MAAC Column: Nov. 2, 2000

Lakers’ Performance One for the Books

When a league is as young as the MAAC hockey conference, it’s not hard to see records broken often. But last weekend, the Mercyhurst College Lakers had an offensive night to remember, lighting the lamp twelve times en route to the most lopsided win in league history, a 12-0 thrashing of Bentley College.

Besides being the largest margin of victory in any MAAC game, it also surpasses Quinnipiac and Iona’s mark for most goals in a regular-season game. Both schools had scored 11 goals in previous years against Fairfield. Quinnipiac still holds the record for most goals in a MAAC game, 13, when they routed Farifeild, 13-2, in a first-round playoff games two years ago.

Lakers head coach Rick Gotkin obviously was pleased to see such an offensive explosion, but cautions that he still doesn’t believe his team is an offensive powerhouse.

“Any time you can get four points in two games, it’s always a good weekend,” said Gotkin. “But it’s tough to judge for us. We thought we played pretty well, but we don’t expect to score that many goals every time out.”

Mercyhurst was able to use three goaltenders in the game, resting top goaltender Peter Aubry. Still, even his backup staff was able to shut down Bentley and preserve an impressive shutout streak against the Falcons.

The shutout streak is a bit of an odd statistic. These two schools, both of which entered the MAAC last season in the league’s second year, faced each other on opening night a year ago. That evening, Bentley jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the second period. But Mercyhurst, as they did many times last season, stormed back and won the game by a final of 6-4.

Since Bentley scored that fourth goal at the beginning of the second period a year ago, the Lakers have not allowed a single goal to the Falcons. That includes last weekend’s 12-0 shutout and two blankings last January, 5-0 and 8-0. Putting all of that together, the Lakers have not allowed a goal to Bentley in 219:14 — quite an impressive stat.

But stats like that one are not what concerns Gotkin. He’s much more interested in talking about the balance he is seeing, or the excellent play of his younger players.

“Honestly, I think the best thing for us so far is that we’ve used 18 or 19 guys both nights,” said Gotkin. “The scoring has been spread around. Against Holy Cross (a 6-2 victory) we had six guys score goals, and I think 14 guys had points against Bentley.”

Actually, it was 15, Rick, but who’s counting. Regardless, the balance is music to his ears.

“I think if you want to be successful in our league you have to have depth,” Gotkin continued. “I think the teams that can come at you with four lines all game are the ones that are going to be win night in and night out. Not all the teams can and that’s the difference.”

Though most of the swamis out there picked Mercyhurst near the top of the league, everyone, even Gotkin himself, questioned whether they Lakers could be successful with a lineup that consists of eight freshmen meant to replace seven graduated seniors. Pleasantly for Gotkin, the freshmen have surprised.

“The freshmen have been awesome,” said Gotkin. “We think every recruiting class gets better, and this one is no exception.

“But our veterans need to get a lot of credit as well. They’ve done a good job at making sure the rookies fit in.

“It’s a long year,” reminds Gotkin. “It’s great to come out of the gate like we did. But we’ll be tested every weekend.”

Weekly Awards

ITECH MAAC Player of the Week:
Eric Ellis, Sr. F, Mercyhurst

Ellis scored the first goal of the game and tallied two assists in a 6-2 win over Holy Cross on Friday night at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. In the 12-0 win over Bentley on Saturday night, he scored a goal and tallied four assists. Ellis assisted on both game-winning goals and recorded eight points (2G, 6A) over the weekend as the Lakers won their first two MAAC games.

ITECH MAAC Goalie of the Week:
Chance Thede, Sr. G, American International

Thede, the Yellow Jackets’ all-time saves leader, recorded 41 saves in a 3-0 shutout victory over Fairfield on Friday night in helping AIC win its first game of the season. The shutout was the second of his career. On Saturday night, Thede posted 13 saves in a relief appearance in the loss to Quinnipiac.

ITECH MAAC Rookie of the Week:
Chad Nordhagen, Fr. F, Iona

Nordhagen scored the only goal of the game at the 19:46 mark of the second period to lead the Gaels to a 1-0 victory over CHA opponent Wayne State on Friday night. The goal was the second of his young career and his first game-winner.

Iona Trapped by Wayne State

Maybe it doesn’t take a coach in the MAAC to figure out how to slow down the high-scoring offense of Iona. Maybe it just takes a coaching icon like Wayne State’s Bill Wilkinson.

