With three of its regular defensemen graduating and another having been moved to forward midway through last season, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s hockey team needed to shore up the blue line.
RPI coach Seth Appert believes that goal has been accomplished.
Four of the seven 2010-11 recruits who were announced Monday are defensemen — Nick Bailen of the U.S. Hockey League’s Indiana Ice, Bo Dolan of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Penticton Vees, Patrick Koudys of the Central Canadian Hockey League’s Burlington Cougars and Guy Leboeuf of the Central Ontario Hockey League’s Cornwall Colts.
The three defensemen who are graduating are Erik Burgdoerfer, Christian Jensen and Peter Merth. Junior Bryan Brutlag went from the defensive unit to right wing after the new year, and stayed there the rest of the season.
“We lost three defensemen,” Appert said. “Some of the [recruiting philosophy] changed when Brutlag moved up front. We thought we had a real handle on our defensive recruiting, and things were going well and we even have a couple of young men committed for down the road that we’re excited about, as well, in that position.
“When we moved Brutlag up front in January and saw the success that he had with it, certainly made it a priority to find another defenseman late in the second half of the season.”
Bailen and Dolan are just under 6-feet tall. Koudys and Leboeuf are each 6-4. They will join returnees John Kennedy, Jeff Foss and Mike Bergin.
“I think size is important on your blue line, but it’s not necessary,” Appert said. “When we look for recruits, size isn’t the No. 1 category, or really No. 2 or No. 3. We want players that can skate because we still are working toward being an attacking, aggressive team. We want competitors that are willing to compete at high levels in many situations.”
Bailen already has a year of college hockey experience, having played at Bowling Green in 2008-09. He returned to junior hockey last season and had 14 goals and 27 assists along with 97 penalty minutes in 58 games for the Ice. Bailen, who was tied for second in the USHL in scoring by defensemen, has three years of college eligibility remaining.
“He had 16 points as a freshman [at Bowling Green],” Appert said. “That would have led our defenseman every year in the last thee years, not since Jake Luthi was here.”
Dolan collected nine goals and 16 assists in 39 games for the Vees. Koudys played in 50 games for the Cougars, and had five goals and 28 assists. Leboeuf had 10 goals and 19 assists in 62 games for the Colts.
RPI loses only two forwards in Paul Kerins and Garett Vassel. The Engineers will have leading scorer and ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Chase Polacek back, as well as standout freshmen Jerry D’Amigo and Brandon Pirri. The three forwards coming to RPI — Brock Higgs, Johnny Rogic and Matt Tinordi — will give the Engineers depth at that position.
Higgs had 22 goals and 34 assists in 48 games for the Ontario Junior “A” Hockey League’s Kingston Voyageurs. Rogic played in 59 games with the BCJHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and had 18 goals and 29 assists. Tinordi, the son of former NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi, had 23 goals and 22 assists for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Olds Grizzlys.
The one recruit who was expected to come to RPI this season, but now is not, is forward Jacob Laliberte, who had 62 goals and 48 assists for Cornwall. Citing NCAA regulations against talking about student-athletes who aren’t officially committed to a school, Appert declined comment on the situation. Laliberte could come to RPI next season.
Union players sign
Two more Union hockey players will be playing pro hockey in the fall.
Defenseman Mike Schreiber is heading to Germany after signing a one-year contract with Hannover of the Second Bundesliga League.
Schreiber was a first-team All-ECAC Hockey selection last season after collecting 29 points, a school record for a defenseman.
Another defenseman, Mike Wakita, is staying in the United States after signing to play with Missouri in the Central Hockey League.
Forward Jason Walters recently signed a contract to play in Sweden.