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Who Should Replace Seth Appert at RPI?

Ben Barr
Ben Barr
Matt Christians

There are only 60 head coaching positions in NCAA Division I College Hockey so anytime there is a vacancy, it is sure to attract plenty of applicants.

On Monday afternoon, RPI announced it was relieving head coach Seth Appert of his duties at the helm of the school’s hockey program. In 11 seasons behind the Engineers’ bench, Appert, a former Ferris State goaltender and Denver assistant coach, compiled a record of 152-221-48.

RPI has a rich hockey history, but it needs to invest more into the hockey program if it expects to stay competitive in the ever-changing landscape of college hockey. The school has several alums that will be considered, including current UMass Amherst assistant coach Ben Barr, who should be the hire if he wants it.

Barr played at RPI from 2000-2004, serving as captain as a senior while posting eight goals and 17 assists. He was a volunteer assistant for the Engineers before joining Nate Leaman’s staff at Union for the 2008-09 season. He stayed there for four seasons before following his boss to Providence College. After two years with the Friars, he headed west to be Andy Murray’s assistant at Western Michigan for two seasons.

The Duluth, Minn. native is considered one of the top young assistant coaches in college hockey and is a top notch assistant coach. He played at RPI so he understands what it takes to succeed at the school. He’s coached under the tutelage of arguably the game’s best coach in Leaman and a former NHL bench boss in Murray. Because of Barr’s wide array of experiences, he would have recruiting connections all over the continent.

Adam Oates played 1500 NHL games after playing at RPI from 1982-1985 and coached the Washington Capitals for two seasons in addition to serving as an assistant coach for two other NHL organizations. He lacks collegiate experience, but he’s an alum whose big name could draw recruits. He clearly would have the hockey background to succeed as a coach, but he’d likely need two young assistants to do the recruiting as it seems unlikely he’d want to put in the hours necessary. He’d also likely come with a hefty price tag.

Chicago Steel head coach Dan Muse is another top candidate. He was a major reason behind Yale’s success that culminated in the 2013 NCAA Championship. He's a graduate of Division III Stonehill College. Several people in the hockey circle reached out to point out his omission from originally published article.

Both Quinnipiac assistant coaches should be candidates, and they’ve previously been mentioned or been finalists for other head coaching jobs in college hockey. Bill Riga played at UMass Lowell from 1992-96 before working for the Boston Junior Bruins for several seasons. He then served as an assistant coach at Union from 2003-2008. He’s been on Rand Pecknold’s staff since 2008. He’s well-regarded and has done a good job of finding some of the diamonds in the rough for the Bobcats. Joe Dumais would be a little more of a surprise as he just moved back to take a job at his alma mater after five seasons at Union. He was an assistant coach at UConn previously.

Providence assistant coach Kris Mayotte is another rising star among assistant coaches. He was a goaltender at Union from 2002-2006 and played several seasons of minor pro hockey before taking a job as the volunteer goaltending coach at Cornell. He then moved to St. Lawrence for two seasons. He’s in his third year on Leaman’s staff. He recently was an assistant coach for the Gold Medal-winning United States team at the 2017 World Junior Championship.

2003 RPI graduate Nolan Graham has been on Appert’s staff since 2010. He was a head coach and GM for Alberni Valley in the BCHL for one season prior to rejoining his alma mater.

Merrimack associate head coach Curtis Carr is a dark horse candidate, but he’d be a good fit at RPI. He has done an excellent job of scouring the continent for talent to play for the Warriors. He’s a native of Georgetown, Ontario, which would benefit the Engineers as it’s one of their biggest recruiting grounds.

UMass Lowell assistant Cam Ellsworth, a former Michigan Tech goaltender, is another name that could get consideration. He’s another Ontario native who has done a terrific job finding talent for the River Hawks, and helping guide the program to new heights.

There are several other Hockey East and ECAC Hockey assistant coaches who’d be worthy of consideration, but many of them have ties to the New England region and would be unlikely to leave, such as Northeastern’s Jerry Keefe, Boston University’s Albie O’Connell and Harvard’s Paul Pearl.

Update: Several people in hockey circles have reached out to suggest former UMass Lowell assistant coach and current head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Jason Lammers, would be an idea candidate for the job. His coaching abilities and past success of getting the most out of the players he has is considered valuable assets. He played college hockey at SUNY-Geneseo.