Ice Hockey Wiki
Rensselaer Engineers
RPI Engineers.png
Institution Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Location Troy, NY
School Founded 1824
Enrollment 4,500
Colors Cherry Red & White
President Shirley Ann Jackson
Athletic Director Ken Ralph
Rink Houston Field House
Capacity 5,217
Dimensions 200'x85'
Men's Coach Dave Smith
(Ohio State '92)
Women's Coach Bryan Vines (Acting as of June 2017)
NCAA Championships Men: 1954, 1985
ECAC Championships Men: 1984, 1985, 1995
Major Rivals Clarkson, Union

The Rensselaer Engineers (commonly referred to as the RPI Engineers) are a team in the ECAC Hockey League in Men's Division I and a Women's Division I Independent in Women's Division I. In 2006, the women's team will join the ECAC Hockey League.

History of Rensselaer Men's Hockey

Rensselaer boasts one of the oldest intercollegiate hockey programs in the East, playing its first game in 1902 across the Hudson River in Cohoes, NY, losing to Williams. For the first ten years of the student-run program, the team played very few games on its schedule, and the "home" games were all scheduled in nearby Albany, NY.

Early History

In 1912, the school built an outdoor rink on campus, along what was then known as Avenue B (today's Sage Avenue) at the site of what is now Anderson Field. The rectangular rink was home to the team for the remainder of its first incarnation. The team had its first official coach in 1917 when Leroy Clark, a professor at the Institute, took the helm. He would coach the team until 1923. Hockey at Rensselaer remained relatively unprofessional through this era, as the rink was highly susceptible to flooding and there were no seats for spectators to watch games. Marvin Callan was hired to coach the fledgling team in 1925, but after continued difficulty with ice maintenance, the team was put on hiatus in 1931. The team was brought back under Callan in 1936 after an independent group of students played a game against Union College, but only officially played one game that year. After a dismal showing in 1938, the team was again shelved, and appeared to be gone for good after the onset of World War II.

The Harkness Era

Following the war, Institute President Livingston Houston, a Rensselaer alumnus and former hockey player, and Ned Harkness, the school's lacrosse coach, spurred interest in reviving the hockey program by building an indoor rink on campus to better facilitate rink management. Through a federal grant to assist in veterans' learning, a Navy warehouse was brought to campus and used to construct the RPI Field House, today known as the Houston Field House, after the man who brought hockey back to Rensselaer.

Harkness was named the team's new head coach, and after 12 years on the shelf, RPI hockey returned in January 1950. The team went 4-6-0 in its first year under Harkness. Later that year, Rensselaer joined Clarkson, Colgate, Middlebury, St. Lawrence, and Williams in creating the Tri-State League in time for the 1950-51 season. In 1951, Harkness helped devise the RPI Holiday Tournament to be held at RPI Field House. Although the format and time of the season in which it is held has changed over the years, it has been held every year since its inception, making it the oldest in-season college hockey tournament in the United States. Harkness used the tournament to attract higher quality teams to play in Troy.

Under Harkness' leadership, Rensselaer became one of the dominating forces early on in the Tri-State League, reaching the 1953 NCAA semifinals in only the fourth year of the team's rebirth. The following year, the team took a step further, advancing to the 1954 NCAA semifinals and winning the national championship game as huge underdogs against Minnesota 5-4 in the first national title game to go into overtime. The game winning goal in the extra period was scored by Gordie Peterkin, and Abbie Moore would be named the series' Most Outstanding Player. Among the most noteworthy members of the national championship game was Frank Chiarelli, who set many scoring records that still exist to this day.

Rensselaer remained competitive throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s under Harkness, returning to the NCAA tournament in 1961. The following year, the Engineers, along with fellow Tri-State teams Clarkson and St. Lawrence, joined the fledgling ECAC, where they remain today. In 1963, Ned Harkness would leave Rensselaer for Cornell, where he would add to his already legendary status. His replacement was Rube Bjorkman, who led the Engineers to the 1964 NCAA Tournament after posting an 18-8 record in the 1963-64 campaign. The team ultimately finished in third nationwide, but Bjorkman would leave the Engineers for New Hampshire after his first season at the helm, leaving the team aimless.

