5 things: Big takeaways from RPI's mini-preseason
Engineers drop games to Colgate and Toronto, but leave plenty of room for optimism
1. Muzzatti impresses
Muzzatti’s goal will go down as the highlight of the weekend, but the more significant takeaway was that he looked ready to center a line at the college level. His size absolutely gives him a leg up, but it’s no small feat to jump as seamlessly into the college game as Muzzatti did this weekend. With Herrman injured, having another center capable of significant game time could prove to be critical in the first chunk of the season.
2. Ardanaz can play a top role on defense
If Muzzatti showed the most promise among all the newcomers, then Ardanaz finished a close second. Against Colgate, he paired up with Jack Agnew, and while we didn’t see as much of the offensive side of his game, he looked consistently calm under pressure in the defensive zone. Winning puck battles, clean breakout passes, and all-around poise on the puck: all things you expect from veteran defensemen, yet it was Ardanaz who stole the show.
3. Higher pace of play was evident
Increasing the speed and skill of the team was the theme of the offseason, and they certainly showed the first signs of it this weekend. Did playing faster immediately make them a better team? Of course not - they misplaced passes, struggled to enter the offensive zone cleanly, and were just a little bit off all weekend. That being said, it’s not hard to imagine that a couple weeks down the line, if everything starts clicking better together, the offense can become much more potent.
4. The top-six kept mostly quiet
It looks like the top two lines that Smith will run to start the season are Mahshie-Budy-Heidemann and Walsh-Beaton-Lee. Neither line truly stood out over the two games - they didn’t create much in terms of sustained pressure or puck possession. Where we did see flashes of high-end talent from the top-six guys was on a couple of powerplay sequences. Between Mahshie’s shot, Budy’s cross-ice feeds, and Beaton weaving his way into the zone, the skill was clearly there, but it hasn’t translated into their even-strength play just yet.
5. Looking towards next season
One interesting tidbit from Smith’s interview with Chris Onorato (which is fantastic if you haven’t seen it) was the mention that only one player on the current roster will lose eligibility next year - Hallbauer. For a team that has had its roster largely turned over two years in a row, this is a big deal. It’s by no means a concession that this season is a throwaway, but it really paints the picture that what the team is starting to build now could be the foundation for a couple years to come.
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