Rochester Institute of Technology is in uncharted waters so far this season, off to its worst start since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2006.
After a season-opening win at Michigan, RIT has won just one game since (2-7-2) and is 0-3 at home in conference play, the first time the team has lost more than one league game on home ice.
“It’s been frustrating,” said coach Wayne Wilson, who is 160-79-27 since the Tigers joined Atlantic Hockey. “You make 10 mistakes a game. For us, six or seven of those have turned into goals.”
Wilson said that he’s seen improvement, but it hasn’t translated into wins.
“I break the season up into five-game segments,” he said. “The first five we were struggling everywhere. The next five, AIC, AIC, Mercyhurst, Canisius and Holy Cross, we were much better. Our power play was 33 percent, our penalty kill in the high 80s, but we won just once. The bottom line is we’re not winning games.”
RIT’s goals against average (4.45) is second-last in Division I, so it’s easy to point to that as the main reason for the Tigers’ struggles.
“You lose confidence,” Wilson said. “And you start playing the mind games. When you’re not getting bounces that maybe you got before, you start to question. That’s been the hardest part. The worst thing about our goals against is the timing of the goals. We’re not making big plays, momentum plays that can turn a game around.”
The Tigers host Clarkson on Friday. The game has been sold out since Monday, impressive because the school is on break this week, and because RIT crowds are not used to going home disappointed as they have every game so far this season.
“We’ve been able to sell out the last two [Thanksgiving weekend games],” Wilson said. “I don’t know if it’s that people are looking for something to do, but to be sold out already without the usual student support is great.”
Clarkson has won both meetings between the schools since RIT moved to Division I.
“We’ve seen them on video and the last game we saw was a 7-2 win for them [last Saturday against Princeton], so that was great,” Wilson joked. “It’s a challenge and we’re looking to battle hard against the adversity we’ve been facing.”
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey co-players of the week:
Brett Gensler, Bentley
Adam Schmidt, Holy Cross
Gensler maintained his spot atop the Division I scoring list with five points last weekend, getting three goals and a pair of assists in wins over Connecticut and American International. In the UConn game, Gensler got the winner with 2:44 to go and added an empty-net goal to seal the deal. He’s averaging 2.11 points per game.
Schmidt also had five points on the weekend to lead the Crusaders to three points against RIT. He had a hat trick in a 7-3 win on Saturday and added two assists in a 3-3 tie on Sunday.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Carsen Chubak, Niagara
The junior is having an amazing season so far, and wins the award for the fourth consecutive week, this time stopping 74 of 75 shots in wins over Canisius and Robert Morris. He has five shutouts already and leads the nation in save percentage (.970) and goals against average (0.99).
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Matt Blomquist, Bentley
The rookie from Blaine, Minn., had four points from the blue line to help the Falcons to a four-point weekend. He had a hand in all three goals in Bentley’s 3-1 win over UConn, scoring the Falcons’ first goal and assisting on the other two.
More than their fair share
American International’s Steve Mele, Blake Peake and Adam Pleskach were all named to the AHA honor roll this weekend, having a hand in all five AIC goals as the Yellow Jackets lost to Bentley and tied Sacred Heart. Throw in Jon Puskar, who skates on the top line with Peake and Pleskach, and you have accounted for 14 of AIC’s 20 goals so far.
Making a move
Big winners last weekend were Bentley (four points), Niagara (four points) and Holy Cross (three points). RIT and AIC had a single point, with no other team able to pick up any ground in a fairly light scheduling week that featured only eight conference games.
There are six league games coming up this weekend, and thanks to the holidays and several non-conference tilts, we won’t see a full slate of AHA games until Jan. 11.
Tweet of the week
I’ve seen several tweets about this video, made by the Robert Morris hockey and lacrosse teams to help their Movember fundraising:
The song was written by RMU junior forward Mac Roy, who was inspired by former teammate Chris Kushneriuk. Kushneriuk was diagnosed with testicular cancer this past summer.
You can read more about the making of the video here.
Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.
USCHO covers Atlantic Hockey all week long on the Atlantic Hockey Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.