It Keeps Growing, and Growing…
For the second time in as many seasons, the MAAC hockey conference is growing, as the league announced the addition of Army as its 11th member Monday. Commissioner Rich Ensor, joined by representatives from the MAAC as well as Army, announced the expansion at a telephone press conference.
What does this mean for the MAAC? Expansion, in this case, is one of the greatest positives the league could undertake, especially bringing a team with the caliber of players and a hockey program as steeped in tradition as Army.
A sampling of coaches around the league are enthused at the addition.
Said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, "It shows [the MAAC] is willing to grow in a positive manner."
Pecknold believes that Army, which has complied a 10-5-2 record against MAAC teams over the last two seasons, will be extremely competitive immediately.
"[Army] is a great program with a great rink and great coach, and plenty of tradition," Pecknold said. "I think they’re going to be really good. They have great goaltending and they compete hard."
Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall echoed Pecknold’s sentiments.
"Any teams that’s been playing hockey since the 1920s brings some prestige to the league," said Marshall. "It’s nice that a school of that caliber wants to come into a new league.
"I definitely think they will be competitive, but it will be different for them and us when you throw league points in there."
According to Army coach Rob Riley, the MAAC was inviting for a host of different reasons. Besides the competitive strength and obvious growth, Riley was not shy to talk about possible postseason implications that joining the MAAC could offer.
With an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament looming large for the MAAC next season, Army and Riley realize that the MAAC may be the best ticket to the dance. Riley also noted that, with 2,746-seat Tate Rink in his back yard, the possibility of hosting the MAAC championships in the near future is also imminent.
All Wells That End Wells
Anyone who has followed the MAAC the last couple of weekends knows who the hottest player is: J.C. Wells of Quinnipiac College. And this week, the powers that be recognized Wells’ accomplishment naming him USCHO’s Division I Defensive Player of the Week.
This past week, Wells allowed just one goal in 56 shots on the weekend, good for a goals-against average of 0.50 and a save percentage of 0.982, earning him the recognition.
The award is the first national recognition given to a MAAC player for on-ice performance.
Pecknold has had faith in his number-one goaltender all season, even though he didn’t start out like a house afire.
"At the beginning of the year J.C. got off to a slow start and then caught pneumonia right after that," Pecknold noted. "But since Christmas the numbers speak for themselves. The team has also played well in front of him, which helps a lot."
In talking about a "slow start" Pecknold may be referring to Wells’ only loss, which came all the way back on Oct. 16, 1999, 6-4 to nationally-ranked RPI. The team’s two losses since then, a 6-4 loss at Mercyhurst and a 7-4 defeat at Maine, have been backstopped by Dan DiLeo, who himself is an impressive backup goaltender.
Pecknold is quick to note that the success of Wells has filtered down to the rest of the team.
"I think we’ve really just played great team defense over the last six games," said Pecknold. "It starts with J.C. getting hot, but we’ve jelled defensively and played well with the puck."
Fairfield’s Murray Nominated for Humanitarian Award
Rory Murray, the third-string backup goaltender for Fairfield University, may not have earned a lot of acclaim for his on-ice efforts in his four-year career with the Stags. But this past week, his off-ice work was recognized by the selection committee for Hockey’s Humanitarian Award.
Murray is among the 15 finalists for the award, which is given annually to college hockey’s "best citizen."
The award is not limited strictly to men’s Division I player, as the nominees are chosen from any division, both male and female. Murray is the only representative from the MAAC and is one of eight representatives of the Eastern hockey leagues.
Murray, who hails from Hingham, Mass., has appeared in only six games in his career without posting a decision. In 63:18 he has allowed three goals while making 35 saves, a .921 save percentage.
Off the ice, Murray works as a coach with two youth hockey teams in the Fairfield, Conn., area during school. In the summer he participates in camps with handicapped children for the Hingham Recreation Center. Last summer, he headed up an initiative to help autistic children.
MAAC Games of the Week
Quinnipiac vs. Connecticut Friday, at Quinnipiac, 7:00 P.M. ET Saturday, at Connecticut, 7:30 P.M. ET
"At this point in the season, every game is a big one."
Such are the sentiment of UConn coach Bruce Marshall, asked how big this weekend’s series with Quinnipiac is. And with good reason.
Marshall’s Huskies, who started the season with only two wins in their first 12 games, have hit rally mode, winning eight of the last 12, and moved from the bottom of the MAAC straight to the top. At this point, instead of battling to stay alive in the MAAC playoff race, Marshall and UConn are in position to secure home ice in the first round and, in third, are not far behind second-place Mercyhurst.
But this weekend, UConn battles the best, playing a home-and-home series with first-place Quinnipiac, who have not lost a league games since November 6, 1999.
