Discover more from The Field House
RPI 2023-24 Schedule Analysis
A brutal non-conference schedule with lots of road games will test the Engineers immediately
Well, we asked for it, and we certainly got it. After last year’s schedule was filled with opponents that made for a weak non-conference slate, a common takeaway from fans was that we wished to see a more difficult schedule since it seemed that the weaker schedule didn’t really prepare the team well for the ECAC. This year, the pendulum has been swung in the total opposite direction with by far the toughest slate of non-conference opponents that I’ve seen RPI face.
If we use the pairwise to compare last year with this year, it’s easy to see just how crazy the swing is.
In 2022-23, 5/7 of the opponents were in the bottom 20 in the country with Bowling Green just barely escaping that to make it into the middle third. Alaska was the only team above 39th in the pairwise that they played. This coming season, there’s 2 top 20 teams on the schedule, 5 top 30 teams, and only 2 teams in the bottom 20.
You can also compare by using number of games against 2023 NCAA tournament teams. Last year, there were 9 games compared to 12 for this season.
You might be wondering why I think the schedule is such a gauntlet when the average pairwise ranking is only about 28.5, which is slightly above average. There’s two reasons: The first is almost all of these games are on the road. I haven’t run a statistical analysis on it in a bit, but I believe the last time I checked, home teams win about 55% of the time. A look at our road opponents shows that they had a better winning percentage at home by 5.7%.
Every single OOC team that RPI will go on the road to play had a better winning percentage at home (unsurprisingly). The difference was pretty profound for almost every team though. Only Canisius was not at least 5% better at home.
Including the conference games, the Engineers will play 7/8 on the road to start the season against a tough schedule. Maine, BC, Providence, Union, Clarkson and SLU are the teams they’ll play to start the year. Only Union wasn’t in the top 35 of the pairwise out of those teams. It’ll be a significant challenge to pick up wins in these games; if they go .500 in those first 8 games, I’d consider it a win.
The second reason I think the schedule is especially challenging is that I expect most of these non-conference opponents to be improved compared to last year. I’ll get into the specifics of that below when I go over each opponent.
at Maine 10/12-13 (Last Time Played: 2017-18)
Maine was about .500 last season and 30th in the pairwise, and I expect them to take another step this season. They’re going into their 3rd year under RPI alum Ben Barr, and he’s done a great job rebuilding the program. Last year, Maine actually had really good underlying metrics in terms of corsi and xG%, but they lacked finishing and talent, which held them back.
Well, with the recruiting class that Barr is bringing in, I think they’re going to be fixing that. The Nadeau brothers, Bradly and Josh, were the two top scorers in the BCHL with 223 points combined between the two of them. Bradly is expected to be a late 1st round pick or early 2nd round pick in the draft this summer as a result. On top of those two, Arizona Coyotes 2nd round pick Artyom Duda recently committed, and Ryan Hopkins had the 2nd most points in the BCHL among defensemen.
I think Maine could be a top 20 team with the talent coming back in point per game forward Lynden Breen and starting goalie Victor Ostman (who turned down NHL deals) plus the aforementioned incoming talent. When you look at that and their home record from last season, it’s easy to see that this will be an extremely tough series to start the year.
at Boston College 10/20 (Last Time Played: 2015-16)
The last time RPI played BC, they were ranked #1 in the country, and the Engineers pulled off a 2-1 upset to cap off the opening weekend of the season. I don’t think BC will be #1 this time, but they could be pretty close. If you want some in-depth breakdowns of how BC’s roster is looking, I recommend checking out The Boston College Hockey Blog, but I’ll give a short summary.
As usual, BC is going to be loaded with talent this season. The main reason for their struggles last season can be boiled down to a lack of depth caused by numerous early departures for the NHL. They are fixing that this year with what is probably one of the best freshman classes of all time.