A New Beginning

Garry Kearns, a five-foot-two forward for the Engineers in the late 1950s, left his architecture practice in the Capital District to return to his alma mater as the head coach. Bjorkman had left the team in shambles with a poor recruiting effort, and for Kearns' first three years, the team was rather uncompetitive in the ECAC. This led to discussions that the team should drop to a lower classification in order to avoid embarassment. Kearns, however, lobbied to keep the team playing at the highest levels. He began to recruit heavily in Ontario, and when the Engineers' Doug Hearns scored on the legendary Ken Dryden in overtime to defeat Harkness and his high-flying Cornell team to kick off the 1968-69 ECAC season, talk of dropping classification ceased. By the end of Kearns' tenure in 1969, he had returned the team to respectability. Kearns' win-loss record is among the worst among Rensselaer's head coaches, but his role in leading the program through the most difficult period in its post-war history was important. He remains the only post-war coach to have attended the Institute.

Leon Abbott, Kearns' replacement behind the bench, led the Engineers for three seasons, eventually restoring the team to their winning ways before leaving to become head coach at Boston University. Jim Salfi came to RPI from Penn, where he had successfully taken the Quakers to the varsity level. Salfi took over for Abbott in 1972 and would stay behind the Engineer bench for the remainder of the 1970s. The team stayed competitive during the Salfi years, maintaining the team's status as a respected club but not advancing the team to higher levels. It was during Salfi's later years that the Big Red Freakout! was developed.

Return to Glory

In 1979, Salfi left RPI and was replaced by Holy Cross coach Mike Addesa. Addesa almost immediately began lobbying for the Institute to allow athletic scholarships in order to help the small technical university in recruiting against bigger state schools. Scholarships were finally implemented in the early 1980s, and dividends began paying off almost immediately. Rensselaer began securing some of the top talents available, including now famous Engineers such as Adam Oates, Ken Hammond, George Servinis, and Daren Puppa. In the 1983-84 season, Addesa led the now juggernaut status Engineers to a 28-4-0 regular season record en route to the school's first ever regular season ECAC championship, a precursor to the team's first ECAC title, defeating Boston University 5-2 at Boston Garden in the last ECAC tournament before the Hockey East split. The team was favored to make an NCAA tournament run, but were upset by the North Dakota Fighting Sioux in two games at Houston Field House, ending the Engineers season.

The next season, however, the powerhouse Engineers blazed a trail through the regular season, losing only once in-conference and only twice all season long, amassing an amazing 35-2-1 record, including an incredible 30-game winning streak, ending the season with a 33-game unbeaten streak and two heart-stopping victories in the 1985 Frozen Four, defeating Brett Hull's Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 6-5 in triple overtime before overcoming Providence in the championship game, 2-1, for Rensselaer's second national championship victory.

The Engineers kicked off the 1985-86 season without many of their stars who had brought them to glory the previous year, but still began the season 5-0-1, extending the unbeaten streak to an all-time record of 39 games before losing to Yale at Houston Field House. RPI proceeded to win their next six games after the loss, amassing an outstanding run of 1 loss in 46 straight games played.

After the 1985 triumph, the team cooled off quite a bit, falling off from the upper reaches of the ECAC table, but still remaining competitive. The future looked bright with Addesa at the helm and a young forward named Joe Juneau beginning to light up goaltenders, but an incident in 1989 brought Addesa's college coaching career to an unfortunate end. It was reported that Addesa directed a racial slur at Graeme Townshend, an Engineer forward who was an African-American. Public and internal outrage over the incident led to Adessa's resignation from the team. He was replaced by RIT head coach Buddy Powers.

Powers and Fridgen

The Engineers under Powers began returning to the upper reaches of the ECAC. Powers was with the team for the first half of the 1990s, and the team continually improved under his direction, with such players as Juneau, Brad Layzell, Ron Pasco, and Neil Little at his disposal. The team qualified for the ECAC Final Four each year but Powers' sophomore season behind the bench. In 1994, the team returned to the ECAC Championship Game and the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985, but Powers would leave the team for Bowling Green following the 1993-94 campaign. Assistant coach Dan Fridgen was his replacement.

In Fridgen's first year as head coach, the Engineers won their first ECAC Championship in ten years, winning the 1995 ECAC Tournament and advancing to the NCAA tournament, losing 3-0 to Minnesota. Through the remainder of the 1990s, Rensselaer remained one of the premier teams in the ECAC, playing in the Lake Placid tournament five of seven years during the 1990s. The team was led in the late 1990s by some exceptional players, including Eric Healey, Danny Riva, Brian Pothier, Pete Gardiner, and Joel Laing.