"[Quinnipiac] has a strong team that plays with a lot of confidence," Marshall said simply. "They score a lot of goals."
The fact that UConn’s defense has been relatively strong, especially over the last 10 games when they’ve allowed only 20 goals, will help the Huskies. But the key will be staying disciplined. Though they average only 13 minutes in penalties per game (eighth in the league), Connecticut cannot give the Quinnipiac power play, which operates at 24.1 percent efficiency, much ice time. The Huskies’ penalty kill, which allows goals more than 20 percent of the time, ranks sixth in the MAAC.
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold also agrees that every game is important, but knows that his team has plenty of motivation.
"The fact that Mercyhurst is still so close is a good thing that motivates us right now," said Pecknold. "We feel we only have a one-point lead on them [due to a QC five-point lead with the Lakers holding two games in hand].
"Last Friday after we beat Canisius, we turned our talk on Saturday to the fact that we have to stay focused; that we can’t have a letdown at any point."
That focus will be very important for the Braves, who have plenty on their mind. Besides this weekend’s game with UConn, the Braves have a non-league game with Clarkson, a result of Vermont’s canceling of its season. On top of that, Quinnipiac currently stands eighth in the USCHO Pairwise Rankings, a measuring tool that closely represents the NCAA Selection Committee’s process for selecting teams for the tournament.
When questioned about other distractions, Pecknold displayed his honesty.
"Of course you have to think about things like the [NCAA] tournament in the back of your mind," said Pecknold. "Every time you turn around somebody brings it up. But right now, it’s not my focus. It’s UConn on Friday night and UConn on Saturday night."
It’s not just Pecknold that feels this way. Marshall knows his Huskies are always a target, just as they were last weekend when a struggling Holy Cross team handed UConn its first home loss of the year.
"Holy Cross had a greater level of intensity on Friday," Marshall said. "They played with more urgency and took it to us.
"We had worked so hard to get back to respectability and to let it slip away….We benched five guys that were on the power play on Saturday night, basically to send the message to the team that if you’re not going to come to play on Jan. 21st, they don’t deserve to play."
That benching did produce results from the players left in the lineup, as UConn responded with a 3-2 win at Holy Cross on Saturday. Marshall has reinserted those five for this weekend’s games, with what he hopes is a better focus.
MAAC PLAYER OF THE WEEK Zac Kalemba, American Int. Sr., F, 6-0, 190, Montvale, NJ/N.J. Jr. Devils
Kalemba notched this week’s award as he totaled two goals and four assists to lead AIC to a weekend sweep of Fairfield, putting the Yellow Jackets back into the thick of the MAAC playoff hunt. Kalemba registered the game-winner and two assists in Saturday’s 6-5 triumph. He also recorded a goal and two assists in Friday’s 5-3 victory, which snapped AIC’s six-game conference losing streak. On the season, Kalemba is among AIC’s leaders in scoring with 5-10–15.
MAAC GOALIE OF THE WEEK J. C. Wells, Quinnipiac Jr., G, 5-10, 175, Sheffield, MA/Boston Bulldogs
Wells led Quinnipiac to a sweep of Canisius making 55 saves and allowing one goal 120 minutes (0.50 GAA). Wells recorded his fourth career shutout on Friday night, stopping 30 shots in a 7-0 win over Canisius. Wells has an impressive 9-0-1 record in his last 10 starts in goal. In those ten games, Wells has stopped 279 of 296 shots (.942 save pct.) and recorded a 1.83 GAA. For the season, Wells is 9-1-2 with a 2.85 GAA and a .895 save percentage.
MAAC ROOKIE OF THE WEEK Konn Hawkes, Sacred Heart Fr., D, 6-0, 200, Watrous, SK/Melfort Mustangs
Hawkes helped Sacred Heart complete a season sweep of Iona on Saturday with two goals and one assist in the Pioneers’ 7-4 win over the Gaels. He scored the game-winning goal early in the third period and assisted on the go-ahead goal late in the second period as Sacred Heart moved into fourth place in the MAAC standings. On the season, the defenseman has 4-6-10 from the blue line for Sacred Heart.
Around the League
The Yellow Jackets swept Fairfield winning 5-3 on Friday and 6-5 on Saturday night…AIC snapped a six-game MAAC Hockey League losing string with its weekend sweep of Fairfield. The Yellow Jackets last MAAC win also came against the Stags on November 20…Friday night’s win at Fairfield was AIC’s first road win of the season. The win was also Yellow Jackets first of the millennium, ending a four-game skid to open the new year…The Yellow Jackets travel to Canisius for a pair of conference games in Buffalo Friday and Saturday…AIC dropped a 9-5 decision at Canisius on November 5…Junior Tom Cogan (Brick, NJ) had a big weekend, totaling three goals,including the game-winner in Friday night’s 5-3 win. He also got AIC rolling Saturday night netting two first period goals for a 2-1 lead after one…Senior Dan Curran (Buffalo, NY) registered two goals and three assists in the two wins against the Stags. He posted a goal and two assists on Saturday…AIC’s six goals on Saturday (Jan. 22) is a season-high, and the most since the Yellow Jackets posted nine goals in a 9-3 win over Fairfield on 1/22/99.
