Note To Readers: My apologies to those of you expecting to read my weekly column and find a rundown of all the action upcoming this week. Unfortunately, due to illness, this week’s column focuses on only one series. Look for an extensive MAAC playoff preview next week, including quotes from the coaches not mentioned here as well as a detailed look at each playoff game.
MAAC Games of the Week
American International vs. Sacred Heart Friday at Sacred Heart, 7:00 P.M. Saturday at AIC, 7:00 P.M.
For AIC, D-Day has come. The Yellow Jackets are still alive in the playoff race, but barely. This weekend, as they take on Sacred Heart, they know that a loss or even a tie will put an end to the season early.
Regardless of the outcome, head coach Gary Wright has already found plenty positive to take out of the season.
"I don’t think our kids have gone in the tank at all," Wright said candidly. "Back in early January our spirits were diminishing. We rallied well and had the stretch that got us back in contention.
"It’s easy for attitudes to go south when you’re not winning. I’m not inferring that we have a great team attitude, but on the whole our kids have hung in there real well."
Last weekend, his team faced the daunting task of having to knock off the top team, Quinnipiac, in order to keep pace with Holy Cross. However, the Braves were too much to handle, putting Wright’s team in its current position.
"I thought that last Friday night we were more competitive," Wright said. On Saturday night they handled us pretty good. They dominated territorially.
"On Friday we mounted more offense, had more opportunities. Saturday we had our chances, but there weren’t enough. The few good opportunities we had, their goaltender was consistent."
Sacred Heart has a lot at stake for themselves too, as they need win to have a shot at home ice in the first round. AIC, remarkably, is 4-0-1 against the Pioneers in the two years of MAAC play, something that may have some, but not too much bearing for Wright’s team.
"Last year we were a little stronger and we were ahead of them in the standings. As best I can see, they’ve vastly improved from last year," Wright said. "Early in the year we did tie them at our rink, but they’ve been a stronger team this year."
Strength is what Pioneers coach Shaun Hannah hopes for as his team faces the Yellow Jackets this weekend. It was something that they displayed last weekend against second-place Mercyhurst, but unfortunately, came up empty.
"We didn’t play as well as we could have on Friday night," Hannah said about the series. "Saturday night well played real well but came up a goal short. Mercyhurst is a good team with a lot of depth. They play with intensity."
Hannah said, plain and simple, what his team must do to stay home in the playoffs: "We have to get four points this weekend against AIC and hope for some help from Iona," which faces UConn.
The fact that Sacred Heart has been in a heated playoff race this season has to benefit the club. Last year, the team had clinched the number-seven spot early on, as Fairfield was nowhere close in eighth place and sixth place was a far stretch also.
"I think the fact that there’s been a race here has been good for our guys," Hannah noted. "It’s gotten the guys prepared for the playoff. The first ten games of the year you’re really excited so it’s easy to get up for games. Then you hit the mid-season doldrums. It’s nice to have a race in February so you have something to play for. It’s been healthy."
Picks: The Pioneers have had trouble in the past with AIC, but this is a new team. Look for the sweep, with Sacred Heart winning, 4-2 and 5-3.
Picks for the rest of the league
UConn vs. Iona: This is the toughest series to call for the weekend. The Huskies want to stay at home for the playoffs, but Iona is hot. Coin flip is my method for deciding this one, and UConn sweeps, 4-3, 3-2.
Quinnipiac vs. Bentley: Bentley will make the playoffs, but through the back door — by virtue of an AIC loss. Braves sweep, 5-3, 6-2.
Mercyhurst at Holy Cross: Holy Cross is on a roll, and will give Mercyhurst all they can handle. Look for the upset on Friday. Holy Cross in game one, 4-2. Mercyhurst avenges on Saturday, 5-3.
Fairfield at Canisius: Can the Stags play the role of spoiler? Unfortunately for them, not on the road. Canisius sweeps, 5-3, 4-1.
MAAC PLAYER OF THE WEEK Michael Goldkind, Connecticut Jr., F, 5-8, 140, Silver Spring, MD/Little Capitals
Goldkind helped UConn to two key victories over Fairfield to lift the Huskies into fourth place in the MAAC standings and one win away from home-ice advantage in the MAAC quarterfinals. Goldkind scored two goals and assisted on five other Husky goals to lift his team-high scoring total to 10-24–34 as UConn defeated Fairfield 7-3 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday.