It was Wilkinson who last week was able to hold the Iona offense to just four goals in 120 minutes of hockey. His secret — something that definitely surprised Iona coach Frank Bretti.

“Wayne State came in and used a trap — which was kind of interesting for us,” said Bretti. “We were surprised by it. I’d expect them to use that against a powerhouse offense, but I wouldn’t think they’d feel the need to us it against us.

“It did make things kind of fun, though,” Bretti added. “The entire weekend was a chess match. We had to make a lot of adjustments throughout the weekend, which, as a coach, was interesting to see how players react and really was kind of fun.”

Even with Wayne State’s successful trap, the Warriors were close to leaving New Rochelle, N.Y., without anything to show.

Thanks to great goaltending by Iona’s Mike Fraser, one goal was too many for Wayne State to allow on Friday, as Fraser blanked the Warriors en route to a 1-0 victory. And Saturday night, the Iona offense came into the game flying, scoring twice early and making the sweep look possible.

But three unanswered goals by Wayne State gave the Warriros the edge in the third, before Iona rallied to tie the game at three. Bretti admitted that he thought the game was heading to an extra frame when the Warriors stunned the packed house at New Roc City.

“Saturday, we thought we were going into overtime,” Bretti said. “The game-winning goal happened so quick. We were breaking out of the zone on the weak side, but their forechecker saw us coming. He was able to intercept our winger, got the puck and fired it to the slot. They had a guy going to the net and bang! Just like that, it was in.”

Bretti, though, was quite happy with the weekend outcome

“We played pretty well on the weekend,” said Bretti. “Like I said, it was a fun weekend to coach and play.

“We got to handle a lot of things we had worked on. For example, the pulled goalie situation — they pulled the goaltender on Friday and we’d worked on that all week in practice.”

With two CHA games behind them, Iona has to battle twice more this weekend against a CHA team: Alabama-Huntsville.

“Huntsville has won three games thus far against teams in the four major conferences,” Bretti said. “That alone says a little about what we’re facing this weekend. Huntsville will be the toughest opponent we’ve faced to date.

“Huntsville’s an exciting atmosphere to play in. It could be a little bit of a difficult environment and that will be good for us.”

Hitting the Road: Full Speed Ahead

There was one consensus about the MAAC before this season started, and that was the fact that Quinnipiac University, the two-time defending regular-season champion, was a clear preseason favorite.

And with six games played in the Braves’ season, things look right on course.

“We’re pretty much on track so far,” said head coach Rand Pecknold of his Braves, who have compiled a 5-0-1 record thus far. “There’ve been a lot of positives early in the year. We played Iona two games and took three [of four] points from them, and they’re very good this year. And we’ve been two tough clubs in Army and Air Force. So we’re pretty happy at this point.”

But with every positive, comes a negative, at least in Quinnipiac’s case.

“Injuries have hit us hard, though,” said Pecknold. His Braves, who last season lost top forward Chad Poliquin for the season early on, this year have lost the services of Dan Ennis.

Ennis, a junior defenseman who was fifth on the team in scoring with 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) is one of the top defensemen in the league.

Pecknold, though, can’t blame injuries on anything besides luck.

“A lot of this is just bad luck. My first few years [at Quinnipiac] we didn’t have many injuries. But the last two season’s we’ve had a lot of them. But good teams deal with adversity, and we’ll deal with it. We’re deeper this year than in year’s past, so hopefully that will help.”

And help is what the Braves will need, as they leave the comforts of home and travel North — way North — to play Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend.

“We’re definitely excited to go up North and play two teams of the high caliber of St. Lawrence or Clarkson,” Pecknold said. “They’re both not only good this year, but have been powerhouse teams in the ECAC for the last 10-15 years.”

Pecknold realizes that Quinnipiac may be the ambassador for the MAAC in the win column against teams like St. Lawrence and Clarkson. To date, no MAAC team has beat a team from one of the “Big Four” conferences, something that makes outsiders doubt the ability of the league in relation to the national picture.

“It’s important that we go up and play well. It’s a big weekend for us and the league,” said Pecknold. “We have to deal with some adversity. But you have to move on.”

Adversity certainly will be a factor, but on a more positive side, the Braves have seen some impressive performances to date. The top three scorers in the MAAC are all from Quinnipiac — Chris Cerrella (10 points), Shawn Mansoff and Ryan Olsen (nine points each). On top of that, both goaltenders, senior J.C. Wells and rookie Justin Eddy, have impressed. Pecknold notes that Eddy, particularly, has been a surprise.