Bentley was swept by second place Mercyhurst losing 5-0 on Friday and 8-0 on Saturday…The Falcons matchup with Iona traveling to New Rochelle, NY on Friday and hosting the Gaels on Saturday…Bentley’s last win was a 9-5 victory over Iona on December 11 at home. The Falcons are winless in their last eight games…Senior forward Ryan Soderquist (Stoneham, MA) will return to action this weekend after completing his four game suspension for an abuse of official penalty January 8 at Fairfield. He is Bentley’s leading scorer with 11-17-28 and the school’s all-time leading scorer with 76-77-153…Last weekend was the first time in Bentley hockey history that the Falcons had been shut out in consecutive games…Bentley is now scoreless in its last 140:53 of play. The Falcons last scored a goal in the second period of a loss to Connecticut on January 15.
Canisius dropped two games to league-leading Quinnipiac, 7-0 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday…Canisius has lost three straight after putting up a nine-game unbeaten streak…Sean Weaver (Scarborough, Ont) set a school record and tied a MAAC regular season record with 58 saves on Saturday. He stopped 31 shots in the second period setting a single period record for MAAC goaltenders…The Ice Griffs host American International Friday night at the Hockey Outlet in North Tonowanda, NY and Saturday at 2:00pm at the Buffalo State Sports Arena…The Ice Griffs defeated AIC 9-5 on November 5…Fourth seeded Canisius defeated fifth-seeded AIC in the 1999 MAAC quarterfinals 7-4…Sophomore Corey Lucas (Scarborough, Ont) leads Canisius in scoring with 7-12-19. He scored a goal in five consecutive games from Nov. 13 to Dec. 10…Junior goaltender Stephen Fabiilli (Sudbury, Ont), who made 26 saves on Friday and lost for just the second time this season. Fabiilli’s only other loss came at the hand of the defending National Champions from the University of Maine back on October 23. He is 7-2-0 overall this season and 5-1-0 against MAAC opponents.
UConn split two games with rival Holy Cross losing 5-3 on Friday and winning 3-2 on Saturday…Michael Goldkind (Silver Springs, MD) extended his point scoring streak to nine games with an assist in each contest. He leads the Huskies in scoring with 6-16-22.,.UConn plays a key home and home series against first place Quinnipiac Friday away and Saturday at home…UConn was blown out by Quinnipiac 9-1 on November 20 in Northford, CT. The Huskies were the only team to beat the Braves twice in 1998-99…After going winless in their first ten road games this season (0-9-1), the Huskies have since won four consecutive road games…Sophomore goalie John Chain (Ardmore, PA) notched his first win of the season on Saturday stopping 17 shots at Holy Cross. Saturday was the his second start of the season and third appearance in net for the Huskies…Ciro Longobardi (Wallingford, CT) lead the Huskies with ten goals and is second on the team in scoring with 11-8-19…In conference play, senior goalie Marc Senerchia (Greenville, RI) is second in the MAAC with 2.49 goals against average.
The Stags dropped a pair of games to American International 5-3 on Friday and 6-5 on Saturday…Dan Cotter (Franklin, MA) scored a goal and three assists in the two losses. He is now second on the team in scoring with 4-13-17…Fairfield hosts second place Mercyhurst on Friday and Saturday at the Wonderland of Ice. Mercyhurst edged Fairfield 5-4 on November 5, erasing a 4-1 Stag lead…The Stags were 3-for-5 on the power play last weekend. They lead the MAAC in conference power play efficiency at 18/68 (26.5%)…Fairfield has dressed 16 or less skaters in the last four games. The Stags have allowed six goals in the last two minutes of a period during the stretch. However, Fairfield has outscored its opponent in the third period of the last three games, a 5-2 overall edge…Fairfield’s top six scorers are freshmen. Only two players in school history led the team in scoring their freshman season. Mike Forest led the Stags with 30 points in 1988-89 and Bob MacDonald ranked first in 1987-88 with 28 points. Rae Metz (Kent, OH) currently leads Fairfield with 11-11-22.
