RPI 2022-2023 Schedule Analysis and Predictions (Part 1)
The Engineers will play Mercyhurst, LIU, Army, Canisius, Alaska, and UVM in non-conference games in the first half of the season
RPI has an interesting schedule this season with a lot of familiar opponents. I may be in the minority here, but I’d like to see the Engineers play some new teams rather than continuing to play UVM, Canisius and Army so frequently. The only opponent that isn’t a repeat from last season is Mercyhurst.
There are two main takeaways that I have from this schedule setup. First, the 5 game stretch of Mercyhurst (2x), LIU, Army and Canisius to start the season is a great opportunity for what will be a very young Engineers team to start out with some wins. Mercyhurst was the best of those teams last season (by the pairwise), but their pairwise ranking was only 39th. RPI should be able to come out of this stretch at least .500, but hopefully they can do more than just that.
The second takeaway is that if RPI wants to be in contention for an at-large bid, they have virtually no room for error with these games. Even if one of these teams ends up getting 20 wins, they still won’t be ranked high enough in the pairwise to be a quality team since they all play in Atlantic Hockey (or in LIU’s case, they’re still a bad team as they continue to build their program). Thus, they will need to go at least 4-1 to start the season to realistically contend for an at-large bid.
While it would still be technically possible even without that, it would leave basically no margin for error in their remaining non-conference games. Alaska was only an average team last year. UVM is in Hockey East, but they’ve been one of the worst teams in the conference. Bowling Green was also only average last year. In those 6 games, they’ll need to be at least 4-2 barring improvement from those teams. While it seems odd that I’m saying RPI needs to be 8-3 in non-conference games, that’s what it will take to be high in the pairwise due to the weakness of their schedule.
This is only in regards to the pairwise, however. A 6-5 or 7-4 record in these games would still be very good to get the Engineers ready for the heart of ECAC play, which is obviously most important. Now, let’s get into the opponents for the first half of the season.
10/1 vs Colgate and 10/2 vs Toronto (Exhibitions)
RPI will open their season with a pair of exhibitions. With exhibition games against NCAA opponents now permanently allowed, RPI will welcome Colgate into the building for the first exhibition. The next day will be the typical exhibition against a Canadian university when the University of Toronto comes to town. I really like having two exhibitions to open the season. Typically, RPI would have to use two separate lineups for a single exhibition in order to get all their players into the game. With two exhibitions, they can now use two lineups for two full games, which avoids players having to jump into the action halfway through a game. It also will allow every player to play at minimum a full game, and plenty of them will play in both games. This will help the team be more prepared for the games that count, and it gives the fans an extra home game to start off the year after they couldn’t be in the stands all of last season.
10/7-8 vs Mercyhurst
After 4 long years, Jonathan Bendorf finally gets to make his debut in the Houston Field House. (I think that maybe 10 people will understand that joke.) Mercyhurst lost 2/3 of a very effective top line of Austin Heidemann, Carson Briere and Dante Sheriff in the offseason. Heidemann came to RPI of course, while Sheriff turned pro. Briere is a great center though. He had almost a point per game with 27 in 31, and Bendorf and Rylee St. Onge are pretty solid wingers who will likely slide up to the top line. Bendorf had 20 points, while St. Onge had 23. Gueorgui Feduolov and Mickey Burns are solid secondary scoring options as well. The offensive scoring depth takes a big hit after those guys though. Mercyhurst will have to rely on transfers Eric Esposito from UNH and Steven Agriogianis from Northeastern to fill key roles up front. On defense, Mercyhurst returns Cade Townend and Owen Norton who are both pretty solid on the blue line. Their best defenseman projects to be Brendon Michaelian though, a grad transfer from Ferris State. Michaelian was a great defenseman for both Robert Morris (until they folded their program) and Ferris State, and he should add a great two-way presence. In net, the starter will likely be either UVM grad transfer Tyler Harmon, who was always a reliable backup for them, or freshman Owen Say, who won the BCHL Top Goaltender award last season. Both are pretty good options, but neither of them will come close to what Kyle McClellan gave them last year. He was an absolute stud with a 0.932 SV%, but he transferred to Wisconsin in the offseason. Mercyhurst finished 7th out of 10 teams in Atlantic Hockey last season. While they replaced their losses fairly well, it also doesn’t seem like they’ll improve. RPI should get at minimum a split here if they’re rusty at the start, but with two exhibitions, I think they’ll be ready to go and will take both games.