The beginning of the 21st century saw the emergence of two local stars, Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie. Along with Brad Tapper, these players made up a spectacular scoring trio. In 2003, NCAA Proposition 65 threatened to take away the Institute's ability to give out athletic scholarships. Together with other small schools, the proposition was successfully defeated, helping to allow the team to remain competitive in the future. Rensselaer is one of five Division III schools competing at the Division I level, the others are Clarkson, Colorado College, St. Lawrence, and Union.

Women's program


Although Ivy League schools were sponsoring varsity women's hockey years earlier, Rensselaer's women's team began as a student-sponsored club team during the 1976-77 season, splitting its home games between Houston Field House and the Knickerbacker Arena in North Troy. Rensselaer's student body, traditionally mostly male, simply did not have enough women interested or able to play hockey prior to this time. During the 1970s and early 1980s the team often struggled to stay solvent, most often due to lack of interest as the number of women at the Institute was still relatively low.

The success of the men's varsity team in the mid-1980s gave the team a shot in the arm as interest increased. Through the remainder of the decade and into the 1990s, the team was increasingly competitive among other club teams. In 1992, senior undergraduate Ryan Stone took over as the team's head coach and stayed on as he remained at the Institute to attend graduate school. Under Stone, the team reached new heights. Rensselaer participated in the 1994 AWCHA championships and won the national club title. The team would host the 1995 AWCHA championships, but lost in the semifinals to Minnesota before defeating Colgate to finish the tournament in third place, the team's last game as a club team. In 1995, the team was elevated to the varsity level, competing in Division III.

Division III

Stone remained at the helm as the team made the transition to varsity status. The first few years in Division III were difficult, but the team continued to stay competitive, attaining a winning overall record in the 1997-98 and reaching the playoffs in 1998-99. In that year, forward Bridget LaNoir became the first woman in RPI history to be named a hockey All-American. During the late 1990s, the team was among the best in the ECAC North, vying with Middlebury for the top of the division. The team was led by forwards LaNoir (who would later return as an assistant coach), Cindy Acropolis, and Talia Acampora, all of whom still hold team scoring records, and supported in net by Nina Lynch, who still owns records for career victories and shutouts.

Stone finished his doctorate studies left the team after the 1999-2000 season, and was replaced by men's assistant Bill Cahill. Cahill had formerly been the interim men's coach following the departure of Mike Addesa, and had been the head coach of the men's program at Norwich, his alma mater, before returning to RPI in 1995. Cahill's first season was difficult, as the team lost Acropolis, Acampora, and Lynch to graduation, and the Engineers finished near the middle of the pack in the ECAC rather than near the top as had become the norm. When the ECAC was split following the 2000-01 season, the Engineers were placed in the ECAC East league. The 2001-02 season was a year of improvement, but the team again finished in the middle of the smaller league. The 2002-03 season was a breakthrough for the team, as Cahill's style and recruitment classes began to set in. The team went 17-3-0 in the ECAC East and won 20 games for the first time in Division III. The team advanced to the ECAC East Championship game against Manhattanville, but lost a close game, just missing out on the NCAA tournament.

With Cahill behind the bench, the team seemed to be ready to take the next step, but Cahill's sudden death in October 2003 from a heart attack dealt a blow to a team on the way up. Again, the Institute turned to a men's assistant to fill the void, this time choosing John Burke. The team bounced back very well, again finishing near the top of the ECAC East, reaching the ECAC East Championship game for the second straight year, again losing to Manhattanville.

On January 12, 2004, following the defeat of Proposition 65, the Institute announced that the team would be elevated to the Division I level in time for the 2005-06 season, which had been one of Cahill's major goals for the team. The team spent its last season in Division III during the 2004-05 season, which was very similar to its previous two campaigns, playing well and being among the best teams in the nation, but ultimately being unable to solve Manhattanville. Among the noteworthy players during the Engineers' last years in Division III were Sara Riel and Lane Dielwart on defense, forwards Christin Sauca, Katie Woodward, Julie Welte, and Julie Aho, and the goaltending platoon of Julie Vallarelli and Rosina Schiff. The Engineers final season in Division III was the 2004-05 season. In that season, the Engineers qualified to the championship game of the ECAC East Tournament. It was their second consecutive season in the championship. That season, RPI had 21 wins, comparted to only six losses. Their league record was 17-2-0. In addition, the Engineers were ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (allowing only 1.22 goals per game). Nationally, the Engineers were fourth in power play percentage and eighth in scoring offense. The star of the team was sophomore Julie Aho. She was selected as an AHCA National All-America, and led the team in scoring in each of her first two seasons.

