This Week in the MAAC: February 12, 1999

Okay, so my first shot at picking games didn’t turn out too good.

I did pick the split between UConn and Quinnipiac (though not the fact that the visiting team would win both games).

And how about those Ice Griffs? They walked right into Iona and took two games from the Gaels.

Okay, enough about my Las Vegas fate.

Let’s talk about playoffs.

We have possibilities in the MAAC for a three- (maybe four-) team race for first and second place, and two more interested parties looking to move into third and fourth.

Hence, this weekend’s games are exactly what the doctor ordered.

First-place Quinnipiac only plays one league game — a chance for teams like Holy Cross and UConn to gain some ground, though those teams play each other.

As we move on down, the battle for home ice will pass through Springfield as AIC hosts Canisius. The Griffs are hot and could move into the top four with a sweep this weekend.

So fasten those seat belts, because this ride into the MAAC playoffs is going to be a bumpy one.

Last week’s picks: 3-5-0 Overall record: 3-5-0

Canisius (9-10-5, 7-8-5 MAAC) at American Int’l (11-9-3, 10-7-3 MAAC) Friday, 7:00 pm, Olympia Ice Center, W. Springfield, Mass. Saturday, 4:30 pm, Olympia Ice Center, W. Springfield, Mass.

Canisius College could be the hottest team in the MAAC. In their last 12 games, the Ice Griffs are 7-2-3 and have climbed from the bottom of the standings into sole possession of fifth place.

Last weekend, the Griffs were the second-period team of choice in their two-game set with Iona. Canisius outscored the Gaels 5-1 in that period en route to a 5-2, 4-3 sweep.

Freshman David Deeves scored a goal and an assist in each of the contests to earn MAAC Rookie of the Week honors.

In Friday night’s contest, after Deeves opened the scoring at the 8:41 mark of the first, Iona tied the game on a goal by Andrew Segal before the close of the period.

But Canisius scored two unanswered goals in the second to take a 3-1 lead, and After Iona got back to 3-2 on an Erik Nates goal just 26 seconds into the third, Darren Todd scored his first collegiate marker on the power play to extend the lead to two goals again.

Rookie Brad Kenny added an empty-netter, his second goal of the evening, to close the game. The Ice Griffs outshot the Gaels 35-33 on the night and Stephen Fabilli made 31 saves to gain the win.

On Saturday night, Deeves once again got things going for Canisius. His goal 4:26 into the second period on the power play broke a scoreless tie.

Iona tied the game when leading-scorer Ryan Carter scored on the power play at 12:22. Just 42 seconds later, though, freshman winger Corey Lucas skated down the left side and fired a slapshot over the Gael goaltender to regain the lead.

And before the period was over, junior captain Rob Othmann cashed in on a Gael turnover to make the score 3-1.

After Iona made it a game just over five minutes into the third, Othmann extended the Griffs’ lead to 4-2 with his second goal of the night. Iona did close to 4-3 just a minute and 17 seconds later, but senior goaltender Bob Janosz closed the door the rest of the way.

The sweep put the Griffs just four points behind this week’s opponent, AIC, which kept its place in fourth with a two-game sweep over formerly-streaking Sacred Heart. The Yellow Jackets regained their winning ways after dropping two games to UConn just one week ago.

On Friday night, AIC scored two power-play goals while Chance Thede made 27 saves en route to a 4-1 win.

The next night, the Yellow Jackets proved this writer wrong by going into Sacred Heart’s home arena and scoring a 3-2 win.

That puts AIC into a unique position in the standings. With 23 points, the Yellow Jackets are only five points out of second place, currently held by Holy Cross and UConn.

At the same time, they only lead Canisius by four points, making this series all the more important.

Two wins and the Yellow Jackets might be able to start looking towards second or third, while two losses jeopardizes their home-ice chances in the playoffs.

Picks: Two hot teams make for two hot games. AIC wins on Friday, 5-4, before Canisius recovers Saturday, 3-2 in overtime.