“Justin surprised us a little. We thought it would take him a month or two to play at the top of his game,” noted Pecknold. “But all three starts he’s been fantastic. I don’t want to downplay it, we knew he’d be good. But we thought it would take a little longer to mature and get used to the college game.”

Eddy’s numbers are near the top of the league. He ranks first is win percentage (1.000, 3-0-0), third in goals against average (1.33) and fourth in save percentage (.943).

But all of those units — goaltending, scoring and defense — will have to work together this weekend for the Braves to pull off the upset

“We’re just excited to go up and play,” said Pecknold.

And that pretty much sums it up.

Braves’ Streak Alive After a Year

Quinnipiac’s wins last weekend extended a very impressive regular-season unbeaten streak for the Braves to 26 games. It was one year ago this weekend that the Braves last lost a regular-season contest, when they dropped a 6-4 decision to Mercyhurst.

Over the 12 months, Quinnipiac has compiled a 23-0-3 record in regular-season conference games. Outside of conference play, Quinnipiac has only lost three games on that stretch — to Maine, Clarkson, and MAAC rival Iona in last year’s conference tournament.

Ironically, Iona has accounted for three Quinnipiac blemishes over the stretch. Besides the Braves’ loss to Iona in last year’s conference tournament, Quinnipiac tied the Gaels twice, once in the middle of last season and once to open this year.

Around the League

The Yellow Jackets recorded their first victory of the season with a 3-0 shutout of Fairfield on Friday night. AIC lost to Quinnipiac 10-3 on Saturday… The Yellow Jackets have two games this weekend against Mercyhurst. They face off against the Lakers at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday night… Junior forward Olivier Gagnon provided the bulk of the scoring with his first two goals of the season, including the game-winner against the Stags… Gagnon netted two more goals Saturday afternoon in the loss to first-place Quinnipiac… The Yellow Jackets lost all three games against Mercyhurst last season.

The Black Knights lost a couple of tough games over the weekend. They were defeated by first place Quinnipiac 4-1 on Friday night and 3-1 to 12th ranked Rensselaer on Saturday… Army’s next games are November 10th at Bentley and November 11th at Holy Cross… Goalie Scott Hamilton totaled 72 saves in Army’s two games, including a season-high 39 in a terrific performance against RPI on Saturday. He kept the Black Knights in the game with a 21-save second period… Coming into this season Hamilton had never started more than three consecutive games in his career. He has started all five this season…Senior K.C. Finnegan scored Army’s lone goal of the weekend. Finnegan’s first tally of the season tied Quinnipiac 1-1 late in the second period… The Black Knights are two-thirds of the way through a school-record six-game road trip… Junior Joe Carpenter extended his games played streak to 63 games. He has not missed a game in his career.

The Falcons played to a 2-2 tie against Canisius on Friday and were routed by Mercyhurst 12-0 on Saturday… Bentley has two home games this weekend. They host defending MAAC Champion Connecticut at 7:30 on Friday and Holy Cross at 7:30 on Saturday… Junior defenseman Steve Tobio tallied two assists which helped Bentley earn its first point in a 2-2 tie against Canisius on Friday night… Freshman Mike Mulligan scored the game-tying goal against Canisius. Mulligan scored on the rebound of his own shot out front, giving Bentley a 2-0 lead… Senior goalie Ray DeVincent made 52 stops for Bentley as the Falcons salvaged a 2-2 tie with Canisius on Friday.

The Ice Griffs tied Bentley 2-2 on Friday night and beat Holy Cross 6-1 on Saturday night… Canisius has two road games this weekend. They have a 7:00 tilt Friday night at Holy Cross and take on Connecticut at 6:00 Saturday night… Junior forward David Deeves sparked the Ice Griffs in both games this weekend, scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period against Bentley and assisting on two goals in Canisius’ 6-1 victory over Holy Cross… Marc Bouffard scored two goals on the weekend and Deeves notched three points on a goal and two assists… Junior goalie Sean Weaver recorded 52 saves over the two games and a 1.44 goals against average over the weekend posting a 1-0-1 record in MAAC play.

The Huskies went 0-1-1 in MAAC play this weekend tying Sacred Heart 1-1 on Friday and losing to the Pioneers 5-1 on Saturday… Connecticut’s only game this weekend is a matchup on the road against Bentley at 7:30 Friday night… Friday night’s game marked the home opener for the Huskies and the 2000 MAAC Championship banner was unveiled before the start of the game… Senior Michael Goldkind netted the first goal of the game on a power play with assists from senior Ciro Longobardi and freshman Eric Nelson … On Saturday, Goldkind scored the only Huskie goal on a power play opportunity that tied the score at one… Freshman goalie Artie Imbriano stopped 17 shots on Friday night and in his second start on Saturday, he saved 26 shots.

