As families across the country celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving (by the way, my favorite holiday thanks to the enormous amount of food you can eat without feeling guilty), I thought it might be nice to take a light-hearted look at what the folks around the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference have to be thankful for.
Rand Pecknold at Quinnipiac has plenty. First off, to be sitting in first place, without one of your top forwards, Chad Poliquin — that alone deserves a cheer of the apple cider. You know somewhere, too, he’s thankful that the University of Maine gave up on forward Shawn Mansoff, allowing him to transfer to Quinnipiac. The sophomore has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) for the Braves and is the leading scorer in MAAC play (16 points).
Paul Pearl at Holy Cross is thankful for the fact that his bus does not have to make another trip to Albany, N.Y., this season. After last weekend’s loss to RPI, 10-2, Pearl won’t have to hear the annoying horn that sounds after each RPI goal again. Though he may be hearing it in his sleep.
UConn’s Bruce Marshall is thankful that the club’s non-conference schedule is over this weekend. In games against non-MAAC teams, UConn is 0-3 and has been outscored 14-7. (Unfortunately, after the turkey settles on Thursday, UConn still has to face UMass-Lowell and either Air Force or Yale this weekend at the Festival of Lights tournament in Lowell.) Marshall is also thankful that half of the games are played at home. UConn is 2-0 at home, outscoring its opponents 15-2 in those two games. On the road, UConn is 0-5, being outscored 28-12.
The greatest thing that Sacred Heart’s Shaun Hannah has to be thankful for is goaltender Alexi Jutras-Binet. Now in his third year with the Pioneers, Jutras-Binet has been a constant backbone for the club. His 2.44 goals-against average is second in the league and his 429 minutes and 30 seconds is the most by any goaltender in the league. Jutras-Binet has helped Sacred Heart to the top of the MAAC in the defensive rankings, averaging a stingy 2.50 goals against as a team.
Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin is thankful that hockey games are 60 minutes long. Four times this season the Lakers have trailed at the end of two periods, and four times they have come away victorious. In league games, Gotkin’s club has spent 49 percent of the time trailing, yet still posts a 6-0-1 record. Guess that’s not hard when you outscore your opponents 14-4 in the third period.
Fairfield’s Marc Dennehy is thankful to be home for the holidays. Dennehy’s Stags opened up its season with a nine-game road trip. Over the five week span, the Stags posted an 0-8-1 record on the road with trips to Air Force, Canisius, Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac. When Dennehy and his bunch returned home this past Sunday, they happily tied Sacred Heart, 3-3.
I think Iona coach Frank Bretti would be thankful if yours truly didn’t feature his team anymore. Two weeks ago, I featured Iona against Mercyhurst as the MAAC Game of the Week, and since then, the Gaels have gone 0-4-1. All kidding aside, I’m sure Bretti will be putting a few more wins on his holiday wish list. Hope that Santa delivers a little, too, for Iona’s sake.
Bentley’s Jim McAdam has to be giving thanks for his senior captain Ryan Soderquist. Now the leading scorer in school history, Soderquist has placed himself among the top forwards in the league. His 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in only seven games is best on the club and ranks him fourth in the league in scoring. McAdam might be even more thankful if hockey would eliminate the second period. His Falcons have been outscored 14-5 in the middle frame this season.
Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh is very thankful to have a penalty-killing unit that is tops in the MAAC. Canisius has allowed only eight goals in 55 attempts this season (85.5 percent), while at the same time scoring a league-best four shorthanded goals. Now, Cavanaugh just wishes that his power play would catch fire. The Griffs have scored just six goals in 51 man-up chances (11.8 percent).
AIC’s Gary Wright will give thanks this Thanksgiving that his Yellow Jackets were able to pick up their first league win last weekend. The 5-1 win over Fairfield was enough to lift the club out of the MAAC cellar. Wright, like Cavanaugh at Canisius, will be very thankful if his team’s power play comes to life. Having scored just three goals with the man advantage all season, you might say that AIC’s power play is on life support.
And finally, MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor is giving plenty of thanks for the success of his young league to date. Certainly, there is room for improvement, but the MAAC’s debut season and postseason tournament easily met fans’, players’ and coaches’ expectations. Congratulations to the commish, and to everyone involved in making MAAC hockey a reality.