MAAC GOALIE OF THE WEEK Sean Weaver, Canisius So, G, 6-1/190, Scarborough, Ont/Oshawa Legionaires
Weaver, the reigning USCHO Defensive Player of the Week, led Canisius to two key wins last week, including a 58-save performance in a 2-1 upset of Niagara Tuesday night. The sophomore goaltender tied his own school record with 58 saves as the Ice Griffs knocked the Purple Eagles for the second time in three years. Friday, Weaver posted another win as Canisius moved into sole possession of third place in the MAAC standings. On the season Weaver is 10-6-4 with 2.31 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
MAAC ROOKIE OF THE WEEK Brandon Doria Fr., F, 5-10, 160, Bayonne, NJ/Seton Hall Prep
Doria helped Holy Cross to a split with Iona over the weekend to clinch a MAAC playoff spot for the seventh place Crusaders. Doria scored a goal and two assists on Saturday night as Holy Cross knocked off the Gaels 4-2. He also registered an assist in Friday’s 4-2 loss at Iona. On the season Doria leads the Crusaders in scoring with 11-17–28 and ranks fifth overall in the MAAC in rookie scoring.
Playoff Times and Dates Announced
With the MAAC playoffs imminent, times and dates of first-round playoff games are being set. All games are set for Saturday, March 11, excluding the game at Quinnipiac, which will be Friday, March 10, at 7:00 p.m. due to scheduling conflicts. Mercyhurst will host either Holy Cross or Bentley on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Among the other teams eligible for home ice, Canisius and Connecticut would each host at 7:30 p.m., and Sacred Heart and Iona would host at 7:00 p.m. Plans will be finalized after the top four seeds are set.
Around the League
AIC lost two games to MAAC regular season champion Quinnipiac 6-2 on Friday and 5-0 on Saturday… The Yellow Jackets meet Sacred Heart in a home and home series this weekend Friday in Milford, CT and Saturday at home… AIC skated to a 2-2 tie with Sacred Heart on November 6…AIC can qualify as the eighth and final seed in the MAAC playoffs with two wins over Sacred Heart and two Bentley loses to Quinnipiac this weekend… The Yellow Jackets would be the eighth seed and face Quinnipiac in the MAAC quarterfinals on Friday, March 10 at the Northford Ice Pavilion…AIC is 5-0-1 against Sacred Heart all-time, 4-0-1 in MAAC Hockey League play…AIC is down to 14 skaters due to injuries to C.J. Stagnaro (Ludlow, MA), Olivier Gagnon (Kirkland, PQ), and Aaron Arnett (Durham, Ont.), plus the absence of Mike Peddycord (Sterling Heights, MI) because of internship obligations. Arnett is a possibility to play against the Pioneers this weekend…Those players have totaled 21 goals, 35 assists, for 56 points of AIC’s 76-134-210 team totals this season.
Bentley lost a pair of games at third place Canisius 3-2 on Friday and 6-4 on Saturday…Bentley finishes the regular season with a home and home series against MAAC regular season champion Quinnipiac. Friday’s game is at Bentley with Saturday’s game at 5:00 in Northford, CT…Quinnipiac defeated Bentley 4-3 in overtime on December 4 in MAAC play. The Braves also scored a non-conference 5-2 win over Bentley on November 27 at the Conte Forum…The Falcons can clinch a playoff spot with a tie or win against Quinnipiac or if AIC does not win its two remaining games. Bentley could finish as the seventh or eighth seed and would face either Quinnipiac or Mercyhurst in the MAAC quarterfinals…Defenseman Kevin Moglia (Lebanon, N.H.) set an all-time Bentley record by playing in his 106th career contest on Saturday. He topped the mark that was held by former teammate Scott Frerichs, who played in105 games from 1993-97…Ryan Soderquist (Stoneham, MA) had two goals and two assists in two losses to Canisius over the weekend. For the season, Soderquist has 18-26-44, tied for the tops in the MAAC. He is also Bentley’s all-time leading scorer with 83-86-169.