The Stags were shutout 3-0 by American International on Friday night in their only action over the weekend… Fairfield has three games this week. On Thursday, they travel to Ann Arbor, MI were they will play the U.S. Under-18 team at 7:00. They will stay in Michigan and play two games against CHA member Wayne State. These games are at 7:05 Friday and Saturday night… The Stags put 41 shots on AIC goaltender Chance Thede but could not come up with a tally. It marked the most shots posted by a Fairfield team since January 8th of last year when the Stags tied the Falcons of Bentley College 4-4. .The Stags dressed 20 players Friday night vs. AIC and 18 were freshman or sophomores and only 2 were juniors… Freshman Bill Whitfield was the most recent of the three Stag goaltenders to get the start against AIC. In 59:02 minutes, Whitfield stopped 22 shots and allowed 2 goals. His save percentage is .917 while his goals against average stands at 2.03. His record is 0-1-0.

The Crusaders lost to Mercyhurst 6-2 on Friday night and 6-1 to Canisius on Saturday… Holy Cross hosts the Ice Griffs on Friday night at 7:00 and go on the road to face off against Bentley at 7:30 Saturday night… Sophomore Brandon Doria and junior Pat Rissmiller have continued their fine play from the end of last season when they were the top two scorers for the Crusaders. So far this season, they are the only two goal scorers on the team. Rissmiller leads the team with four points (2G, 2A) and Doria is second with three points (2G, 1A)… Junior Derek Cunha made his second start for the Crusaders and stopped 34 shots in the loss to Mercyhurst… Freshmen goaltenders Brad Holzwart and Rick Massey played their first regular season games against Canisius. Holzwart started making 15 saves over the first two periods while Massey made 20 saves in the third period… Freshman Jeff Dams recorded his first collegiate point, assisting on Doria’s power play goal against Canisius.

Iona travels to Alabama to play two games against CHA opponent Alabama-Huntsville. Both Friday and Saturday night games are at 8:00… Sophomore forward John Gilbert had two goals for Iona in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Wayne State. Gilbert has a team leading four goals and five points while Nathan Lutz also has five points on the season with most coming in the assist category… Sophomore goaltender Mike Fraser recorded his third career shutout, making 31 saves in Iona’s 1-0 win over Wayne State… Forward Chad Nordhagen, the ITECH MAAC Rookie of the Week, provided the only offense of the game, scoring his second collegiate goal and first game-winner, in the 1-0 win Friday night. For the season, Nordhagen has 2 goals and 0 assists.

Mercyhurst hosts American International on Friday and Saturday night. Both games commence at 7:30… Mercyhurst never trailed in the two games this weekend, en route to an 18-2 scoring margin and a 2-0 record… Senior Eric Ellis, the ITECH MAAC Player of the Week, assisted on both game-winning goals and tallied eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in the two games over the weekend… The hat trick by junior Louis Goulet against Bentley was the third of his career.

Quinnipiac goes on the road and into the ECAC to play its next two games. On Friday night at 7:00, they faceoff against St. Lawrence and on Saturday night at 7:00, they battle with Clarkson… Senior Shawn Mansoff had a great weekend where he totaled six points on three goals and three assists. For the season, he is tied for the team lead with Chris Cerrella with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists)… Freshman Justin Eddy and senior J.C. Wells have been solid in net so far this season. Eddy is 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .943 save percentage. Wells is 2-0-1 with a 2.92 GAA and a .868 save percentage… After six games, 14 different players have scored at least one goal for the Braves… Quinnipiac saw its streak of 15 consecutive penalty kills come to an end against AIC on Saturday…The Braves are averaging 5.17 goals per game and are allowing just 2.17 goals per game.

Sacred Heart is on the road for its only game this week. They faceoff against ECAC opponent and head coach Shaun Hannah’s alma mater, Cornell at 7:00 Saturday night… Junior forward Chris Mokos had a goal and three assists in the 5-1 victory over the Huskies. He has four points on the year and is tied for the team lead… Freshman forward Mike Reagan tallied two goals in the win on Saturday night. For the season, he has four goals including three on the power play… Sophomore goalie Eddy Ferhi made 27 saves on Friday night to preserve a 1-1 tie with Connecticut.