2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: Rensselaer Engineers

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: John Burke (13th Season)
2015-16 Captains: N/A

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 7-23-4 (5-16-1 ECAC/9th place)
ECAC Postseason: Did not qualify

RPI started off its season last year with a trip out west, and dropped games to North Dakota and Bemidji State. The Engineers continued their nonconference against Vermont, and tied the Catamounts before losing to them on the second day of the series. They earned their first win of the season against UConn on Oct. 25, and went undefeated in that series with a tie the following day. Unfortunately, a six-game losing streak followed suit; Rensselaer began ECAC play with a loss to Harvard, and then lost to Dartmouth, Quinnipiac, and Princeton, and was swept by St. Cloud State.

The Engineers snapped the losing streak by earning a split in their series against RIT, and then won their first ECAC game of the year against Brown on Dec. 5. They opened up the new year with a win over Princeton, but over their next seven games, they earned just two positive results in ties against Providence and Union. Over their last nine games of the season after that, they won just three games, against Union, Brown, and Colgate.

At the team’s end-of-year banquet, Taylor Mahoney was given the Most Valuable Player award. Amanda Kimmerle was named the team’s Rookie of the Year, while Sara Till received the Bill Cahill Memorial Coach’s Award for the second-straight year. Mariana Walsh was named the Most Improved Player, Heidi Huhtamaki was given the Bob Conway Scholar-Athlete Award, and the Willie Stanton Award went to Ali Svoboda.

Meet the Newcomers

G Kira Bombay, Nepean Jr. Wildcats

Bombay won a bronze medal with Nepean in the 2014 Provincial Women’s Hockey League playoffs.

G Lovisa Selander, SDE Riksserien

At the Division I level back in 2013-14, Selander posted a .959 save percentage and 1.17 goals-against average with her SDE team.

D Josephine Hansen, Shattuck-St. Mary’s

Hansen was a two-year captain at SSM (Minn.) and helped the team to back-to-back national runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015, after winning a national championship in 2013.

D Ana Orzechowski, Pittsburgh Pens Elite

As a senior in 2014-15, Orzechowski was named an All-Western New York First Team Girls High School Hockey honoree, as well as a United States Marine Corps Distinguished Athlete. She won a state championship with her Pens Elite club in 2015, as well as a New York state championship with her high school team that same season.

F Jaimie Grigsby, Whitby Jr. Wolves

Grigsby helped leaded the Jr. Wolves to back-to-back PWHL championships in 2014 and 2015, and also captured the league championship back in 2012. A 2014 Canadian Under-18 Selection Camp attendee, she was named MVP in 2013 and 2014, and took part in the Ontario Winter Games back in 2012.

F Taylor Schwalbe, Shattuck-St. Mary’s

A teammate of Hansen’s as a prep, Schwalbe was also a part of SSM’s national runner-up teams the past two seasons, and won a national title at the U16 level in 2013. A captain for SSM, she was a USA Hockey national development camp attendee.

F Makenna Thomas, Chicago Young Americans

Thomas attended USA Hockey national development camps in 2013 and 2014, and helped the Young Americans to both a 2 Nations Cup championship and a Fire and Ice championship in 2015. She was the MVP of the 2013 MN Meltdown Tournament, and helped the club capture an America’s Showcase PIHL championship in 2013. She was recognized as an all-state honorable mention selection in 2011 and 2012, after winning Offensive MVP honors those same seasons.

F Aly Tremblay, Hayward H.S., Minnesota Revolution

At Hayward (Wis.), Tremblay was named a first team all-state honoree and led the team to the 2013 WIAA state championship.

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Ali Svoboda, F Taylor Mahoney, D Kathryn Schilter, D Delaney Middlebrook, G Kelly O’Brien, G Brianna Piper
Key Returners: F Alexa Gruschow, F Shayna Tomlinson, F Laura Horwood, F Whitney Renn, D Amanda Kimmerle, D Jenn Godin
Key Additions: G Lovisa Selander, F Taylor Schwalbe, D Josephine Hansen

The Engineers finished just outside the ECAC playoff bubble last season, with only seven wins to their name, but it’s already looking like this year’s club has taken a step forward form where they were at last year. To open up the 2014-15 season, RPI dropped a 7-1 decision to North Dakota. In their first two games of the 2015-16 campaign, they welcomed UND to Troy for a two-game series, and lost, 4-3 and 4-1. They also already have a win over Cornell to their name. They’re still not quite a .500 team at this juncture, but it’s clear they’ve made some improvements.

Some of their results early on this season have largely been helped by the play of freshman goaltender Lovisa Selander, who has so far posted a .922 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average in six starts. She already has four 30-save games to her name, including a 41-save performance in that second game against North Dakota. Numbers-wise, she is performing better than either Kelly O’Brien or Brianna Piper did last year, and I think she gives RPI more reliability in goal even as a freshman.

Though the Engineers lost two of their biggest scorers from last season in Taylor Mahoney and Ali Svoboda, they return two other offensive leaders in senior Alexa Gruschow and sophomore Shayna Tomlinson. Gruschow has long since been a part of their offensive core, and Tomlinson had a solid rookie season for the team, putting up 17 points to finish second on the club. Junior Laura Horwood also looks poised to be a bigger contributor and sophomore Whitney Renn showed potential last season. Veterans like Lauren Wash and Mari Mankey give the Engineers a few more depth options; the overall competitive depth among this forward group isn’t bad, but finding scoring depth will likely be a struggle once again.

RPI is losing a big player defensively in Kathryn Schilter, who led the team’s blue liners in scoring last season with 15 points. The graduation of Delaney Middlebrook leaves them with another hole on the back end, but team Rookie of the Year Amanda Kimmerle will shoulder even more responsibility now as a sophomore. Senior Jenn Godin will be another leader on the back end, and junior Hannah Behounek will be called on to step into more of a leadership role as well. The Engineers aren’t very deep defensively, and rookie Josephine Hansen is going to be called upon to contribute by at least filling some quality minutes right away.

Overall, RPI’s lack of depth at both skater positions is going to hurt them when they go up against teams that can roll out three solid lines and defensive pairings. But they’ve shown already they can at least play a tight game against teams with less talent throughout their lineups. The Engineers won’t control play, but they’re doing a better job of breaking up some of that control for their opponents, because they’re a more evenly-matched group. This is not an easy squad to play against, and I’d expect them to jump up into a playoff spot this season, but I’m not sure how much higher the ceiling is for them.

 

Schedule Highlights

Oct. 2-3 vs. North Dakota (L 4-3, L 4-1)
Oct. 30 at Cornell (W 2-1 (OT))
Oct. 31 at Colgate (T 3-3)
Nov. 6 vs. St. Lawrence
Nov. 7 vs. Clarkson
Nov. 13 at Dartmouth
Nov. 14 at Harvard
Dec. 4 vs. Yale
Jan. 2-3 at Mercyhurst
Jan. 8 vs. Quinnipiac
Jan. 9 vs. Princeton
Jan. 29 vs. Colgate
Jan. 30 vs. Cornell
Feb. 5 at Clarkson
Feb. 6 at St. Lawrence
Feb. 12 vs. Harvard
Feb. 13 vs. Dartmouth
Feb. 19 at Princeton
Feb. 20 at Quinnipiac

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