When Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Seth Appert set up the dates to host Denver at Houston Field House this weekend, he thought he would be going up against coach George Gwozdecky. Appert was an assistant coach under Gwozdecky for nine seasons, and they won two NCAA titles together.
But after 19 years at Denver, Gwozdecky was fired at the end of last season. Appert interviewed for the position, but pulled out
after RPI gave him a contract extension.
However, Appert will see a
familiar face behind the Pioneers’ bench for the two-game series
tonight and Saturday at 7.
Jim Montgomery, who served as Appert’s assistant coach for four seasons, is in his first year as Denver’s coach.
“There are a few programs that are close to your heart,” Appert said. “For myself, Ferris State is No. 1 in that area because it’s my alma mater and what coach [Bob] Daniels has meant in my life. But Denver is right there. That’s where I got my Master’s degree. I was nine years there. I was fortunate to win two national championships with that program. There are a lot of alums I have great relationships with.
“At this point, ‘Gwoz’ is not there. But at the end of the day, it’s great to have ‘Monty’ there and to see him get his first college [head coaching] job. I know he’s going to do a fantastic job for the program.”
The Pioneers are 8-6-2 overall, and are in fourth place in the
National Collegiate Hockey Conference with a 4-3-1 record. They are ranked 20th in the USCHO.-com/NCAA hockey poll.
Montgomery, who won a national championship as a player with Maine in 1993 and played professionally for 12 seasons, is looking forward to the weekend for two reasons.
“It’s a big challenge for our team,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been at home, primarily. Last weekend, we were at Miami [Ohio], and we go to another ranked team at RPI. It’s great for our team to face great teams on the road like this in preparation for what we want to accomplish later in the year.
“The second thing is Seth gave me my chance to coach. Him and I are good, close friends. Everyone at RPI was great to me while I was there. It’s nice to get back to the area to see some close friends and catch up with people.”
Shortly after Appert was hired as RPI’s head coach in 2006, he met Montgomery, who spent the 2005-06 season as a volunteer
assistant coach at Notre Dame.
“I saw passion, hockey intelligence and work ethic,” Appert said. “I didn’t know him, but I knew of him. We met in Florida at the national coaches convention. I remember, after spending about an hour and a half in the interview process, I came back to my room and told my wife Jill that I want to hire this guy. I really respected his hockey intelligence, and his passion and competitiveness. That is what I like in people.
“But also, I thought he respected our profession. Sometimes, guys get done with pro hockey and maybe they just want to be given a job because they want to coach. I thought Jim showed great respect for our profession by going to volunteer and work for free with a coach like Jim Jackson [at Notre Dame]. He showed all the good things that coaches need to show.”
Appert said Montgomery played a major role in helping turn things around for the Engineers.
“When we got here, we weren’t very good,” Appert said. “We had so many areas where we needed to improve. As a head coach, you can only do so much. You want to get alumni relations going, and we needed to fund raise to try and get two renovations done to the Houston Field House. A lot of those things took up a dramatic amount of my time. I really relied on Jim for a lot of his coaching knowledge, and also recruiting. We made some great steps, and we made a lot mistakes in our early years, too, as you do when you’re young coaches. We always learn from those mistakes because we’re willing to have honest conversations with each other.”
Montgomery left RPI after the 2009-10 season to become head coach of the U.S. Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. He guided the team to Clark Cup titles in 2011 and 2013.
“I can’t thank [Appert] enough,” Montgomery said. “I’ve told him that he’s gotten me three jobs, so far. He gave me my first break as a full-time assistant coach, and clearly was influential in helping me getting the job in Dubuque and in Denver.”
AUTISM AWARENESS GAME SUNDAY
The RPI men’s hockey team will hold its second annual Autism Awareness Game on Sunday when it hosts the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition game at 4 p.m. at Houston Field House.
There won’t be any music played, no goal horn and the lights in the field house and the video board won’t be as a bright. The PA
announcements will be softer.
The goal of the arrangements for the night is also to make the experience more comfortable for the children with autism and
special needs who are in attendance at the game.
The Engineers held the first one Jan. 18 last season. They defeated Colgate, 2-1.
“I just thought it was a really cool event for our team, our program and our fans to get to be part of,” Appert said. “The first time things happen, you don’t know how they’re going to go — no music, no band, no goal horn, all those things.
“To have the opportunity to partner with people in our community, to give young kids on the autism spectrum the opportunity to come to an event like this and experience big-time college hockey and watch a program like ours that’s in the top 20, and to watch the U.S. national team play . . . it’s really special.”
New this season is a fan giveaway of a commemorative RPI hockey Autism Awareness T-shirt to the first 500 fans. The Albany Autism Society will also have available an additional 100 shirts that will be sold for a donation to benefit the work and services they provide the Capital Region. Following the game, the RPI players will be available to sign T-shirts for fans.
There will also be opportunities for the Albany Autism Society to raise awareness and money. Members of the group will staff a table with information and literature to distribute. And that night’s Chuck-a-Puck proceeds will be donated to the Autism Society.
“We are extremely pleased to work once again with the RPI men’s hockey team to raise awareness for our community,” Janine Kruiswijk, executive director of the Greater Capital Region Autism Society, said in a statement. Last year’s game was a huge hit and raised awareness throughout the region.”
The NCAA named the Frozen Four sites from 2015 to 2018 on Wednesday.
Boston gets the 2015 event, Tampa Bay will be the host in 2016 and Chicago gets its first Frozen Four in 2017. The event will stay in the Midwest in 2018, when St. Paul, Minn., hosts.
The 2015 and 2016 regional sites were also announced. The big news locally was that the Times Union Center will host the 2016 East
Regional. It will be the ninth time the downtown Albany arena will host the event, but the first since 2010.
The 2015 regional hosts are Providence, R.I. (East), Manchester, N.H. (Northeast), South Bend, Ind. (Midwest) and Fargo, N.D. (West). Besides Albany, the other 2016
regional hosts are Worcester, Mass. (Northeast), Cincinnati (Midwest) and St. Paul (West).
Here’s a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region did over the past week.
u Union junior goalie Colin Stevens (Niskayuna) was named ECACH goalie of the week Tuesday. He made 20 saves in last
Friday’s 3-0 win over Princeton, and he followed that up with
another 20-save effort in a 6-4 victory over Quinnipiac. He had a career-high 37 saves in the victory over Dartmouth.
u Union freshman defenseman Jeff Taylor (Clifton Park) had an assist on Michael Pontarelli’s goal against Dartmouth.
u Boston University soph-omore forward Jordan Juron (Latham) picked up an assist in last
Friday’s 6-5 victory over Minnesota
u Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Courtney Burke (Albany) had three assists in the Badgers’ 7-2 win over Bemidji State last Friday. In Sunday’s 5-0 triumph over the Beavers, Burke had two assists.