In a conversation I had with Air Force coach Frank Serratore before the start of the season, he was discussing players in the league that he thought were poised for greatness.
“Watch out for [Robert Morris goaltender] Eric Levine,” Serratore said. “He’s waited his turn but this is going to be his year. He’s going to be in the top three goalies in the league.”
That prediction has come true, and with emphasis last weekend. The senior goaltender stopped all 99 shots he faced, shutting out Penn State 6-0 and No. 5 Miami 1-0 in the inaugural Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Levine, which rhymes with “divine,” has certainly played that way, posting a 1.81 goals against average and a .954 save percentage. Thanks to the pair of shutouts last weekend, the Wheeling, Ill., native holds the career shutout record at RMU with four.
“I think that had to be one of the best goaltending performances that we’ve had in our history,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said after Saturday’s championship game.
The attendance for the tournament also was something to cheer about. Friday’s game between Robert Morris and Penn State drew 11,663, easily shattering the old record of 6,957 to see an RMU “home” game. The old record was also for a game played at Consol against Rochester Institute of Technology on the same date in 2010.
Friday’s championship game between Robert Morris and Miami drew 10,797. Expect the same next season when the tournament will feature Robert Morris, Penn State, Bowling Green and Boston College.
The Colonials play most of their home games in 84 Lumber Arena at the Island Sports Center in on Neville Island, about 13 miles away from the Consol. The rink is listed as seating 1,200 but as many as 1,600 have been crammed in, as recently as last month.
Based on last weekend, those tickets are going to be even harder to come by.
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey player and goaltender of the week:
Eric Levine, Robert Morris
Levine wins both awards thanks to a historic weekend, posting back-to-back shutouts to lead his team to the championship of the Three Rivers Classic. He made 99 saves on 99 shots against Penn State (48 saves) and Miami (51 saves).
Atlantic Hockey co-rookies of the week:
Andrew Gladiuk, Bentley
Brandon Denham, Robert Morris
Gladiuk wins the award for the third time this season. He scored Bentley’s second goal in a 3-2 loss at Massachusetts-Lowell. It was his 10th goal of the season, second on the team.
Denham picked a great time to score his first collegiate goal: He was the lone scorer in a 1-0 win over No. 5 Miami in the title game of the Three Rivers Classic.
For the first time, three Atlantic teams are in the top 20. Monday’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s poll has Niagara (10-3-4) at No. 18, Robert Morris (9-4-2) at No. 19 and Holy Cross (10-4-2) at No. 20. The Crusaders enter the poll after a 5-4 win over No. 15 Yale.
Robert Morris is 11th in the PairWise Rankings, with Holy Cross 19th and Niagara 20th.
Close, but …
Army defeated Canisius 1-0 in overtime last Sunday to earn a split in Buffalo. The Griffs were 2:09 away from the first 0-0 tie in school history. It was their second overtime loss in three games. Canisius is 0-5 in one-goal games this season and already has four ties.
Valiant in defeat
Good performances often get overlooked in a loss, but here are some worth mentioning:
• American International senior Richard Leitner more than doubled his goal output on the season, potting three of AIC’s four goals at the UConn Hockey Classic. He had both Yellow Jackets goals in a 7-2 loss to Connecticut and then another in a 7-2 loss to Brown. He has five goals this season, matching a career high.
• Connecticut senior goaltender Matt Grogan has spent most of his career backing up Garrett Bartus but started both games in the UConn Hockey Classic, picking up the two conference points in a first-round win over AIC and then stopping 28 of 30 shots in a 3-1 loss to Minnesota State in the championship game. In all, he made 57 saves on 61 shots.
• Tony Capobianco of Canisius allowed only two goals last weekend against Army but had to settle for two points because of Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss. He made 43 saves in all.
At the top
The two best save percentages in Division I belong to AHA goaltenders. Niagara’s Carsen Chubak, despite a 3-0 loss at Bowling Green in the Purple Eagles’ only action last week, maintains the lead with a .957 save percentage. But Levine is closing in at .954 thanks to his MVP performance in the Three Rivers Classic.
Best of the decade
To commemorate the 10th season of Atlantic Hockey play, the league is compiling a 10th anniversary team. Coaches, media and fans will soon get to vote on the league’s Facebook page.
Here are the nominees:
Forwards: Eric Ehn, Air Force (2006-08); Jacques Lamoureux, Air Force (2008-11); Adam Pleskach, American International (2009-present); Owen Meyer, Army (2006-10); Dain Prewitt, Bentley (2005-09); Brett Gensler, Bentley (2010-present); Cory Conacher, Canisius (2007-11); Vincent Scarsella, Canisius (2007-11); Dave Kostuch, Canisius (2008-10); Tim Olsen, Connecticut (2003-05); Matt Scherer, Connecticut (2003-07); Tyler McGregor, Holy Cross (2003-06); James Sixsmith, Holy Cross (2003-07); Jeff Dams, Holy Cross (2003-04); Pierre Napert-Frenette, Holy Cross (2003-06); Scott Pitt, Mercyhurst (2007-11); Ben Cottreau, Mercyhurst, (2004-08); Dave Borrelli, Mercyhurst (2003-06); Dave Wrigley, Mercyhurst (2003-05); Scott Champagne (2003-07); Paul Zanette, Niagara (2010-11); Simon Lambert, RIT (2006-09); Nathan Longpre, Robert Morris (2010-11); Pierre-Luc O’Brien, Sacred Heart (2003-07); Alexander Parent, Sacred Heart (2004-08); Bear Trapp, Sacred Heart (2005-09); Nick Johnson, Sacred Heart (2006-10); Dave Jarman, Sacred Heart (2006-10); Garrett Larson, Sacred Heart (2003-05).
Defensemen: Greg Flynn, Air Force (2006-09); Tim Kirby, Air Force (2008-12); Zach McKelvie, Army (2005-09); Carl Hudson, Canisius (2006-10); Jon Landry, Holy Cross (2003-07); Cullen Eddy, Mercyhurst (2006-10); Jamie Hunt, Mercyhurst (2003-06); TJ Kemp, Mercyhurst (2003-05); Chris Tanev, RIT (2009-10); Dan Ringwald, RIT (2006-10); Denny Urban, Robert Morris (2010-11); Dave Grimson, Sacred Heart (2005-09).
Goaltenders: Andrew Volkening, Air Force (2006-10); Josh Kassel, Army (2005-09); Bryan Worosz, Canisius (2003-05); Tony Quesada, Holy Cross (2003-06); Ryan Zapolski, Mercyhurst (2007-11); Jared DeMichiel, RIT (2006-10); Shane Madolora, RIT (2009-12).
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.