10/14 vs LIU
LIU is still only in their third year of existence, so they’re still trying to build a program. They had some offensive talent last season, but nearly all of it is gone now. Their top returning forward is Nolan Welsh who only had 13 points, and they’ll need transfers to provide boosts offensively. Chris Pappas had a solid freshman season at St. Lawrence before transferring with 10 points in 26 games. Adam Goodsir was a career 4th liner for Michigan State, but he should be able to play higher in the lineup for LIU. Santeri Hartikainen was a good player for Robert Morris, but he was injured last season at AIC. If he is healthy, he can definitely play in their top 6. Anthony Vincent and Noah Kane were solid players for Holy Cross and Mercyhurst, respectively, and should be able to continue that with LIU. While these transfers are solid players, none of them are particularly talented or dynamic. Pappas would be the closest to that. It’s tough to see them having a lot of scoring. On the blue line, Spencer Cox will lead the way after he had 20 points last season. Cox is without a doubt their best player, and he will need to really control the play when he’s out there. Austin Rook was a point per game defenseman for Skidmore at the D3 level, and the best D3 players are capable of playing D1 even if it’s just as a depth guy. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do at the D1 level. Outside of those two, there’s no one that interesting or good for them on the blue line. In net, Vinnie Purpura had a 0.892 SV% last season and is expected to start again this season. They’ll need him to improve if they want to be more competitive. Overall, it’s tough to see this team being competitive with the roster they have. They simply just have little talent, which is expected with a new program. I’m taking RPI in this game.
10/15 vs Army
Army loses their top 3 forwards in Colin Bilek, Daniel Haider and Eric Butte. However, their next 4 forwards (Joey Baez, Ricky Lyle, Brett Abdelnour, and John Keranen) are all returning, and they are all pretty good players with double digit points last season. They also bring in a couple good freshmen: former RPI commit Max Itagaki was a top scorer in the BCHL, and Lucas Kanta was near a point per game in the NAHL. Army’s top 2 defensemen, Thomas Farrell and Anthony Firriolo, also are returning this season. Last, but certainly not least, star goalie Gavin Abric is back as well after putting up a 0.925 SV% last season. Overall, Army is returning a lot of talent despite the loss of some good forwards. They tied for 3rd in Atlantic Hockey last season, and I think they’ll be just as good, if not better this season. The fact that this game is early in the season makes it a challenge for the Engineers since it’ll be before they hit their stride. When you combine that with Army’s experience, I’m choosing this as a loss. If it was later in the season, I’d probably choose differently.
10/18 at Canisius
Canisius has had good offensive talent the past two seasons, and this season shouldn’t be much different. Keaton Mastrodonato and Max Kouznetsov were their top 2 scorers last season with 26 and 23 points, respectively, and both are back. While they lose their next 4 forwards, they had good depth last season and return Ryan Miotto and Danny DiGrande who both had at least 10 points. Additionally, Randy Hernandez will be back healthy this season. He had a point per game for Robert Morris as a freshman but missed most of last season due to injury. Canisius has been a team that has used the transfer portal a lot. They have 4 transfer forwards this year who can all contribute and should add depth scoring to go along with a good top of the lineup. On the blue line, they return their top defender David Melaragni, and they have some key additions from the transfer portal here as well. Tyrell Buckley is a solid defenseman coming from Michigan Tech, and Cody Schiavon from UVM should also be a key player in the lineup. Last but not least, starting goaltender Jacob Barczewski returns after a great season with a 0.923 SV%. Canisius was 2nd in Atlantic Hockey last season, and with their returners and newcomers, I bet they’ll be competing for the top spot this season. They actually have a very similar profile to Army except with more firepower at the top of the lineup. Since it’s on the road and early in the season against what looks to be a really good team, I also have to go with a loss here.
