5 things: Takeaways from RPI's sweep of LIU and Army
The Engineers moved to 4-0 on the season to continue their best start since 1999
1. Regression to the mean for a few Engineers
There are many forwards playing extremely well so far this season, but I felt that prior to this weekend, some of them weren’t being rewarded on the scoreboard. TJ Walsh had had so many chances and created so much offense but only had 1 point. A hat trick and an assist later, and he’s now up to 5 points in 4 games. John Evans was doing a great job of getting to the net and getting great scoring chances, and now, he finally scored doing the same thing. He got to a dangerous spot near the net and let it rip for his first collegiate tally. Austin Heidemann had been doing a lot of really good things offensively with his aggressive forechecking, puck skills, and puck possession but had zero points to show for it. He gets the empty net goal to seal the win.
I still feel that Brendan Budy and John Beaton have been playing great in a way that the scoreboard hasn’t shown. Heidemann and Evans should both still have more than one point on the season. Look for Budy and Beaton to be the next guys to start putting the puck in the net and for Evans and Heidemann to continue after getting the monkey off their backs.
2. The big 4-0 start
It’s been said in a few places now, but this is RPI’s best start since 1999, which is crazy to think about given the uncertainty around the team coming in. It’s a huge positive for the team no matter what way you slice it. The Engineers have excelled both offensively and defensively with averages of 4.25 goals for and 2.25 goals against. The power play has been outstanding. The penalty kill was perfect until Saturday, and it’s still at 83.3% overall. The detractors will point to the weakness of the teams they’ve played, and while they are all winless, part of being a good team is beating the teams you’re supposed to beat. I am confident that RPI does not go undefeated in this stretch with the teams they’ve had previously. Let’s not forget either that LIU took Northeastern to OT and managed to tie Quinnipiac.
3. Sertti’s domination
After last season, I picked Lauri Sertti as my breakout player for the defensemen on Talkin’ Neers. I expected him to take the jump to the top-pairing in our defense analysis. He has blown that out of the water so far. Sertti has been dominating in all 3 zones as a truly elite defenseman. Offensively, he has 3 points in 4 games and has excelled in transition. His end-to-end rush against LIU was an NHL-caliber play. He has used his elite skating, strength and skill to exit the zone easily, and he also has no problems entering the zone when he wants to join the offense. Defensively, he has used his length and strength to snuff out attacks quickly and win back possession. He’s a very important player and could be an All-ECAC selection this year.
He already picked up an ECAC Defender of the week award today, and there’s no reason he can’t continue playing at this level.
4. No word on Mahshie
RPI’s depth allowed them to not miss a beat on Saturday when Ryan Mahshie was out of the lineup, but he’s still a key player that they will need long-term. He had 2 goals in the first 3 games of the season after 20 points last season. There hasn’t been any word about his injury or when he will rejoin the lineup, so hopefully, this is not a long-term injury. If he isn’t back by the Union series, then it might be cause for concern.
5. A way-too-early pairwise look
The pairwise does not matter until mid-December/early January. I will fully acknowledge this while also taking a look at it now, knowing it means nothing. Currently, RPI is 6th in the pairwise, which is well within the range for the NCAA tournament. That actually isn’t what is important though. What’s more important (beyond RPI winning its games) is the ECAC winning it’s out-of-conference games as a whole. With the math of the pairwise, it’s important for the entire conference to do well against other conferences. So far, the ECAC is 12-11-3 for a 0.519 winning percentage. The goal for the ECAC should be 0.500 or as close to it as possible. Last year, they were only at 0.422 with the conference struggling after 8 teams skipped a year, and this is why they only got 2 teams in the NCAA tournament. Back in 2018-19 when they had 4 teams in the tournament, the conference had a 0.481 non-conference winning percentage. As long as they are close to 0.500, they will be fine and get at least 3 teams in. It’s good to start out with some wiggle room as well since the Ivy League teams start playing later than everyone else and are expected to be the weaker teams in the league with the exception of Cornell and Harvard. With RPI’s start to the year, it’s definitely possible they end up in the mix in the pairwise and NCAA tournament.
Thanks for reading The Field House! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.