Holy Cross (13-8-3, 13-5-2 MAAC) at Connecticut (13-7-4, 12-4-4 MAAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, UConn Ice Arena, Storrs, Conn. Connecticut at Holy Cross Saturday, 7:00 pm, Hart Recreation Center, Worcester, Mass.

Last week, the University of Connecticut proved one thing: Quinnipiac is not going to run away with the inaugural MAAC title.

It took only one goal, but the second-place Huskies were able to make a statement last Friday night down in East Haven, Conn., as Trent Landry did something that the 35 other skaters could not: score a goal.

Landry’s goal, exactly halfway through the game (10:00, second), was the only one as John Chain of UConn and J.C. Wells of Quinnipiac each made 30 saves in net for a 1-0 Husky win.

For Landry, it was only his second goal of the season, and the first game-winner of his career.

The win pulled the Huskies within four points of the first-place Braves, but more importantly it game them the chance to sweep the Braves on home ice on Saturday night.

But maybe someone should have asked Quinnipiac its thoughts on the matter, because just a bit over 13 minutes into Saturday night’s game, Quinnipiac had already scored the game-winning goal.

After Chad Poliquin put the Braves up, 1-0, Chris Cerrella scored the eventual winner 13:12 in as the Braves skated by the Huskies, 4-1.

Mike Narotski scored UConn’s only goal in the game, early in the second period. But the Braves were too tough, scoring late goals in the second and third to guarantee Quinnipiac the victory.

So how do the standings look now?

Quinnipiac regains its six-point stranglehold on first place, with both UConn and Holy Cross chasing. That makes the timing of this weekend’s series between Holy Cross and UConn great — and the Crusaders couldn’t agree more.

Holy Cross just completed a weekend sweep of cellar-dwelling Fairfield, and has lost only two games since returning from winter exam break.

With 13 wins, the Crusaders are second in the league in wins (Quinnipiac, 16), and stand six points out of first place with a game in hand.

Last weekend, the Crusaders used firepower to beat the Stags of Fairfield. In Friday night’s contest, Holy Cross outshot the Stags, 58-20, in a 5-1 victory in front of a vocal crowd in Worcester.

Chris Fattey posted a goal and an assist in the win.

The highlight of the game may have been the goaltending by Fairfield’s John True (53 saves), but that had nothing to do with creating a hockey rarity, which occurred as referee Bill Stewart did not whistle a penalty the entire game. It was the first game in the young history of the MAAC to not have a penalty called.

Saturday night in Bridgeport, Conn., there were a few more penalties and a lot fewer shots, but the result was nearly identical.

Holy Cross opened a 3-0 lead five minutes into the second period on goals by Paul Cavanaugh, Mike Maguire, and Fattey. After Fairfield closed to 3-1 before the end of the period, the Crusaders put the game away when Brett Cagliuso scored at 7:49 of the third period.

Oddly, after the Crusaders dominated the shots on Friday, Fairfield was able to outshoot Holy Cross, 23-20, in the rematch.

Picks: Gotta pick the reverse split here. Holy Cross wins on the road, 3-1, on Friday, but UConn doesn’t fear the Hart, winning 2-1 on Saturday.

Iona (9-13-1, 8-11-1 MAAC) at Fairfield (1-22-0, 1-19-0 MAAC) Friday, 8:30 pm, Wonderland of Ice, Bridgeport, Conn. Fairfield at Iona Saturday, 7:00 pm, The Ice Hutch, New Rochelle, N.Y. Iona at Army (14-13-1) Tuesday, 7:00 pm, Tate Rink, West Point, N.Y.

Fairfield and Iona are very much the same — or maybe very different.

Both teams were victims or weekend sweeps: Fairfield by Holy Cross and Iona by Canisius.

Both teams are struggling in the bottom of the MAAC and neither has much chance to host the first round of the MAAC playoffs (in Fairfield’s case, there is no chance).

And neither has won many games since returning from exam break.

But that’s where the similarities end.

For Fairfield, the only win of the season has come since the exam break, so for them, that is a major accomplishment.

Fairfield has to feel like it is taking steps forward: playing tougher, finding themselves in the middle of closer games, especially late in the games.

