 6; e-11 — at Princeton, 3; e-17 — CORNELL, 6; e-18 — COLGATE.

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