In the world of sports, there are few things more exciting than witnessing the growth of a new powerhouse team. The underdogs becoming champions, the rookies rising to the top, and the underdogs becoming champions, the rookies rising to the top, and the previously overlooked walking away with the trophies – these are the stories that keep us on the edge of our seats. And one such team that has caught the attention of the hockey world is the Rensselaer men’s hockey team.
Rensselaer, commonly known as RPI, is a private research university located in Troy, New York. Though the school has a well-established engineering and science program, their hockey team has recently been making waves in the world of collegiate sports. The Engineers, as they are called, have always been a respectable team in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), but they have never quite reached the level of success that they are experiencing now.
The 2021-2022 season marked a turning point for RPI hockey, as they clinched their first conference championship since 1985 and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 years. With an impressive record of 20-6-2, the Engineers proved that they were a force to be reckoned with. Their success has not only brought pride to their university, but also sparked a discussion about the possibility of a dynasty in the making.
So, what exactly has led to RPI’s recent success? Let’s take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to the rise of this once-underdog team.
Culture Shift and Coaching Change
A team’s culture is a crucial element to their success. And for RPI, a positive culture shift has played a significant role in their recent achievements. It all began when the university hired Dave Smith as their head coach in 2017. Smith, a former coach at Canisius College, brought a fresh perspective and a new mentality to the team.
Under Smith’s leadership, the team’s culture began to shift from one of complacency to one of determination and discipline. The players were held accountable for their actions, both on and off the ice. This change in attitude translated onto the ice, as the team began to work together cohesively and with a clear goal in mind.
In addition, Smith implemented a more aggressive and assertive style of play, which has resulted in an increase in scoring opportunities and defensive effectiveness. This new approach has given the Engineers an edge over their opponents and has been a vital element in their recent success.
Rising Stars and Team Chemistry
A dynasty cannot be built without a solid foundation, and for RPI, that foundation lies within their group of talented players. The Engineers have a diverse and dynamic roster, with players from all over North America, as well as Europe. And while each player brings their unique skills and abilities to the team, it is their chemistry that sets them apart.
The team’s cohesiveness has been evident in their playing style, as they are able to seamlessly move the puck and anticipate each other’s moves on the ice. This chemistry is a result of the team’s strong bond off the ice, where they spend time together, support each other, and build a sense of camaraderie.
One standout player for the Engineers is senior forward and captain, Chase Zieky. Zieky’s leadership on and off the ice has been a driving force for the team. With 12 goals and 19 assists this season, he has been a key contributor to the Engineer’s success and a leader both on and off the ice.
Another notable player is junior goaltender, Owen Savory. Savory has been a brick wall for the Engineers, with a save percentage of .922 and an impressive 1.76 goals against average. His stellar performance in the net has been essential in securing victories for the team.
Supportive Community and Strong Fanbase
Behind every great team is a supportive community and strong fanbase, and RPI is no exception. The university has a longstanding tradition of a robust and passionate fanbase, known as the RPI Pep Band. This group of students has been a staple at all of RPI’s hockey games, adding an electric atmosphere to the already exciting sport.
In addition, the city of Troy and the surrounding communities have shown their unwavering support for the team. During the pandemic, the Engineers were one of the few teams in the ECAC allowed to have limited fans in attendance at their games. This support from their fans has given the players an added boost of motivation and has contributed to their success on the ice.
The Future of Rensselaer Hockey
As the Engineers continue to make strides towards becoming a top-tier team, it’s safe to say that the future of RPI hockey looks bright. With an influx of talented recruits joining the team next season and a strong core of returning players, the team has the potential to build a sustainable dynasty.
But for now, RPI and their fans can relish in the exciting and unexpected success that this team has achieved. Their journey to the top has been a testament to the power of hard work, team chemistry, and an unwavering support system. With an eye on continued growth and excellence, Rensselaer hockey has certainly proven that they are a dynasty in the making.