Last weekend’s series against second-place Holy Cross showed a Fairfield team allowed 58 shots on Friday night, but then held the Crusader offense to 20 shots on Saturday night.

So it is pretty easy to see that Fairfield, though most of the results are the same, is growing as a team.

But, unfortunately for Iona, that same growth is not so obvious.

The Gaels were not exactly picked to win every game at the beginning of the season, but early indications were that this team could compete.

Since the winter break, the Gaels only positive was a respectable 3-3 tie at UConn. And falling twice at home last weekend to Canisius stretched the Gaels’ losing streak to four games.

The Gaels are now two points behind Canisius and six behind AIC for the final home-ice spot, with just eight games remaining in the season.

However, the season series with Fairfield has been anything but close for Iona. The Gaels have won all three previous meetings (including one non-league game in the Quinnipiac Cup), and the scores have been lopsided: 12-3, 11-3, and 6-2.

The 29 goals against Fairfield represent 37.2 percent of the Gaels’ scoring on the season, so if you think Iona isn’t happy to see Fairfield coming on the schedule, you’re crazy.

But it will be important for the Gaels to realize that this may be the last chance they get to salvage the regular season.

Army has played five games against the MAAC this season. They currently lead the series, 3-2, against MAAC foes.

Tuesday night’s game is the final game for Army against MAAC opponents this season.

Picks: This sure isn’t a case of putting my money where my mouth is. Regardless of everything, the Gaels sweep the weekend, 3-1 and 7-4. Army is too much for the Gaels, winning 5-2.

Quinnipiac (18-3-2, 16-3-2 MAAC) at Air Force Friday, 7:00 pm MT, Cadet Ice Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo. Saturday, 7:00 pm MT, Cadet Ice Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo. Quinnipiac at Sacred Heart (5-17-1, 5-15-1 MAAC) Tuesday, 7:30 pm ET, Milford Ice Pavilion, Fairfield, Conn.

The Quinnipiac Braves continue to hold a six-point lead on first place in the MAAC, thanks to their ability to bounce back last Saturday night and defeat second-place UConn on the road.

Splitting a weekend might usually be disappointing for Quinnipiac.

But, after a disappointing 1-0 loss to UConn on Friday at home, the Braves knew that they had one mission left to focus on last weekend: earning a split.

And earn the win is exactly what the Braves did.

Even though UConn held a 9-7 shot advantage after one period, Quinnipiac made good on two of those shots and held a 2-0 lead at the end of one.

And with a 3-1 lead in the third period, goaltender Dan DiLeo knew it was his responsibility to hold the fort.

Which is exactly what he did.

DiLeo made 17 third-period saves and had 33 saves for the game while earning the win.

That ends the season series between the two clubs, as each team won two games.

This week, Quinnipiac plays three games for the second time in three weeks. The first two contests are against D-I independent Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo; the only other MAAC team to face Air Force this season was Holy Cross, which traveled to Colorado early in the season and skated to a 5-5 tie in the first game before dropping the second, 5-2.

Quinnipiac has only played two other non-league games this season. They defeated Bentley, 7-4, in the Quinnipiac Cup, and also beat Army on the road, 3-2, on Jan. 12.

Tuesday night, the Braves return to MAAC action to complete a midweek series with Sacred Heart. The first game of the home-and-home was over a week ago, also on a Tuesday. The Braves won, 6-1.

The Pioneers fell victim to a weekend sweep by AIC last weekend, falling 4-1 on the road on Friday, and 3-2 at home on Saturday.

After winning five of their first eight MAAC games after the exam break, Sacred Heart has since lost three in a row.

A bright spot for the Pioneers continues to be the play of goaltender Alexis Jutras-Binet.

Since a Dec. 4 loss to Canisius, when Jutras-Binet’s goals against-average ballooned to 6.11, his GAA has continuously fallen, reaching a season-low of 4.42.

Though still high, this is the improvement that Pioneer coach Shaun Hannah will have to look for as his team enters into the playoffs.

Picks: Air Force’s offense is too much for Quinnipiac. The Braves fall 5-2, 4-3 in Colorado. Quinnipiac shakes off the jet lag on Tuesday and pulls out a close game, 3-2.