10/21 vs USNTDP (Exhibition)
RPI’s third exhibition comes in the 3rd week of the season in what would otherwise be a bye week. I like the fact that they’re using this exhibition to stop what wouldn’t be an ideal time for a bye since it’s so early on in the season when everyone will still be fresh. However, I’m surprised they have a 3rd exhibition so early in the season instead of having it after the team comes back after the winter break. A lot of teams like putting their exhibition in that time to shake off winter break rust before they get going with the second half. I probably would have preferred that (and who knows maybe they tried to put it then but couldn’t). This timing is a good second option though.
10/28-29 vs/at Union
RPI opens conference play once again with Union in the last weekend of October. They’ll be an interesting team this year in the first year of a coaching change that was definitely needed. Regardless of the way he left, Rick Bennett had clearly lost his touch; Union was a program very much in decline, and their recruiting had gone into the gutter. Josh Hauge was a really good hire after showing himself to be a top assistant at Clarkson, and he has already picked up the recruiting. As for the team this season, Union lost all of their best players, but they return a lot of their depth. Liam Robertson, Tyler Watkins and Chaz Smedsrud come back up front after having 19, 16 and 16 points last season. The blue line isn’t very promising, but in net, Connor Murphy returns after his stellar season last year with a 0.919 SV%. He should keep them competitive in nearly every game and be able to steal some games. Union also added a few transfers. Josh Nixon had 20 points as a freshman at Lake State, and Chris Theodore had nearly a point per game at AIC. While they still have some talent, they will probably be a bad team as they lack top-end talent and depth in addition to adjusting to a new coach. I think Hauge will have them competing hard though and as RPI looks to continue to gain chemistry at the start of the season, I’m putting this down as a split.
11/4 at St. Lawrence
I have a feeling SLU is going to be an underrated team heading into the season. While they weren’t good record-wise last season, a lot of that was luck-based. They actually had a pretty good corsi at 50.3% and controlled play pretty well during the season. The issue was a lack of finishing talent and also bad luck. Their shooting percentage was only 7.1%, which was among the worst in the country. Additionally, after Emil Zetterquist had a 0.926 SV% 2 years ago, last year, he fell to a 0.904 SV%. It’s easy to pick out SLU as a candidate to regress positively. I expect Zetterquist to bounce back, and their finishing should be better. They should be pretty solidly in the middle of the ECAC, and since this game is early in the season and on the road, I’m picking SLU for this game.
11/5 at Clarkson
The North Country trip is always very difficult, and this year should be the same. Clarkson looks to be a really good team once again. Alex Campbell, Ayrton Martino, Anthony Callin, and Mathieu Gosselin all come back at forward. Their recruiting class looks great once again with Ellis Rickwood and Brandon Buhr looking like impact freshmen. Maine transfer Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup was a very good player in Hockey East and can fit in anywhere in the top 9. This Clarkson team should definitely have some firepower offensively. Defensively, Noah Beck and Jordan Power are both very good as strong, two-way defensemen. Last, but not least, Ethan Haider returns in goal. Clarkson has both top-end talent and depth at every position, and they look like a top 4 team. Early in the season and on the road, I sadly have to choose against RPI again in this game.
11/11 vs Harvard
Speaking of top-end talent, boy is Harvard loaded. It seems like we say it every year, but they really do recruit so well. Of course, their weakness tends to be their youth, but since they return almost everyone of importance this season, I’m less worried about that. Matt Coronato, Henry Thrun, Alex Laferriere and Sean Farrell are all point per game players. Ryan Siedem and Ian Moore are reliable on the blue line. John Farinacci, Alex Gaffney and Zak Karpa are all good players to have in your middle 6. Mitch Gibson will man the crease again and provide stability there. There’s not really any weaknesses with this team. In terms of incoming freshmen, they again have some projected immediate impact players. Joe Miller, Phil Tresca and Casey Severo were all top USHL players. I think this is an NCAA tournament team, and I have to pick them to win the early season matchup.