Canisius defeated Niagara 2-1 on Tuesday in the Dunn Tire Challenge, and then swept league foe Bentley 3-2 and 6-4 to take sole possession of third place in the MAAC standings…The Ice Griffs host Fairfield in a pair of games at the Buffalo State Sports Arena this weekend to close out the regular season. Friday’s game is at 7:00 and Saturday’s is at 2:00…The Ice Griffs defeated Fairfield 9-3 on November 6 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena…Sean Weaver (Scarborough, Ont) his own school record with 58 saves on Tuesday against Niagara, He was named the first star of the Dunn Tire Challenge. He earned his fourth MAAC Goalie of Week award of the season…Sophomore left wing Todd Houston (Orleans, Ont) scored his first goal of the season against Niagara and promptly scored his second against Bentley on Friday…Sophomore center David Deeves (Barrie, Ont) scored points in all three games and now leads the team in scoring with 14-12-26..Freshman defenseman Mike Ferry (Cheektowaga, NY) scored his first career point with an assist on the Ice Griffs’ opening goal on Saturday.
UConn swept last place Fairfield 7-3 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday…UConn meets Iona Friday at the Ice Hutch and Saturday at home in the MAAC game of the week on broadcast.com. The crucial weekend series will help decide the final home ice spot in the MAAC playoffs. If UConn wins one game or ties both, the Huskies will clinch home ice advantage for the MAAC quarterfinals as either the third or fourth seed…Iona knocked of UConn 4-3 in overtime at the Ice Hutch on November 6. UConn erased a 3-0 third period deficit before falling in overtime. UConn defeated Iona in the MAAC quarterfinals 6-5 in overtime… Michael Goldkind (Silver Spring, MD) had 2-5-7 on the weekend to earn MAAC Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. He leads the Huskies in scoring with 10-24-34…Evan Stensrud (Minnetonka, MN) tallied three goals and two assists on the weekend to raise his scoring totals to 8-11-19 in his rookie season…Eric Goclowski (Hamden, CT) scored one goal and an assist in Friday night’s game against Mercyhurst, including the eventual game-winner. He also recorded one goal in Saturday night’s win. His current stats stand at 6-7-13.
The Stags dropped a pair of games to UConn 7-3 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday…Fairfield finishes its season with a pair of games at Canisius, Friday at 7:00 and Saturday at 2:00…Fairfield lost 9-3 to the Ice Griffs in Buffalo on November 6…Rae Metz (Kent, OH) posted a goal and two assists on the weekend. He has 17-22-39, the second most points for a Fairfield freshman in school history. He’s four points away from the school rookie record of 43, set by Rich Bowler in 1974-75, the first year of varsity hockey. Metz is the only Stag to play in all 32 games this season…Senior goaltender Rory Murray (Hingham, MA) made his first collegiate start on senior night last Friday against UConn. He made 20 saves…Senior captain Michael Shaheen (Locust, NJ) played his 110th and 111th career contests last weekend, setting a new school record. He’s been out of the lineup just three times in his career and once in the last two seasons. He owns the school single-season record for games played with 32, set last season. Murray and Shaheen are the only two seniors on this year’s squad to play at Fairfield all four seasons.
Holy Cross split two games with sixth place Iona losing 4-2 on Friday night and then winning 4-2 on Saturday night. With the win on Saturday, the Crusaders clinched a MAAC playoff spot…Holy Cross has two games at home against second place Mercyhurst. Friday’s game is at 7:00 with Saturday’s regular season finale at 4:00. The matchup could be a preview of the MAAC quarterfinals as Holy Cross can finish the seventh or eighth seed, while Mercyhurst will be the two seed…Mercyhurst defeated Holy Cross 5-2 at the Hart Center on October 30…Freshman forward Brandon Doria (Bayonne, NJ) was named MAAC rookie of the Week scoring one goal and three assists on the weekend to help the Crusaders into the MAAC playoffs…Paul Carroll (Woburn, MA) scored two goals over the weekend including the game-winning goal on Saturday night…Sophomore forward Pat Rismiller (Belmont, MA) extended his point scoring streak to six games with an assist in each game…Sophomore goalie Dan Bennett (Wilmington, MA) stopped 25 shots to earn a win Saturday and improve his record to 4-10-2. He is 3-1-1 in his last five games.
