A Big Tap On The Door
The sixth-ranked Rensselaer Engineers are on a roll. They have been ascending in the polls and after a dominating performance against NCAA runner-up New Hampshire last Friday evening, their record sits at 5-0-0.
“There are some guys up front that have been on a mission,” said head coach Dan Fridgen.
I guess you could say that one man is on a huge mission right now. Junior right wing Brad Tapper is off to the hottest start that anyone can remember in college hockey.
Tapper had the hat trick against New Hampshire (listen to it here), raising his goal total on the season to 10 — the best in the country. In just five games, he is averaging two goals a game. He was named the ECAC Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks after his performance. He has scored in all sorts of different ways this season — penalty shot, power play, shorthanded and even strength.
(Editor’s note: for the curious — yes, that’s the voice of Jayson Moy making the call on Troy, N.Y.’s, WRPI for Tapper’s hat trick.)
“Things have been going well right now,” Tapper understated. “I’m on a creative line (with freshman Marc Cavosie and senior Doug Shepherd). They’re playing outstanding.
“I’ve always loved putting the puck in the net.”
Tapper came to the Engineers from the Wexford Raiders of the MJHL. Prior to his arriving at Rensselaer, he was named the team’s Most Skilled Player, a First-Team All-Star and capped his season with 112 points.
But one of the most important decisions in choosing Rensselaer was that his brother, Bryan, was already a defenseman at the school. Bryan was a senior at the time when Brad was a freshman.
“Bryan is one of my influences,” said Brad. “But he, my brother Bill and my dad, they’re all great hockey players. We’d always get together on Sunday and skate and play.”
Arriving at Rensselaer, Brad took the number 52 — the reverse of his brother’s 25. Brad made an immediate impact with 14 goals and 11 assists.
The next season Brad was the lone Tapper on the team and centered by either Alain St. Hilaire or Danny Riva, Tapper registered 20 goals and 20 assists, good for fifth on the team in scoring.
This season, Tapper was expected to carry some of the offensive load, but who would have thought that he would have 10 of his team’s 24 goals at the present moment?
“You always have that good start in mind, but this is the first year that I’ve gotten off to a good start for myself,” he said. “I came into the season with high expectations.”
During the offseason, Brad worked with Bryan, now a defenseman for the PeeDee Pride in the ECHL. He went down and visited his brother and the two spent a lot of time working on their games.
“We worked on little things around the net,” explained Brad. “He’s always helped me with my game and I’m helping him with his. He’s a big D, but I’m feisty and I always try to move him out of there. Bryan’s helped me out a lot.”
So Brad came into the season with determination, and it has paid off. He leads the country in goals, and his team is now ranked sixth.
“Rensselaer needs a little more respect this year,” he says. “Respect is one thing we should have a little bit more of this year, and it’s nice to see that ranking.”
“He certainly has matured as a player in his play thus far in the year,” said Fridgen. “He’s doing what he loves to do and what he’s capable of doing. He’s a tough guy to stop no matter how much attention you pay to him.”
And teams have been trying to pay a lot of attention to him. This week Cornell and Colgate will pay heed to the young man from Scarborough, Ont. But through it all, he remains modest and calm.
“I just try to go out there with a good head and do the best I can. I don’t know why I’m so hot,” he says. “I’m more concerned about the team right now. We’re 5-0 and we have to keep that up.”
The Big Red Enter The Fray
Cornell will have the next opportunity to face Brad Tapper as the Big Red travel to Troy to take on the Engineers.
“We’re looking forward to the year because we’ve only graduated two players, we’ve brought in a lot of players and one of the keys is getting the defense into the scoring,” said head coach Mike Schafer. “Four years ago it was right back to the start in trying to get respect in the league. The goal is to get back to Lake Placid, and we hope to get back there this year.
“We’ve graduated three players in the last two years and most of our leadership and upperclassman will help. We need the same kind of contribution that we got from our freshman blueliners that we got from our freshman forwards last year.”
If Saturday’s decimation of Western Ontario, 8-1 in an exhibition game, is any indication, the Big Red may have found a freshman blueliner that can step right up.
Mark McRae scored once and had two assists in the win. McRae is an offensive blueliner who had 64 points last season (23-41–64) for Brampton in the OPJHL.
Fifteen different players had a point in the win last weekend, which will be as important as anything for the Big Red.
“The strength of our team has to be everybody contributing,” Schafer said. “We have a lot of balance and we have a lot of depth.”
Quietly Starting Out
St. Lawrence is 4-0, in case anyone hadn’t noticed. The Saints took two one-goal games this past week in Western New York with a 2-1 win over Niagara and a 3-2 win over Wayne State.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” said Saint coach Joe Marsh. “I thought we played very well on Friday night and we did everything but score for two periods against Wayne State on Saturday. We were able to get some things going offensively in the third period and put a couple away. We’ve got some things to work on, but generally it was a good effort both nights.”
Let’s Play Special Teams
Courtesy of Ken Schott of the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette, here’s an interesting statistic for the Dutchmen of Union.
Of the last nine goals scored by Union, dating back to last season, none have come even-strength. The Dutchmen have scored seven power-play goals and two shorthanded. Their last even-strength goal was scored by Mason Anderson at the 17:29 mark of the first period against Colgate on Feb. 26.
The streak is at 522 minutes, 31 seconds — that encompasses 26 full periods.
Another interesting stat of note: the Dutchmen have scored seven goals this season in five games. Two people have more goals in five games than the Dutchmen do. Jeff Farkas of Boston College has eight goals in five games, and the aforementioned Brad Tapper has 10 in five games.
Welcome Back, Beth!
The ECAC announced this week that Beth Burr will be the league’s new director of public relations. Beth comes over from North Dakota, where she was associate director of media relations for the past three-plus years.
She will be responsible for managing the conference’s public relations, media relations, statistics, awards, publications and graphics programs. In addition, she will handle the day-to-day public relations for the conference’s Division III women’s ice hockey programs.
“I am extremely pleased that Beth will join our staff. She brings a tremendous amount of sports information knowledge, relationships with ECAC sports information directors and media. In addition, her involvement with ice hockey will enable our staff to provide even better services to our hockey-playing leagues,” said ECAC Commissioner Phil Buttafuoco.
But those of us in the ECAC know Beth from her days at St. Lawrence, where she was an assistant sports information director under Wally Johnson in 1996.
It’s great to have her back, and it’s with open arms that we welcome Beth back to the ECAC!