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This Week in Atlantic Hockey

College Hockey:
Sacred Heart digging out from snowstorm, 0-24-2 season

Five days after a monstrous blizzard buried Milford, Conn., the Sacred Heart Pioneers finally got to practice on Tuesday. The Milford Ice Pavilion had been inaccessible since last Friday due to the snow.

ABC News reported on Saturday that Milford had the dubious distinction of receiving the most snow in the record-setting storm: officially 38 inches.

“There was four feet of snow in the [rink] parking lot and eight-foot drifts in front of the door,” Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo said. “We couldn’t get into the rink until [Tuesday].”

The Pioneers’ home-and-home series with Holy Cross had to be rescheduled, originally for the teams to meet at SHU on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and then at Holy Cross on Tuesday, Feb. 19. But the Feb. 12 game had to be re-rescheduled because of the extended rink closure. Sacred Heart University is still closed as the massive cleanup continues.

“[Holy Cross coach] Paul Pearl was great about moving the game [again],” Marottolo said. “He wants a fair game and we haven’t been able to practice.”

As a result, the Feb. 12 game will now be at Sacred Heart with the Pioneers traveling to Holy Cross on Tuesday, Feb 26.

“And we could get more snow this weekend,” Marottolo said. “Can you believe that? [Atlantic Hockey commissioner] Bob DeGregorio says at this rate we’ll be playing games in July.”

Marottolo and his team are trying to dig out from another kind of mountain: an 0-24-2 record.

“It’s obviously been a very frustrating year on many fronts,” Marottolo said. “Guys are laying it on the line every game we play. We shouldn’t be where we are. We should have a couple wins under our belt. When you’re good you’re never as good as you look and when you’re bad you’re never as bad as you think you are.”

The Pioneers offense is a decent ninth in the conference at 2.23 goals per game. But the main reason Sacred Heart has gone winless to date is a defense that is allowing a Division I-worst 5.08 goals per game. The last time the Pioneers allowed fewer than five goals in a game was a 4-3 loss to Princeton on Nov. 23, a span of 14 contests.

“It’s a team game and we’re all in this together,” Marottolo said, “the coaches and the players.”

Bright spots include the play of sophomore Brian Sheehan (11 goals and 11 assists) and senior captain Eric Delong (23 points).

“Sheehan has been great for us and Eric Delong has quietly put together an outstanding season,” Marottolo said. “Two guys with over 20 points on a team in this situation is pretty special.”

Goaltending will have a new look next season when Alex Vazzano, a transfer from Vermont, becomes eligible.

“He’s been unbelievable in practice,” Marottolo said.

The Pioneers have eight games left to find that elusive first win and avoid becoming the fourth Division I men’s team to go through a season without a win. Alaska went 0-22 in 1980-81, Colorado College was 0-18 in 1961-62 and Brown finished the 1960-61 season at 0-20.

I’ve seen them play earlier in the season and wouldn’t have thought them a winless team. The energy level was high with players blocking shots and transitioning well.

Marottolo said that energy level hasn’t abated and, winless regular season or not, his team won’t be taken lightly in the playoffs.

“The playoffs are a second chance, a second season,” he said. “Down the stretch we’re looking to gain some momentum and upset someone in the playoffs.”

Players of the week

From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:

Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Ryan Misiak, Mercyhurst

The sophomore forward wins the distinction for the second week in a row. This time he had four points (one goal and three assists) in a 1-1-1 week for the Lakers. Misiak has 31 points on the season to lead the team. He has racked up points in nine of his last 10 games.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Ben Meisner, American International

The senior posted his seventh career shutout with a 3-0 win at Army. He stopped all 36 shots he faced.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Chase Golightly, Robert Morris

The defenseman from Temecula, Calif., had three assists, including two on the power play, to help the Colonials to a split with Rochester Institute of Technology.

Points taken, momentum restored

Air Force claimed just a single point against American International on home ice the weekend before last and as a result looked to lose the momentum that the Falcons had been building. Air Force had been beaten only once in 2013 heading into its stumble against AIC.

Losing last weekend’s series at second-place Mercyhurst would have been a blow to the Falcons’ quest for a first-round bye. But Air Force regrouped and scored a win and a tie in Erie, both in comeback fashion.

On Friday, the Falcons erased a 2-0 deficit and earned a 2-2 tie. Saturday, after allowing the first goal of the game, Air Force overtook the Lakers in the third period en route to a 4-2 win. The Falcons trail the Lakers by a point for second place.

Friday’s hero was senior Kyle De Laurell, who had both goals in the comeback. He added a goal on Saturday.

Freshman forward Max Hartner had a pair of goals in the 4-2 win on Saturday, the first two scores of his career after converting from defense five game prior.

“We played a really strong game and strong series this weekend,” coach Frank Serratore said after Saturday’s win. “This team showed their resilience as we had to come back in both games. I like the direction this team is going.”

The Falcons host Canisius this weekend.

All he can do

In most cases, allowing a single goal in a two-game series leads to a pair of wins. But Canisius junior goaltender Tony Capobianco and the Golden Griffins had to settle for a split with rival and first-place Niagara.

After pitching a 35-save shutout in a 2-0 victory on Thursday, Capobianco had his only blemish on Saturday on a goal that deflected toward the net off an official. The Purple Eagles added an empty-net goal for a 2-0 victory of their own.

In the series, Capobianco stopped 77 of 78 shots for a .987 save percentage and 0.50 goals against average. He’s been especially good in big games all season. In five contests against nationally ranked opponents (Alaska, Minnesota and Niagara three times), Capobianco has a 1.41 goals against average and .965 save percentage.

Spreading the wealth

Connecticut dominated Bentley in their series this week, outscoring the Falcons 13-1 in 4-1 and 9-0 victories. Goals and points were spread around, with nine different goal scorers contributing to the 9-0 win. In all, only forwards Brant Harris and defenseman Kyle Huson had multiple goals in the series.

This has been the case all season, with no UConn player scoring more than nine goals to date.

Classy

The 10 finalists for the 2013 college hockey Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) award have been announced and five are from a single conference: Atlantic Hockey.

The award celebrates seniors who excel in four categories: community, classroom, character and competition.

Air Force’s Stephen Carew, Connecticut’s Alex Gerke, Robert Morris’ Brendan Jameson, Holy Cross’ Brandon Nunn and Army’s Cheyne Rocha are in the running for the award, which will be announced at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.

Air Force’s Jacques Lamoureux won the award in 2011. Last year’s winner was Jack Connolly from Minnesota-Duluth.

Odd numbers

Mother nature wreaked havoc on what was finally a nice, even set of standings in Atlantic Hockey. All the “games in hand” had been played, allowing for a stretch run of four final weekends with each team playing twice. That made for “clinching scenario” math that even an old man like me can still do in his head.

But, as they say, noooooo. Six games had to be rescheduled with three still to be made up, the last on Feb. 26, the Tuesday before the final weekend of the regular season.

AIC and Army will play their final five games in an eight-day span, while Sacred Heart and Holy Cross are looking at that scenario for their last two weeks of the regular season, playing eight games in 16 days.

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.


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