Iona split a weekend series with Holy Cross winning 4-2 on Friday and losing 4-2 on Saturday to remain in sixth place in the standings…Iona plays a big weekend series against UConn. Friday, the teams meet at the Ice Hutch and Saturday the teams faceoff at UConn. With a sweep of UConn and some help from AIC, the Gaels can still finish in the top four of the MAAC standings…The Gaels defeated UConn 4-3 in overtime on November 6 in the teams’ only meeting this season. Last season, Iona fell to UConn 6-5 in the MAAC quarterfinals at the UConn Ice Arena…Ryan Carter (Fort Nelson, BC) leads the team in scoring with 20-16-36. Heneeds just one point to reach 100 career points. He currently has 53-46-99..Ben Brady (Anchorage, AK) has won his last two starts in goal for the Gaels. He had 30 saves in Iona’s 4-2 victory over the Crusaders on Friday night…Erik Nates (White Plains, NY) had two goals and one assist in Iona’s 4-2 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday. He has 11-22-33 in his sophomore campaign for the Gaels…Ryan Manitowich (Calgary, AB) had three assists for the Gaels this past weekend. On the season the freshman forward has 25 points on 16 goals and nine assists.
Mercyhurst locked down the number two seed in the MAAC playoffs with a sweep of Sacred Heart, 5-3 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. Mercyhurst will host a playoff game Saturday, March 11 at 7:30…The Lakers complete the MAAC regular season portion of their schedule with two games at Holy Cross Friday at 7:00 and Saturday at 4:00. The match-up could be a preview of the MAAC quarterfinals to take place Saturday, March 11…Mercyhurst defeated Holy Cross 5-2 on October 30 at the Hart Center…This is the second time in the history of the program that Mercyhurst has achieved 20 wins or better. The only other time that happened came in 1994-95 when Mercyhurst went 21-1-2 in the regular season, defeated Elmira and RIT at home to win the ECAC West Playoffs, then lost two straight to Bemidji State at home for the Division II national championship…Saturday, Mercyhurst won for the fifth time this season (second against Sacred Heart) when trailing after 40 minutes…Mercyhurst has been involved in 23 games that were decided by two goals, one goal, or ended in a stalemate (13-6-4). In fact, the last eight games have been tied or decided by one or two goals (4-3-1).
The Braves swept AIC 6-2 and 5-0 to clinch their second straight MAAC regular season title and the top seed in the upcoming MAAC tournament…Quinnipiac takes on Bentley, Friday in Watertown, MA at 7:00 and Saturday at home at 5:00…Quinnipiac beat Bentley 4-3 in overtime on December 4 in a MAAC contest. The Braves also posted a 5-2 non-league win over Bentley on November 27…Quinnipiac will host Bentley, AIC or Holy Cross on Friday, March 10 at 7:00 in the MAAC quarterfinals at the Northford Ice Pavilion…Since the MAAC Hockey League started, the Braves have recorded a 43-5-5 mark in conference play…Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold needs one more win to become the second coach in school history to record 100 career wins. Pecknold, in his sixth season, sports a 99-53-12 record…Junior J.C. Wells (Sheffield, Mass.) sports a healthy 2.41 GAA. and a .910 save percentage… Wells is 13-2-2 overall, 13-0-2 in the MAAC. He recorded his 49th career victory on Friday night…Heading into the last weekend of regular season play, Shawn Mansoff (Edmonton, AB) is tied for the conference scoring lead with 23-19-42. He’s tied with Bentley’s Ryan Soderquist (16-26-42).
Sacred Heart dropped two games to second place Mercyhurst losing 5-3 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday… Sacred Heart looks to find a home ice advantage spot in their weekend series with American International. Friday’s game is at home and Saturday’s game is at AIC. The Pioneers sill have a chance to host a home playoff game on Saturday, March 11 at the Milford Ice Pavilion, but need a pair of wins and some help from Iona and UConn…Sacred Heart and AIC played to a 2-2 tie on November 6…Martin Paquet (St. Catherine, PQ) scored a goal and three assists on the weekend to set a new single-season goal scoring record at Sacred Heart with 15 goals. He leads the team in scoring with 15-19-33.
Thanks to Ken Taylor of the MAAC, and the sports information departments of each school for contributions to this column.