Holy Cross split a two game series with UConn winning 5-3 on Friday before dropping 3-2 decision on Saturday…Junior forward Brian Askashian (Lowell, MA) scored a goal and two assists to lead the Crusader attack. He leads Holy Cross with eight goals and has 7-2-9 in his last ten games…The Crusaders match up with Sacred Heart in a home and home series, Friday in Milford, CT and Saturday night at home…Holy Cross fell to Sacred Heart 4-2 on November 27 in Worcester, MA…Dan Bennett (Wilmington, MA) recorded his first career victory as a Crusader against Connecticut on Friday. He made 26 saves on the night…Senior forward Chris Fattey (Hamburg, NY) is out for at least six weeks with an injured hand. He leads Holy Cross in scoring with 5-15-20. He set a MAAC regular season record with five assists in one game versus Iona on November 19…Holy Cross snapped a seven-game losing streak Friday with a 5-3 win over Connecticut…Freshman defenseman Chris Smith (East Greenwich, RI) scored his first career goal and assist Friday against Connecticut.
Iona ended a four-game winning streak on Wednesday night, losing to Sacred Heart at home, 3-1…By losing again to the Pioneers on Friday, 7-4, the Gaels were swept in the season series…Iona also dropped a 5-3 decision to MAAC newcomer for next season Army…After giving up only six goals in four games, the Iona defense has surrendered 15 goals in the last three contests…Iona faces Bentley this weekend in a home-and-home series… The Gaels dropped the only other meeting of the season with the Falcons, 9-5, back on Dec. 11…Iona’s five top scorers are underclassmen with three freshmen and two sophomores at the top of the teams stats page…Rookie Mark Hallam ranks second in the MAAC in assists with 20, one behind Mercyhurst’s Eric Ellis…Goaltender Mike Fraser leads the MAAC in goals against average and save percentage with a 2.59 GAA and .915 save percentage.
Mercyhurst completed a season sweep of Bentley blanking the Falcons 5-0 on Friday and 8-0 on Saturday…Mark Stamp (Haliburton, Ont) scored his first career hat trick Saturday and added two assists in the 8-0 win over Bentley…The Lakers travel to Fairfield to meet the Stags Friday and Saturday night in Bridgeport, CT. Saturday’s game is the MAAC Game of the Week on broadcast.com…Mercyhurst rallied from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Fairfield 5-4 on November 5…Senior goalie Ashley Stevens (Scarborough, Ont) is a perfect 6-0-0 in MAAC games this year. He won Friday’s game stopping 16 shots marking the first shutout of the season for Mercyhurst…The back-to-back shutouts by Mercyhurst against the Falcons were the second successive two-game shutouts in team history and the first at home…In its last six conference games, the Lakers have allowed only 11 goals and two of those were scored into an empty net by Quinnipiac…After failing to score a shorthanded goal all season, the Lakers had shorthanded goals in back-to-back games at AIC (1-15-00) and vs. Bentley (1-21-00).
Quinnipiac swept Canisius 7-0 and 3-1 to run their MAAC regular season record for unbeaten streak in league games to 12 (11-0-1)…J.C. Wells (Sheffield, MA) stopped 55 of 56 shots he faced on the weekend and earned MAAC Goalie of the Week honors…The Braves match up with UConn in pair of key games Friday at the Northford Ice Pavilion and Saturday at the UConn Ice Arena…Quinnipiac defeated UConn 9-1 on November 21 at the Northford Ice Pavilion…UConn was the only team to post two wins against the Braves in 1998-99…Quinnipiac is 10-0-1 at home in 1999-2000. The Braves are 35-1-1 in their last 37 home games. Under Rand Pecknold, Quinnipiac sports a 52-12-4 record (.791) at home, including 21-1-1 in MAAC league games…The Braves lead the nation in goal scoring with 5.48 goals per game… After registering a career-high five points (2 goals, 3 assists) on Friday night, Shawn Mansoff (Edmonton, AB) saw his 18-game point-scoring streak ended on Saturday. He had 18-15-33 during the streak. Mansoff leads the team and the MAAC Hockey League in scoring with 19-16-35.
Sacred Heart now owns a three game winning streak after sweeping Iona 3-1 on Wednesday night and 7-4 on Friday night…Lloyd Marks (Inverary, Ont) scored a career-high five points on Friday with three goals and two assists. That tied a school record for points in one game…The Pioneers win Wednesday snapped Iona’s four game winning streak. Sacred Heart swept the season series from Iona winning all three contests…Konn Hawkes (Watrous, SK) earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors with two goals and an assist in Friday’s win…The Pioneers face Holy Cross Friday at home and Saturday at the Hart Center…The Pioneers defeated Holy Cross 4-2 on November 27 at the Hart Center…Paul Adimando (New Hyde Park, NY) set a school record on Wednesday for career games played. He has now played in 94 career games…Freshman Martin Paquet (St. Catherine, PQ) leads the Pioneers in scoring with 10-11-21…Five of Sacred Heart’s top eight scorers are freshmen.