BC is bringing in the entire top line of the NTDP of Gabe Perreault, Will Smith, and Ryan Leonard, all of whom are projected to be top 15 picks in the NHL draft after their record breaking year. Smith and Perreault had more points in their U18 year for the NTDP than Jack Hughes did. They also return the 2022 #5 pick Cutter Gauthier who I think is going to be a Hobey Baker contender this season. Other key players returning are Andre Gasseau, Colby Ambrosio, Eamon Powell, Lukas Gustafsson, and Oskar Jellvik, and they also are adding Jack Malone and Jamie Armstrong from the portal to shore up their depth. BC has had a couple of tough years in net after Spencer Knight went to the NHL, but they’ll bring in Jacob Fowler who was 2nd in the USHL in SV% and is expected to be drafted in rounds 2-4 this summer.
Overall, they look like an NCAA tournament team, and if that NTDP top line can be as dynamic as a lot of people think they can be, then they’ll be even better. Basically the only hope for this game is that it’s a trap game for BC because they play Denver the night after this and could be looking ahead to that.
at Providence 10/21 (Last Time Played: 2005-06)
When I was looking up the last time RPI played PC, I legitimately couldn’t believe it was so long ago to the point that Dan Fridgen was still the head coach. That’s just unreal to me with how often the team plays against Hockey East teams.
Anyways, Providence is perennially a very good team. Last year was not up to their usual standards, but in 2021-22, they had 22 wins and were on the bubble for the tournament. It was also only 4 years ago when they made the Frozen Four. This will be another big challenge right after BC, but luckily, they don’t have the same firepower after a few of their top players left for the NHL.
At forward, PC returns a trio of good 20 point players with Nick Poisson, Riley Duran, Bennett Schimek plus some good depth guys. The blue line is what is really to write about though. There, they return NHL draft picks Taige Harding, Connor Kelley and Guillaume Richard, and they are adding former Brown star Luke Krys from the portal and Colorado Avs pick Chris Romaine as a freshman. Boston Bruins pick Philip Svedeback returns after a very good freshman year in net to complete what should be a tough team to score against.
That defense is why I think Providence will be a better team than last season. They only allowed 2.35 goals per game, and it looks like it could even improve from that due to their incoming players. When your defense is that good, you don’t need the offensive firepower of BC to win. RPI will be in for an extremely tough weekend all around.
I would have preferred to see Union this weekend and a bye the next weekend, but I’m sure there’s a reason it turned out this way instead. This isn’t a bad spot for a bye after 2 really tough weekends to start the season though.
at/vs Union 11/3-4
I’m not going to go into the ECAC teams too much because we’re going to do an in-depth ECAC preview later in the offseason.
I think Union will be improved from last season but only a bit. I don’t expect anything drastic as of right now. I also do not expect anything drastic from RPI though, so this should be a very competitive series. RPI will certainly be prepared for it after their first 4 games; that’s for sure.
at Clarkson 11/10
at SLU 11/11
This will be another difficult weekend. The North Country trip is always a hard one, and I expect Clarkson and SLU to both be pretty good teams, which adds a degree of challenge to it.
I’m expecting Clarkson to bounce back next year after a down year based on their recent standards. They have been recruiting very well and have loads of talent. I’d be surprised if they weren’t back in the top 3 of the league.
St. Lawrence is looking to prove their 4th place finish wasn’t a flash in the pan. I think they’ll still be a good team that’s pretty similar to last year’s one. I’d put them in the 4-7 range but definitely closer to 4 than to 7.
I just said it, but I’ll say it again: the benefit of such a difficult schedule is that RPI will have already faced 3 teams better than both Clarkson and SLU and will be ready to go.
I don’t love having the two byes so close together, but sometimes, that is just how the schedule comes together.
vs Northeastern 11/25-26 (Last Time Played: 2021-22)
Northeastern just barely missed the NCAA tournament at 18th in the pairwise last season. They likely would have made it had they not lost to Bentley. As has become the usual for Northeastern now, they will have a lot of talent and are expected to be strong once again. You can read Northeastern Hockey Blog’s full roster breakdown here.