Division I

In 2005-06, RPI was a Division I independent. The club won 18 games, lost 6 and tied 2. During that season, the school notched wins over Colgate, Northeastern, Connecticut and Boston University. Despite being an independent, the Engineers were ranked fourth in the NCAA in winning percentage (.731) and seventh in scoring offense (3.23 goals per game average). Senior goaltender Rosina Schiff would become the program’s all-time leader in wins with 40 (since broken) and games played with 65 (since broken).

In its second season in Division I (2007-08), Rensselaer won 13 games, compared to 15 losses and 5 ties. In the ECAC, its conference record was 6-12-4. The Engineers matched the single season record for ties, including its first-ever point over then nationally-ranked Dartmouth in a 1-1 draw in Hanover. [1]

The record for most wins in one season is 19, which was set in 2008-09 (19-14-4). On February 28, 2010, Rensselaer made NCAA history. The Engineers beat Quinnipiac, 2-1, but it took five overtimes. It is now the longest college hockey game in NCAA history. Senior defenseman Laura Gersten had the game winning goal. She registered it at 4:32 of the fifth overtime session to not only clinch the win, but the series victory. [2]

In June of 2017 Rensselaer has named Bryan Vines the interim head women’s hockey coach, he was previously the assistant coach of the men's team. John Burke was let go after coaching the team for 14 seasons.[3]

Year by year

Season GP W L T GF GA Pts Finish Conference Tournament GP W L T GF GA
ECAC Alliance (Division III) Overall Record
1997-98 16 9 5 2 68 33 21 2nd of 6 West - 19 11 5 3 83 40
ECAC Division III Overall Record
1998-99 18 13 4 1 93 27 27 2nd of 4 North - 26 16 8 2 115 54
ECAC East Overall Record
1999-00 17 11 4 2 77 33 24 T-3rd of 18 W, QF 3-1 (Vermont) L, SF 6-0 (Middlebury) 26 13 11 2 99 66
2000-01 18 9 7 2 49 51 20 10th of 19 Did not qualify 24 12 10 2 84 68
2001-02 18 11 7 0 101 28 22 5th of 10 W, QF 9-2 (Union) L, SF 5-1 (Manhattanville) 27 15 11 1 128 61
2002-03 20 17 3 0 113 30 34 2nd of 11 W, QF 11-0 (Salve Regina) W, SF 2-1 (S. Maine) L, F 3-1 (Manhattanville) 27 20 7 0 132 52
2003-04 17 13 3 1 59 21 27 2nd of 10 W, SF 4-3 (New England College) L, F 2-0 (Manhattanville) 27 19 5 3 92 43
2004-05 19 17 2 0 101 15 34 2nd of 12 W, SF 5-2 (RIT) L, F 4-1 (Manhattanville) 27 21 6 0 122 33
ECAC Women's Overall Record

  • Prior to the 2005-06 season, the Engineers were in NCAA Division III.
Year Wins Losses Ties Coach Postseason
2008-09 19 14 4 John Burke
2007-08 13 15 5 John Burke
2006-07 12 22 1 John Burke
2005-06 18 6 2 John Burke


Notable players

  • Julie Aho
  • Alisa Harrison
  • Rosina Schiff
  • Sonja van der Bliek
    • As of the end of the 2009-10 season, Sonja van der Bliek was RPI’s single season record holder in numerous categories: most games played (84), most games started (83), most wins (42-31-11), most minutes played (5161:36), most saves (1922) and most shutouts (16). [5]
  • Alison Wright

Awards and honors

  • Julie Aho, AHCA National All-America (2005)
  • Laura Gersten, Sarah Devens Award[6]
  • Alisa Harrison, ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team (2009)[7]
  • Whitney Naslund, ECAC Hockey Championship All-Tournament Team (2009)
  • Sierra Vadner, Defense, 2009 ECAC All-Rookie Team
  • Sonja van der Bliek was named the ECAC Goaltender of the Week (for the week of March 1, 2010) [8]


Rensselaer Resources

External Links