11/12 vs Dartmouth
I think Dartmouth will be a fairly competitive team this year. They have a good core to build around, but they still have to keep adding talent around them. Reid Cashman is doing good things there. Sean Chisholm, Mark Gallant and Braiden Dorfman is a good trio at forward who should be a solid top line. Defensively, Tanner Palocsik and Ian Pierce are both great. A lot of people are going to view Dartmouth as having a big hole in net, but I actually am not concerned. Clay Stevenson was excellent, but they’re just replacing him with the BCHL goalie with the top SV% last season in Cooper Black. He should be ready to take the reigns and start immediately. The real issue for Dartmouth is the depth is lacking outside of those guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won one of the games in the season series against RPI, but I’m picking RPI to take this one and end a losing skid.
11/18-19 vs Alaska
Alaska makes their return trip to Troy after RPI’s trek up there last season. Alaska was a solid team last year who was about .500 with a very difficult schedule. While they lost some of their best players, they return other top players like Brady Risk, Garrett Pyke and Anton Rubtsov. Additionally, they added some good transfers through the portal that should fill in for the depth that they lost such as T.J. Lloyd and Matt Rodomsky. I don’t think they’ll be quite as good as they were last season, but this will still be a very competitive team. RPI should be close to hitting their stride at this point, but Alaska will be tough to sweep. I’m picking a split.
11/25&27 at/vs Vermont
On Thanksgiving weekend, RPI will take on UVM for the 4th season in a row. UVM might have been one of the worst teams in the country last year, but I think they’re going to be much improved this season. Todd Woodcroft is doing a great job rebuilding the program, and he has added a lot of talent to the team. They gave the Engineers two really tough games last season, and I expect to see the same this season. There’s not much to preview with UVM because their roster is still very much in flux as a rebuilding team, but they’ve got numerous NHL draft picks who will definitely start producing more than they did the past couple seasons. I’m picking a split here too.
12/9 at Quinnipiac
Quinnipiac might honestly be just as good as last year, which is a scary thought. They return many key players though. Zach Metsa, Ethan de Jong, Michael Lombardi, and T.J. Friedmann all had 20+ points last year and come back. They also return basically all of their depth with key middle of the lineup players Jayden Lee, Joey Cipollone and Desi Burgart also coming back. Then, you factor in adding top transfers and great freshmen, and you can see why it’s easy to rate Quinnipiac as a top team in the country again. Collin Graf had 22 points for Union as a freshman last season, Jake Johnson was RPI’s best defenseman, Jacob Nordqvist has been great for Lake State, and Sam Lipkin was a top USHL player. Most importantly though, Yaniv Perets returns after his outstanding year in net. Even if RPI has turned a corner at this point, I have to go with Quinnipiac in this game.
12/10 at Princeton
Princeton is looking to be one of the worst teams in the country this year. Ian Murphy and Spencer Kersten are good forwards, but after them, only Adam Robbins had more than 10 points last season. They just have absolutely no depth. Pito Walton and Noah de la Durantaye are the only good defensemen they return, which again shows how they just don’t have depth on the team. Goaltending is a major question mark since last year they had some of the worst goaltending in the country, and they lose their starter Jeremie Forget. Their recruiting class is one of the worst in the ECAC, so they can’t fill the gaps that way. It’s tough to see a path where Princeton is a good team this year. It’s easy to choose RPI to win this game to end their first half.
Projected first half record: 8-9-0 (ECAC 3-5-0)
vs Mercyhurst W (1-0-0)
vs Mercyhurst W (2-0-0)
vs LIU W (3-0-0)
vs Army L (3-1-0)
at Canisius L (3-2-0)
vs Union W (4-2-0)
at Union L (4-3-0)
at SLU L (4-4-0)
at Clarkson L (4-5-0)
vs Harvard L (4-6-0)
vs Dartmouth W (5-6-0)
vs Alaska L (5-7-0)
vs Alaska W (6-7-0)
at UVM L (6-8-0)
vs UVM W (7-8-0)
at Quinnipiac L (7-9-0)
at Princeton W (8-9-0)
Tomorrow, we’ll preview the second half of the schedule with the last non-conference series against Bowling Green, the Mayor’s Cup, the Big Red Freakout!, and the main stretch of ECAC play.