TROY — Seth Appert was certainly disappointed with the way the RPI hockey season turned out this year. He was hoping to right things next season.
He won’t get that chance.
After 11 seasons as the Engineers’ head coach, the 42-year-old Appert was fired by RPI, athletic director Lee McElroy announced on Monday.
The Engineers finished the season 8-28-1, including 6-16 for an 11th-place finish in ECAC Hockey. Only Niagara and UMass have more losses than RPI, with 29.
The Engineers went through a 1-14 stretch that saw them outscored 67-27. RPI’s season ended Saturday when it was swept in the first round of the ECACH tournament by Clarkson.
“It’s the end of the season, and we evaluated the program,” McElroy said Monday at a media availability at East Campus Athletic Village. “Based on the evaluation, we decided to make a change in leadership. The evaluation wasn’t quick. I’ve been here for two years now. I’ve learned a little bit about hockey. It takes a while for an ex-football player.”
McElroy said a national search for a new coach will begin immediately, but there is no timetable on hiring the replacement. Assistant coaches Nolan Graham and Brian Vines will run the team while the search is in progress. The players weren’t made available for comment.
Appert was an assistant coach at the University of Denver when he was hired by RPI to replace head coach Dan Fridgen in 2006. Appert compiled a 152-221-48 record. He had four winning seasons — 2009-10 (18-17-4), 2010-11 (20-13-5), 2012-13 (18-14-5) and 2015-16 (18-15-7).
But the Engineers lost 20 or more games five times, including two of the last three seasons.
“As a coach, you know those things are always possible,” Appert said. “Certainly, I have full understanding that two of the last three years weren’t what they should be. You always understand those things. But at the same point and time, I don’t spend time sitting around worrying about those types of things. You’re focused on trying to make the program better.”
Appert’s teams never won ECACH regular-season or tournament titles. The Engineers won just one ECACH tournament home-ice series in five tries under Appert. RPI reached one NCAA tournament during Appert’s time, losing to North Dakota in 2011. That was RPI’s first NCAA
appearance since 1995.
RPI’s best ECACH season under Appert came in 2012-13, when it finished second behind Quinnipiac. But the Engineers were eliminated by seventh-place Brown in the ECACH quarterfinals in three games at Houston Field House.
“The biggest disappointment was not winning a championship in the ECAC and getting to a Frozen Four in those four or five years where we were capable,” Appert said. “I think the biggest one was in 2012-13, because that team was capable of winning a national championship the way were playing in the second half of that season and coming up one game short.”
Appert received three contract extensions during his time, the last one after the 2012-13 season. The extension carried the contract through the 2020-21 season. The extension came at a time when Appert was being interviewed for the head coaching job at Denver.
“We had a real good run of six, seven years of being right in the top 20 in the country, top 15 a couple of years, NCAA tournaments on the bubble,” Appert said. “We felt like we pretty consistently a top-25 team in the country. Unfortunately, two of the last three years, it slipped.
“We felt like we righted it and got it back. We had a real good year last year. But unfortunately, we couldn’t contain momentum off of last year to this season.”
Appert and McElroy declined to comment on the cost of the contract buyout, as did an RPI athletics spokesman.
“The contract is being worked through the university as we move forward,” McElroy said.
Union coach Rick Bennett, who became forever linked with Appert when he threw a punch at him during a brawl at the end of the 2014 Mayor’s Cup game, was disappointed when he heard the news.
“I have a lot of respect for Seth Appert,” Bennett said. “I know people want to make something that happened in the past, but every time I had the chance to meet Seth or talk one-on-one about coaching, he’s excellent. He’s just an excellent guy. It’s really tough to see that.”
Appert plans to spend time with his wife and two daughters and not worry about searching for another coach position.
“I’m blessed with a wonderful wife and two awesome daughters who are very competitive in their sports,” Appert said. “I’m looking forward to watching them and spending a little more time with them. I won’t make any career decisions in the next day or two, that’s for sure. I don’t think that’s a recipe for success, to make life-changing decisions during an emotional time. I’ll take time with the family and assess what the next step is.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Ken Schott at 395-3159, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @slapschotts. Read his take on college hockey any time by checking out his blog, Parting Schotts, at https://dailygazette.com/blogs/parting-schotts.