Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had the best finish in the seven years that Seth Appert has been the team’s head coach. Still, the 2012-13 season ended like the other years — no trip to the ECAC Hockey final four.
But a talented lineup and an anger over how things ended last year could make the Engineers a dangerous team this season.
RPI opens the regular season against Sacred Heart today at 1 p.m. at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., before playing at Boston College at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Engineers posted an 18-14-5 record, and finished second in the ECACH with a 12-7-3 record. They went on an 11-2 run to close out the regular season.
But the Engineers stumbled in the ECACH tournament quarterfinals against Brown, losing the best-of-three series at home, 2-1.
RPI had a lot of time to think about missing out on an opportunity to play in its first ECACH final four since 2002.
“Everybody’s fueled differently,” said Appert, whose next win will be the 100th of his career. “I’m fueled by failure. I think I’m driven more by, and I believe most coaches are, by, for lack of a better term, that fear of failure and wanting to do so much that you can’t fail, where other people are motivated more by what might be out there and how good we can be and the potential of championships.
“I’m driven by the loss to Brown. That’s just the way I am.”
So are the players.
“It’s still hurting everybody,” sophomore goalie Jason Kasdorf said. “We’re trying to look past it and look at the games to come, but always remember what happened and working our hardest every day to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s something we definitely kept in my mind over the summer,”
senior forward and team captain Matt Tinordi said. “We feel like we’ve got a good team, but nothing’s given to you. We’ve got to work hard and make sure we’re earning everything we get this year.”
The Engineers return 21 players from last year’s team. They are led by Kasdorf, who posted a 14-5-2 record with a 1.62 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and three shutouts. He was named ECACH Rookie of the Year.
RPI brings back a balanced offensive attack. Junior forward Matt Neal is the top returning scorer. He had eight goals and 22 assists last season.
The top returning goal scorers are junior forwards Ryan Haggerty (12) and Jacob Laliberte (11), and sophomore forward Mike Zalewski (12).
The defense is led by junior Curtis Leonard. Expectations for the Engineers have never been higher.
The ECACH coaches preseason poll picked RPI to finish second, while the media poll selected the Engineers to win the regular-season title. RPI is ranked 15th in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey
top-20 preseason poll.
“Our [expectations] are every bit as high. I don’t think we’re tempering them,” Appert said. “They are what they are. We expected to be ranked fairly high, based on the finish we had last year and what we
return. I’m not worried about it. We don’t put a lot of stock [in it]. We value what we value based on what we believe in that locker room [and] the things we try to be about every day.
“For us, we’re just trying to meet our expectations in terms of who we are, what our identity is and what our commitment to that identity is on a daily basis.”
RPI brought in five recruits — forwards Riley Bourbonnais, Jimmy DeVito and Jake Wood, defenseman Parker Reno and goalie Jake Soffer.