This Week in the MAAC: November 13, 1998

Well, the MAAC made headlines last weekend, but probably not the type the conference’s head honchos envisioned when this venture was founded.

Saturday’s tilt between Quinnipiac and Fairfield was suspended after the second period when 14 players were sent to Bridgeport Hospital complaining of dizziness and nausea. The culprit? Carbon monoxide from the Zamboni at the Wonderland of Ice, as an employee forgot to turn on the arena’s exhaust fans.

“I guess they just forgot,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who had 10 players affected by the fumes. “We were still feeling the effects Monday. Nine kids missed practice. They should be available this weekend, but it hurt our week of practice.”

Rink manager Lisa Fedick was blunt about the snafu.“It was just the most stupid thing,” she told the Associated Press.

Fortunately, this “most stupid thing” resulted in no serious illnesses. No makeup date has been set for the game, which saw the Braves leading 2-1, nor has it been determined if the game will be resumed from the point of suspension or replayed in its entirety.

The Stags will play their regularly scheduled home game with Holy Cross at the Wonderland as scheduled, Friday at 7:30.

Meanwhile, last weekend’s action on the ice saw Quinnipiac remain at the top of the MAAC standings with eight points after Friday’s 6-1 win over Fairfield. Knocking on the door are with seven points each are UConn, which took a win and a tie in a weekend series with AIC, and Holy Cross, which did likewise with Canisius.

So this weekend’s main event looks to be the intrastate grudge match between Connecticut rivals Quinnipiac and UConn. Should neither team sweep the series, Holy Cross, with its home-and-home set with Fairfield, seems poised to find itself alone atop the MAAC come Sunday.

This weekend’s other matchups: Sacred Heart, still looking for its first win in MAAC play, takes on AIC; and we’ll get an idea of just how far along Iona has come when the Gaels travel to Canisius for games on Friday and Saturday. The Gaels also have a nonconference matinee Sunday at Hobart.

Holy Cross (3-1-2; 3-0-1 MAAC) at Fairfield (0-5-0; 0-3-0 MAAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Wonderland of Ice, Bridgeport, Conn. Fairfield at Holy Cross Saturday, 7 pm, Hart Center, Worcester, MA

Lest any of the Crusaders try to look past this weekend’s games with Fairfield, coach Paul Pearl reminds his troops of the score when the two teams met on Jan. 28: Fairfield 4, Holy Cross 3.

So even though the Cross look like the overwhelming favorites, Pearl won’t let his team look ahead to next week’s games with UConn. “They came out and played real hard and they beat us,” said Pearl. “They’re a tough team to beat in their own rink — look at the game with Quinnipiac Saturday, they held a strong team to 2-1 when the game was called.”

Keys to the games:

The Crusaders need to do a better job finishing opponents off. Holy Cross allowed Canisius to hang around in Friday night’s 3-2 win and saw a 3-1 intermission lead wind up a 4-4 tie. Although Pearl credits that more to Canisius than a lapse on their part (“Canisius is legit. Their record is not at all indicative of how good they are,” he said), the Cross can’t let this turn into a pattern.

The Stags are still in search of someone to step up on offense. Fairfield has yet to score more than three goals in a game and has been outscored 33-9 on the season.

Several MAAC coaches off the record have said that Fairfield is a much better team then their record indicates, and that they’ll get it together and put some wins together by the end of the year. To get there, they still need to guard against breakdowns. Friday night, Rob Curtis scored to bring the Stags to within 2-1 against Quinnipiac, but the Stags then gave up two quick goals to put the game out of reach.

Picks: At the hopefully fume-free Wonderland of Ice, Fairfield puts up a struggle before bowing, 4-2. Saturday, the Stags’ pattern continues as HC breaks open a tight game with four second-period goals en route to a 6-2 win. And the Crusaders’ dependable Joe Cavanaugh, who has scored two goals each of the last three weekends, does the same to raise his team-leading total to eight.

Iona (3-3-0; 2-3-0 MAAC) at Canisius (2-5-1; 0-3-1 MAAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Dann Memorial Rink, Buffalo, NY Iona at Canisius Saturday, 7:30 pm, Dann Memorial Rink, Buffalo, NY Iona at Hobart Sunday, 2 pm, Geneva Recreation Center, Geneva, NY

Frank Bretti hasn’t forgotten the second game of his head-coaching career, nor have his holdovers from last year’s Iona squad. Last Nov. 1, Iona traveled to Canisius and was handed a 14-0 thrashing.

“They beat us pretty bad,” said Bretti. “That’s not the type of game you forget anytime soon.”

It would be far premature to imply that Iona has improved to the point that it’s capable of going back to Buffalo and extracting revenge, but the Gaels should be motivated and have improved to the point that this weekend’s games should be competitive. Bretti’s attacking approaching to offense produced 86 shots and 12 goals in in a sweep of Sacred Heart last weekend.

