TROJAN – Last Thursday morning, fans of the RPI men’s hockey team were finally able to relax. The players too.

After what seemed like an unnecessarily long process, RPI announced a five-year contract extension for head coach Dave Smith.

This ended what, at times, seemed like a clumsy way to reward a coach who helped the team increase its win total each year. They have reached the quarter-finals of the CEAC Hockey Tournament in the last two seasons they have played. They fell to Harvard in three games in March at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If not for the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, RPI would have hosted the best of three series. The way the team was playing back then – they went 5-1 in the last six games of the regular season – I think they would not only have reached Lake Placid, but they would have also won their first tournament title ECACH since 1995. The Engineers did not play the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic, one of eight ECACH teams to do so.

Smith deserved the contract much earlier, especially what the team has been through for the past two years. In addition to not participating in the 2020-21 season, the Engineers only played in front of RPI students, faculty and staff during the regular season at Houston Field House due to the pandemic. The only time fans not associated with the school were allowed to watch games inside Houston Field House was when Engineers hosted Dartmouth in the first round of the ECACH tournament, a series that lasted three matches and was won by RPI.

Throughout the process, whenever asked about Smith, RPI sporting director Lee McElroy would always say that Smith was their coach. If so, a deal should have been finalized on April 18 instead of August 18.

“Anytime you’re in a contract situation, especially with a renewal, there are a lot of things that need to be sorted out,” McElroy said during Thursday’s press conference. “It’s very, very extensive, very involved and very comprehensive. So we don’t watch it [taking] moment, we consider it a matter of making the appropriate decision. And we made the right decision, obviously, because he got the five-year extension.

As the process dragged on into the Saratoga horse racing season, it may not have been certain that Smith would get a new contract. When RPI originally announced its 2022-23 schedule, there was no quote from Smith about the schedule. When I pointed this out, the press release was quickly updated on the RPI athletics website with a statement from Smith.

The uncertainty of Smith’s situation may have been a factor in the team losing seven players to the NCAA transfer portal, although RPI acquired four players from the portal.

For their part, the returning engineers weren’t worried about whether or not Smith got a new contract. They received the same assurances from McElroy that the Capital Region media were receiving.

“He [Smith] was always very adamant all through the end of last year and into the summer when he came back,” said second-year keeper Jack Watson, who emerged as RPI’s goaltender in the second. half of the season. “Dr. McElroy too [was] very categorical. He came to meet us to tell us in person that Dave Smith will once again be your head coach. I think most of us were pretty confident this was going to be the outcome, but it’s good to see it finally coming to fruition.

After signing the contract, Smith first talked to his family about it and then met with the players.

“It was exciting,” said RPI junior defender Jack Agnew. “We gave him a round of applause, but it wasn’t too much of a shock. He was there, hanging around us. We were just happy that it was official and that he was coming back.

I asked Watson and Agnew what Smith meant to them.

“The team as a family, and he’s the head of the family,” Watson said. “But the way he does it is not a dictatorship. He really values ​​all of our opinions. So yes, he’s the head of our family, but he doesn’t rule with an iron fist. He sponsors us. He cares about us. »

“He’s been huge for me,” said Agnew, who played six games for Boston College in 2020-21. “As I tell people, I transferred to RPI after my freshman year…and I didn’t really have much to offer a lot of the teams on the portal. But Coach Smith and [assistant] coach [Chuck] Weber welcomed me and gave me the opportunity to play, that’s all I could really ask for. And it really pays off, so Coach Smith and Coaching staff means a lot to me because they helped get me back on track and helped me find a home with RPI.

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NEW JOB FOR LASKARIS

Congratulations to RPI’s Director of Sports Information, Perry Laskaris, who has been appointed director of strategic communications and brand advancement for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association on Monday.

Laskaris, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, is a 2007 RPI graduate. He served on the men’s and women’s hockey teams for 15 seasons, providing media briefings and calling the team’s home games on RPI TV and ESPN +. He was also the primary contact for RPI’s baseball, softball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams.

“I’m excited for a number of reasons,” Laskaris said in a phone interview Monday. “I love sports at RPI. But I can focus on hockey, which is going to be fun, because I can put all my energy into one thing and not get stretched. It’s a remote job, so I can go home to Minnesota. I will do it in November. My family is there. And I tried to do that for a long time.

“But that really says more about RPI that I haven’t quit yet than it does about the jobs I turned down or whatever. Whether it was the money or the responsibilities, etc., I had opportunities to come back, but they were not the right person. So I finally found something that I love and that I’m really passionate about.

The thing Laskaris says he will miss most is calling games alongside analyst and former RPI men’s hockey head coach Dan Fridgen.

“I wish I had 10 years of calling games with ‘Fridge’ on ESPN+,” Laskaris said. It would be like my ideal thing.

THRAWL JONS RPI STAFF

Liam Thrawl has been named the volunteer assistant coach of the RPI men’s hockey team.

Thrawl is a 2021 graduate of Ohio State. He served as an assistant coach for the Midwest Blackbirds of the United States Premier Hockey League last season.

“Liam is a great addition to our staff,” Smith said in a press release. “He is a smart and focused coach who strives to make every player better during his time at RPI. His main focus will be player skill development as well as video distribution and on-campus recruitment.

AMERICAN WOMEN WIN

Alex Carpenter had two goals and an assist, and Taylor Heise had five assists as Team USA opened the 2022 Women’s Hockey World Championship with a 10-0 win over Japan on Thursday.

Union women’s hockey head coach Josh Sciba is an assistant coach for Team USA

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