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by Ken Schott

Parting Schotts

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Laliberte coming to RPI in fall; Kasdorf will wait (updates with Appert quotes)

Forward Jacob Laliberte is coming to RPI this season. Goalie Jason Kasdorf will wait another year.

The Engineers officially announced their 2011-12 recruiting class Monday. The high-scoring Laliberte heads the class. He had an incredible two years for the Cornwall Colts of the Central Junior Hockey League, collecting 125 goals and 118 assists, including 63 goals and 70 assists last year.

Laliberte will provide an offensive spark for a team that lost a combined 35 goals and 51 assists to graduation in two-time ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Chase Polacek (21 goals, 27 assists) and Tyler Helfrich (14-24). Junior defenseman Nick Bailen is RPI's top returning scorer with eight goals and 28 assists. The top returning scoring forward is sophomore Brock Higgs, who had nine goals and 12 assists.

Laliberte was thought to be coming to RPI last season. Instead, RPI coach Seth Appert thought another year in juniors will help Laliberte mature.

It worked.

"It's been real positive," Appert said. "His game has matured. He had the opportunity to mature as a leader, being a captain for one of the best teams in Canada. He was able to have another tremendous season. A lot of players can tend to become complacent when they have their scholarship, and they know where they're going to go and it's their fourth year in the league. That wasn't Jacob at all. He was driven to be a dominate player this year.

"It's been an interesting recruiting path. It's been about 3 1/2 years, and it's probably the longest process I've ever been through with a player. We went through some adversity together. But what I like is we've come out on the other side of that adversity, and I think we have a stronger relationship. He's more committed to RPI than he's ever been because of that. We're more committed to him because of he things we went through along the way."

Kasdorf, who was selected in the sixth round of the NHL draft by the Winnipeg Jets in June, will play another year of junior hockey Portage in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. With Appert looking to replace Allen York, who left at the end of last season to join the Columbus Blue Jackets, Kasdorf could have come in this season.

Instead, junior Bryce Merriam will be joined by Scott Diebold, who was 10-16-3 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage for the U.S. Hockey League's Tri-City Storm.

"It's the right thing for the program, for [Kasdorf], for Scotty Diebold," Appert said. "Yes, Jason will be an outstanding college goalie, but so well Scotty. We believe Bryce Merriam will do wonderful things as our No. 1 this year."

Two defenseman join RPI: Luke Curadi of the USHL-champion Dubuque Fighting Saints and Curtis Leonard of the Ontario Junior Hockey League's Wellington Dukes.

Four other forwards are coming to RPI: Ryan Haggerty of the U.S. National Development Team, Mark McGowan of the OJHL's Oakville Blades, Matt Neal of the OJHL's Stouffville Spirit and Zach Schroeder of St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota.

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