When Riley Bourbonnais told his family about his college commitment, they must have thought he got a letter wrong.
Bourbonnais, a native of Rochester whose father, John, played at Rochester Institute of Technology, is one of five members of the Class of 2017 that was officially announced by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head coach Seth Appert Monday.
RPI, RIT . . . what’s one letter?
Bourbonnais, a forward, will probably feel right at home at Houston Field House next season. Not only will members of his family be able to make the trip from Rochester, but he’ll also have two of his teammates from the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in the locker room with him.
Forwards Jake Wood and Jimmy DeVito of the Stars are also members of the Class of 2017, as are defenseman Parker Reno of Edina, Minn., and goalie Jake Soffer of Potomac, Md.
Bourbonnais (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) played on one of the most successful high school teams in Section V history, as the Greece/Athena Thunder compiled a 27-0 record in 2008-09 and won the New York state Division I championship. That team also included Boston University freshman Matt Lane and current recruits JT Stenglein (Michigan State) and Mike Rotolo (RIT).
Bourbonnais has been well-traveled since his final season with the Thunder. After winning the state championship, he spent a year in the Empire Junior Hockey League with the Maksymum Stars, scoring 69 points (34-35) in 41 games. From there, he went to the Berkshire School before finding his way to the USHL with Cedar Rapids.
He scored 39 points (17-22) in his first season in Cedar Rapids and got off to a great start last year, leading the team in scoring with seven goals and nine assists through 17 games.
But in the course of the next six weeks, he was traded twice, first to Sioux City and then to Lincoln, where he finished the season. In 63 regular season games, he wound up with 25 goals and 24 assists.
“His stick skill, strength on the puck and offensive playmaking ability give him the opportunity to be a valuable contributor at both ends of the ice,” said Appert.
Wood, who like Bourbonnais will turn 20 in August, is listed as 5-7, 160 pounds, but picked up 151 penalty minutes for the Stars last year.
“Jake plays a style that will endear him to the RPI faithful while aggravating opponents,” said Appert.
DeVito (5-10, 165) has three years of USHL experience under his belt and will also give the Engineers a physical presence.
Reno (6-1, 195) was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award in Minnesota last season, his senior year at Edina High School. He missed the entire 2010-11 season with a leg injury, but is recognized as a solid, stay-at-home defenseman. He will fill the spot created by the graduation of Nick Bailen, but won’t bring Bailen’s offensive presence to the ice.
“He combines the skating ability, hockey intelligence and competitiveness to become a top college defenseman,” said Appert.
Soffer comes to RPI from the Boston Bandits of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, but also played a year in the Atlantic Junior League for the New York Bobcats, the same team that produced Union College standout Keith Kincaid, who just completed his second year in the New York Jersey Devils’ organization.
Soffer played in 29 games with Boston last year, compiling a 9-14-2 record with a 2.64 goals-against average. But with ECAC Rookie of the Year Jason Kasdorf and Scott DiBold both returning, Soffer isn’t expected to see a lot of ice time right away.
“He’s a competitive goaltender with a work ethic to help build depth for our program at that position,” said Appert.