And Now For Something Completely Different…
Welcome, Metro Atlantic hockey fans, to this installment of This Week In The MAAC. As you might have noticed from the byline up above, I’m not Jim Connelly, but rather an astonishing likeness.
I’ll be your host for this weekend’s tour of the MAAC, before Jim returns Monday with an update of his usual insights and opinions.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Quinnipiac’s Poliquin Out For Year
Preseason favorite Quinnipiac suffered a blow this week when it was announced that leading scorer Chad Poliquin would miss the rest of the season with a broken wrist.
Poliquin originally suffered the injury during practice before the beginning of the season, but had played in the Braves’ first four games, totaling nine points on four goals and five assists, good for first in the Metro Atlantic scoring ranks. That record included a 2-2–4 night against ninth-ranked Rensselaer of the ECAC.
The native of Plainville, Conn., was a first-team all-MAAC selection last season, finishing fourth in the conference in scoring with 17-30–47. His loss will render that much more difficult Quinnipiac’s task in trying to repeat as regular-season champions.
"Losing Chad is a devastating blow to our team," Brave head coach Rand Pecknold said. "He has played very well so far, but we need to regroup and find someone to fill his shoes."
MAAC programs made their presence felt in tournament play around the nation last weekend, first as Iona topped Army 3-0 in the finals of the Quinnipiac Cup. For Iona, Ryan Carter scored the first goal and assisted on the second, while netminder Mike Fraser shut down the Cadets despite facing 34 shots.
The Gaels reached the championship by defeating host Quinnipiac in a shootout after skating to a 7-7 tie in overtime. Curiously, Army was forced to do the same, beating Fairfield on penalty shots after those teams ended in a 2-2 deadlock.
(By the way: both games officially go into the record books as ties, since NCAA rules do not recognize shootouts as official finishes.)
Iona’s first-round win meant that the hosts — also the defending champions — did not reach the title game for the first time in the Q Cup’s four-year history.
Also, the MAAC sent two representatives to the J.C. Penney Classic in Orono, Maine, as Connecticut and Canisius faced off in the first round. Canisius emerged victorious by the margin of 1-0, as Corey Lucas scored the lone goal early in the third, while Sean Weaver shut out the Huskies on 21 saves. The Ice Griffs then fell to host Maine in the title game, 6-3, as the second-ranked Black Bears opened up a 4-1 lead and never let up.
In Other Action
Mercyhurst and 1998-99 playoff champion Holy Cross both played a pair of nonconference games on the weekend, with Mercyhurst skating to identical 3-3 ties Friday and Saturday against College Hockey America member (and former Division II powerhouse) Alabama-Huntsville, and Holy Cross dropping 3-2 and 6-2 decisions to another CHA program, Air Force.
The most intriguing MAAC game of this weekend could be Quinnipiac at Iona Saturday. This game, of course, is a rematch of the first-round Q Cup game "won" by the Gaels (see above). Although the teams’ first meeting was officially a tie, don’t underestimate the revenge factor for the Braves, who are doubtless unhappy about being left out of their own tournament’s title tilt.
Incidentally, it says here that the Gael victory will end up a Good Thing for the Q Cup, which can attract a broader fan base when the competition is strong. Quinnipiac has done a good job of bringing in interesting teams — the MAAC/CHA subtext in this year’s pairings was especially welcome — and now the feeling should be even stronger that the Q Cup is a trophy worth fighting over.
A Brand-New Rivalry (Sort Of)
Friday night, Mercyhurst and Bentley face off in both school’s first-ever MAAC league contests. Ironically, the two programs know each other well, having played four times last season alone. Bentley, for the record, edged Mercyhurst 2-1-1 in the season series.
Players Of The Week
MAAC Player Of The Week: Mark Hallam, Iona
Hallam was named the Most Valuable Player of the Q Cup, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the opening-round game against Quinnipiac, and tallying the final Gael marker in the title game versus Army.
MAAC Goalie Of The Week: Sean Weaver, Canisius
As noted above, Weaver shut out the UConn Huskies Friday in the Griffs’ 1-0 win at the J.C. Penney Classic.
MAAC Rookie Of The Week: Mike Fraser, Iona
The familiar names continue. As it happens, Fraser made his first collegiate start against Army, notching the aforementioned shutout.
Quinnipiac’s Neil Breen tied league single-period records for points and assists with three assists in the first frame of the Iona-Quinnipiac contest Friday. That game also saw the teams combine for 14 goals, tying another MAAC record … The teams’ Saturday rematch can be heard on broadcast.com … Canisius forward Steve Birch tallied his second goal — and second shorthanded goal — of the season Saturday against Maine in the J.C. Penney final … Fairfield’s 2-2 tie with Army at the Q Cup was the Stags’ first since 1996, and also ended a 13-game losing streak … Both Mercyhurst goaltenders, senior Ashley Stevens and sophomore Peter Aubry, recorded at least 40 saves against Alabama-Huntsville, Friday and Saturday respectively.
An Unrelated Issue
Not long ago, major league baseball had a statistic called the "game-winning run batted in," or GWRBI, which purported to measure clutch hitting. The GWRBI was defined as "the run batted in which gave a team the lead it would never relinquish."
Since that’s easier said than digested, an example may be in order. Suppose the Yankees and the Braves are playing with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Derek Jeter drives in Chuck Knoblauch to give the Yankees a 3-2 victory. Jeter gets the GWRBI. Fine.
Now suppose that the Yankees and Royals are playing, and after mowing down the Royals in the top of the first, the Yankees explode for 12 runs in the bottom of the inning. The Royals mount a feeble comeback attempt, scoring a run here and there, but the Yankees win going away, 23-8. Who gets the GWRBI now?
The answer is: whoever drove in the first run of the game, since that is the one which produced a lead — a lead of 1-0 — that the Yankees never relinquished. Got that? Well, baseball fans never really did, which is partly why the GWRBI was eliminated as an official statistic years ago.
The reason I bring it up is that it’s not at all the same method that hockey uses to determine a game-winning goal. Hockey’s method is much simpler: the game-winning goal is the one that gives a team one more goal than the opponents scored in the entire game. So let’s take the baseball scenarios above, and make them hockey games. In our 3-2 example, the winning team’s third and last goal is the game-winner, just like the last RBI was the GWRBI. Fine again.
But in the 23-8 example, the winning team’s ninth goal is the game-winner, because that’s one more goal than the losers scored, even though the goal was almost certainly an afterthought at the time. 8-0, 9-0 … what’s the difference? Either way, the other guys aren’t too likely to come back. And if the losers manage one more goal before the game is over, the game-winning goal suddenly changes.
Thus lies the question — which method makes more sense? Mail responses to [email protected], and we’ll see how your sentiments lie.