So we’re only one week into the 1999-2000 season, and already it’s time to play "who beat who."
Our first contestant is defending MAAC champion Holy Cross. Last week, the Crusaders battled hard against the preseason favorite for cellar-dweller in the nation’s strongest conference, Hockey East: Merrimack College. The Crusaders eventually dropped the game, 5-2, but what does this mean for Holy Cross? Well, we’ll see in just a minute.
Next is defending MAAC regular-season champion and all-around preseason favorite Quinnipiac. Their saga from last week is a classic "who beat who" scenario. On Friday night, Quinnipiac lost a heartbreaker to relatively new, but powerful, Niagara University, 5-4 in overtime. That was just one night before Niagara went on to defeat Boston University, a school with a hockey tradition as rich as Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, by the score of 3-0. So what does this mean? Well, again, let’s come back to it.
Because on Saturday night, Quinnipiac again lost a tough game, falling 6-4 to RPI, a longtime ECAC favorite, in a game played within a few miles of the RPI campus. And just to make this all interesting, RPI beat that same rich-traditioned Boston University the night before.
So now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.
Kenny from Minnesota says, "It means that the MAAC is the greatest-super-duper conference in the whole wide world."
Ah, sorry, Kenny. Good try, but you’re a little off-base. We have some nice parting gifts.
Ron from Kalamazoo, Mich., says, "It means the Mets will wins the World Series?"
Sorry Ron, we all know now that won’t happen. But thanks for playing.
No, folks, the answer to the question "What does all of this mean?" is…
Though we’d all like to say that Quinnipiac and Holy Cross hanging tough against some well-established Division I schools shows the toughness and strength of the MAAC, only a fool panning for gold in the Midwest can truly justify that.
Does this mean the MAAC didn’t earn any respect last weekend? Not at all. Their two ambassadors into the world of established Division I college hockey represented the league very well, and in doing so, definitely earned the attention of coaches, players and fans around the country.
Does it mean that the MAAC is ready to send two teams in and win the NCAA tournament? Definitely not. The MAAC, though possessed of teams that can and will compete at the Division I level, is still a ways away from producing its first national champion. Now don’t get your feather in a rustle and think that I’m saying the MAAC doesn’t deserve to be in the tournament. I’m simply saying that there is still a long way to go and plenty of developing that this league and its members will have to do.
So now that I’ve given you my best attempt at comical commentary, let’s look back and see how the MAAC fared in its first week of competition.
The Week That Was
Besides those games already mentioned, two other MAAC clubs, last year’s playoff runner-up Canisius and newcomer Mercyhurst, also played non-conference games.
Canisius hosted Wayne State, one of the nation’s newest Division I clubs and member of the College Hockey America conference. Wayne State played spoiler to Canisius’ opening-night celebrations by stunning the Ice Griffs with two late goals in a 2-2 tie. Jason Clark scored for Wayne State with just 11 second remaining to force the deadlock.
In Saturday night’s rematch, the Ice Griffs again took a 2-0 led into the third period, but this time held on, adding a late tally for the 3-0 final. Stephan Fabiilli made 30 saves for the Griffs in the shutout.
Mercyhurst hosted the Hamot Hockey Classic last weekend, with Canadian schools Windsor and Waterloo joining CHA member Findlay and the hosts. In Friday’s nightcap, Mercyhurst outshot visiting Windsor, 41-20, scoring once in each frame en route to the 3-1 victory.
Saturday night, the Lakers simply could not hold off the charge of Findlay and dropped the championship game, 4-3. The Lakers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, only to watch it disappear in the second period. With the game tied at three in the third, Findlay scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal to win the game with just under seven minutes remaining.
In exhibition action, UConn rolled past Royal Military Academy of Canada, 6-1, Sacred heart fell to McGill, 4-1, and Holy Cross defeated Royal Military, 4-2.
This week, the MAAC opens its second season of play in the same place as its inaugural season. Iona and Quinnipiac will face off at the Q-Cup tournament in New Haven, Conn., on Friday night at 5:00. Later that evening, the Q-Cup will debut Fairfield first-year coach Mark Dennehy as the Stags face Army in a non-league matchup at 8:00.
Meanwhile, Canisius and UConn travel to Orono to participate in the J.C. Penney Classic, hosted by defending national champion Maine. The two MAAC clubs tangle in the opener at 4:00, while Maine will face Canadian club New Brunswick in the nightcap. The pairing all but guarantees a contest between Maine and a MAAC school, which will provide another interesting test for the young league.
In other non-league action, Mercyhurst travels to Alabama-Huntsville for a pair, while Holy Cross will host Air Force for two games.
Poliquin Picks Up Where He Left Off
Chad Poliquin, the leading scorer for Quinnipiac last season, started the 1999-2000 season right where he left off. The junior forward, who finished the 1998-99 campaign with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists), registered three goals and three assists at the ECAC/Crowne Plaza Faceoff Classic. Four of Poliquin’s six points came on the power play, which scored four goals in 12 attempts in the two-game series for the Braves.
Equally as impressive for the Braves was the fact that 13 different players registered points in the two-game series. This suggests that Quinnipiac will again win many games not simply because of their firepower, but also because of the club’s balance.
Elsewhere in the league, Paul Cavanaugh and Chris Fattey showed why they may be one of the toughest one-two combos up front for Holy Cross. In one minute and 14 seconds last Friday night, the two connected for two goals against Merrimack, cutting a 3-0 deficit to 3-2. Cavanaugh was fortunate to be on the receiving end of both plays, beating Warrior goaltender Tom Welby with a rebound goal in front and an artistic finishing move to a 2-on-1 for his second goal.
MAAC Continues Radio Deal With Broadcast.com
Webcaster broadcast.com will once again provide the MAAC Hockey League Game of the Week over the Internet this season, in a package of 17 league games including the 2000 Easton/MAAC Hockey League Championship. The duo of Jason Patton and Tony Piscotta return for their second season of broadcasting MAAC Hockey.
Fans around the world can access the games by turning on their computer and going to http://www.broadcast.com/sports/ncaa/maac/hockey/. A complete listing of games is available at that site. Listeners will need the RealPlayer software to hear the games; it is available on the broadcast.com site free of charge.