While they don’t have Aidan McDonough up front anymore, they return two 30+ point players in Justin Hryckowian and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. Sharks 2nd rounder Cam Lund is also back after a good freshman year, and Jack Williams, Liam Walsh and Matt Choupani will add scoring depth. Northeastern also added Clarkson transfer Alex Campbell who can step right into their top 6, and Dylan Hryckowian and Eli Sebastian were two of the top players in the USHL this season. That’s a strong top 9.
The big question for them is how they replace back-to-back Richter winner Devon Levi. The answer is they really can’t, but Vegas draft pick Cam Whitehead had two good years in the USHL and should be good for the Huskies. I’d still expect their defense to take a step back without Levi.
Luckily, both of these games are at home, giving the Engineers a better chance. I expect Northeastern to be in the mix for the NCAA tournament once again, so a win (or two) will not come easily.
vs Quinnipiac 12/1
vs Princeton 12/2
Quinnipiac is going to be an elite team once again. There’s pretty much no doubt now that they’ll be an NCAA tournament team and in the top 3 of the ECAC year in and year out.
I like Princeton because they return a good amount of scoring, defensemen, and their starting goalie.
at UNH 12/9 (Last Time Played: 2017-18)
UNH is a team I’m really intrigued by. They were pretty bad last season with an 11-21-3 record, and all the fans wanted them to fire Mike Souza as the head coach. Souza did not get fired, so the vibes around UNH and their fans are mostly pessimistic.
They do return most of their key players, and they have a couple really good recruits in Brendan Fitzgerald and Ryan Conmy. There’s some potential there to be had, so we’ll have to see. Even if UNH is improved, this should still be a winnable game for RPI especially compared to all the other non-conference games prior to this one.
vs Minnesota State 12/15-16 (Last Time Played: 2012-13)
Minnesota State or Mankato as most people refer to them had a very interesting offseason. Their head coach, Mike Hastings, left to take the head coaching job at Wisconsin and brought with him his top assistant, Todd Knott. He also seemingly brought half the team and recruits with him as well, which is only a slight exaggeration.
Mankato has weathered the storm fairly well though. They hired Luke Strand, which I thought was a really good choice. Him and his staff have done a good job of replacing the decommits and transfers with other transfers and new commits. Mankato has made the NCAA tournament numerous years in a row, and even though I think they will definitely take a step back this season due to all the turnover, I also don’t think it’ll be as large a step back as many think. Mankato still has a lot of talent all over the roster. They lost a lot, but they also added a lot. Overall, it’s a net negative, but I’d be shocked if they are below 30th in the pairwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are top 20-25 even.
This will be a good team and tough opponent, and the timing of these games also worries me. These will take place during finals for the fall semester. The coaching staff talked previously about learning their lesson from going to Alaska and playing a bunch of games during finals, but now, they have another non-conference series during finals. At least this one is at home, so hopefully, it does not affect the team as much. I wish they could have found a different weekend though. Overall, this looks like a fun series to end the first half of the season at home.
at Canisius 12/29-30 (Last Time Played: 2022-23)
RPI begins the second half against a familiar opponent in Canisius. They’ll go on the road to Buffalo for a pair of games. In last season’s match-up, the Engineers lost 3-2, but had doubled up Canisius in shot attempts and thoroughly controlled the play. Canisius ended up being a very good team, especially by the year’s end, as they were 4th in the conference. Then, they went on a run to win the conference tournament and make the NCAA tournament. There, they faced top overall seed Minnesota and put a scare into them by leading at one point and sticking with them for 2 periods. They were down 3-2 at the 2nd intermission, and then Minnesota ran away with the game in the 3rd.
Canisius is losing many top players from that team, but one thing they have been doing frequently now is mining the portal a lot. Canisius has been adding tons of transfers every year now as a way to up their talent level since it is harder for Atlantic Hockey schools to recruit good players from junior hockey. They can take the guys from Hockey East, ECAC, etc. that barely play but have talent and ability and then give them a lot of ice time. They literally did that with both Danny DiGrande and Nick Bowman as both played key roles in Canisius’s top 6 last season.