But Canisius may feel it has something to prove, too. The Ice Griffs return home for the first time in four weeks, having gone 0-5-1 on their road trip. They looked finally to be getting in gear at Holy Cross last weekend, dropping a tight 3-2 game Friday and rallying for three third-period goals to salvage a tie. They will be looking to finally bust out this weekend in their MAAC home opener.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Bretti. “Canisius on the road is a real test for us. I’m sure at the beginning of the season they looked at us on the schedule and saw two easy games, but if they’ve seen what we’ve done, they might have changed their mindset a little.”

Keys to the games:

Canisius has to stop the line of Ryan Carter, Rob Kellogg and Erik Nates. Is this starting to sound redundant? If it is, it’s because Iona’s freshman phenom line once again proved itself legit last weekend. Carter was named MAAC Player of the Week for his four-goal, three-assist weekend; Kellogg earned Rookie of the Week honors with two goals and three assists; Nates chipped in with three goals and an assist. Shut this line down and you beat Iona. Don’t shut them down, you’re in a dogfight.

The Griffs need to break through on the power play. Iona has successfully killed off its last 27 penalties.

Canisius simply needs to get over the hump. Two weeks ago saw a tough OT loss at Quinnipiac; last week the Griffs had to rally late to tie Holy Cross. A clutch goal could give the Griffins the spark they need.

Iona finishes the weekend with a Sunday game with Division II Hobart, which beat the Gaels 5-3 during the Gaels’ forgettable 4-20-1 season last year. Despite Iona’s vast improvement, Bretti is taking the Statesmen seriously.

“We had our hands full with them last year, and I’m sure they’re going to be motivated to play a Division I team,” he said.

Picks: A pair of wide-open games, with the Ice Griffs prevailing both times, 8-5 and 9-6. Iona takes out the frustrations on Hobart Sunday, 11-3.

Quinnipiac (5-0-0; 4-0-0 MAAC) at UConn (3-0-1; 3-0-1 MAAC) Friday, 7 pm, UConn Ice Arena, Storrs, Conn. UConn at Quinnipiac Saturday, 7 pm, East Haven Rink, East Haven, Conn.

This weekend’s series between UConn and Quinnipiac is exactly the sort that those in charge of the MAAC had in mind when the league was formed: An already intense in-state rivalry between two undefeated teams playing home-and-home with one point separating the two, and with first place in the balance.

It’s also an interesting blend of styles, with the high-powered young Braves offense taking on UConn’s patient, veteran mucking and grinding defensive approach.

Quinnipiac still has several players recovering from Saturday’s incident at Fairfield, but coach Rand Pecknold won’t allow his team to use it as an excuse.

“We didn’t get to spend much time prepping for them,” he said simply. “But they’re a good team and if we’re a good team we’ve got to rebound and move on.”

Keys to the games:

The Huskies had 45 shots in Friday’s game with AIC, but only came away with a 2-2 draw. Bruce Marshall’s squad won’t beat Quinnipiac if they keep missing such opportunities.

This one may come down to the goaltending. Both team’s keepers have looked sharp all season. UConn’s stopped 31 of 34 shots last weekend and was named MAAC goalie of the week. J.C. Wells, meanwhile, has rolled to a 5-0 record, including stopping 15 of 16 in two periods against Fairfield Friday. With equal talent, this one should simply come down to which goalie wants it more.

Picks: It really seems like Quinnipiac is due for a fall, especially with several players still recovering from last Saturday, but this team just seems to have that intangible something going for it. So this is based on nothing more than pure hunch: Quinnipiac sweeps, 5-4 in overtime and 4-3.

American International (2-1-1; 2-1-1 MAAC) at Sacred Heart (0-4-0; 0-4-0 MAAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Milford Ice Arena, Milford, Conn. Sacred Heart at AIC Saturday, 7 pm, Olympia Ice Center, W. Springfield, MA

This isn’t quite the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, but something has to give when these two teams meet this weekend. Sacred Heart is still looking for its first win, despite putting in a good effort every night; AIC is coming off a weekend in which it was thoroughly outplayed by UConn.

Keys to the games:

Sacred Heart has got to get some blueline help for Alexis-Jutras Binet. The Pioneers have given up 23 goals in four games, a number that would have been much higher if Binet wasn’t standing on his head to keep his team competitive.

The Pioneers need to develop better legs. In both of last weekend’s games with Iona, Sacred Heart trailed 3-2 going into the third, and in both cases didn’t seem to have enough gas and lost by two Friday and four Saturday.

AIC was outshot 19-6 and 16-5 in the first two periods of Friday’s 2-2 tie with UConn, something you just can’t do in your own house.

Picks: Sacred Heart finally gets in the win column on Friday, 3-2. Saturday, I’m going to go with yet another inexplicable hunch and predict the first scoreless tie in MAAC history.