I think they’ll be a pretty solid team again although I don’t think they’ll make the NCAA tournament. Factor in that both of these are on the road after a mid-season break, and it’s important that the team doesn’t take Canisius lightly.
vs Yale 1/5
vs Brown 1/6
I’m expecting both Yale and Brown to be among the ECAC’s worst teams this year.
Yale’s only saving grace is returning Luke Pearson in net. He was quite good for them, and he’ll need to be great for them this coming season if they want a chance of being remotely competitive. Yale’s roster is simply just devoid of talent outside of a few players.
Brown lost Mathieu Caron to the portal and then BU after he was their saving grace last season. Considering their backup Jacob Zacharewicz had an .868 SV%, it doesn’t look so good for them. For this coming season, Brown’s incoming class is going to need to pickup a lot of slack. They have a couple of really good players coming in. Ryan St. Louis was one of the best players in the USHL last season and a huge recruiting get for Brown. Ethan Mistry was one of the best defensemen in BCHL.
vs SLU 1/12
vs Clarkson 1/13
at Harvard 1/19
at Dartmouth 1/20
Harvard will be a weird team after they lost all their best players to the NHL. I’m not expecting them to be good but also not bad either. They will have a lot of talent, and a lot of their incoming players are NHL draft picks. I just don’t think these players are up to par with what they lost. These draft picks are in the mid-to-late rounds; none of them are top picks that can have the type of impact of a Coronato or a Farrell. No team in the league returns a lower percentage of their scoring than Harvard. They will be extremely young with a good amount of talent; it’s just not as much talent as they’ve had in the past.
I was expecting Dartmouth to take a step forward last season because I liked their core, and it didn’t happen. They still have some nice pieces that should take steps forward, but I really just don’t like their incoming class outside of the defensemen. Their defense should improve (kinda hard for it to get worse), but I don’t think it will be significant. Offensively, I don’t think they are adding enough to the core they have right now.
Mayor’s Cup 1/27
at Brown 2/2
at Yale 2/3
vs Cornell 2/9
vs Colgate 2/10
I think Cornell will be just as good this season as last. They return enough scoring and have enough good recruits to make me feel good about their offense. And with Cornell, you never doubt that the defense will be elite; that’ll be especially true with Ian Shane returning. They should be an NCAA tournament team and one of the best in the ECAC.
Colgate is interesting because I actually liked them before the coaching change happened. Then, they lost Alex Young to the portal and Arizona State, which was a pretty huge loss for them since Colton Young already had graduated. Now, they’re left in a tough spot with some okay returning scoring, but their recruits don’t look like they’ll fill the gaps well. Defensively, they should be ok with Carter Gylander returning in neet. Overall, I just think the coaching change (where they made a really odd hire that I don’t like) with the lack of offense will cause a step back.
at Princeton 2/16
at Quinnipiac 2/17
vs Dartmouth 2/23
vs Harvard 2/24
at Colgate 3/1
at Cornell 3/2
ECAC First Round 3/8-9
ECAC Quarterfinals 3/15-17
ECAC Semifinals and Finals at Lake Placid 3/22-23
NCAA Tournament Regionals 3/28-31
NCAA Frozen Four 4/11+13
Just going through the schedule and picking every game, I got to 17-15-2. I think that’s reasonable, but my gut is telling me to go slightly lower than that with 16-16-2. Considering the difficulty of the schedule, this would be a fine record and a solid bounce back year. That record against this schedule would arguably be a better season than 19-20.
The breakdown goes like this:
11-10-1 in ECAC play
2-4-1 against Hockey East schools
Split Minnesota State
Win Mayor’s Cup
That brings you to 17-15-2, and then my gut tells me they drop an extra game somewhere in there.
It should be a great season, and I can’t wait to see this team on the ice! Getting closer every day…
Thanks for reading The Field House! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.