Another Two-Horse Race?
If you’ve taken a look at the MAAC standings lately, you’ve seen that there’s something very familiar going on. For the second consecutive season, early surges by both Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac have the two schools separating themselves from the pack, and it’s only the middle of November.
With 5-0-1 records in MAAC play, the Braves and Lakers hold a four-point lead on Connecticut and Iona.
Translation: probably none at this early date. But if history repeats itself, the top spot in the regular season standings may be decided between January 12 and February 17, when Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac will square off three times in a 36-day stretch.
“It is pretty similar to last year — there’s no question,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “But it’s a long season. I’m not worried about how the other 10 teams are doing. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be around the top three teams in the end.”
“It’s great we’ve had a good start, but it’s a long year,” noted Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “We know Quinnipiac has a good hockey club. Iona and Sacred Heart have good teams that I haven’t seen yet.
“Our advantage is that we’ve been home for most of our MAAC games. We’ve been trying to take care of business and to this point we’ve done that.”
And done it well. Mercyhurst has outscored its opponents 31-5 in MAAC league games, while Quinnipiac isn’t far behind at 36-11.
But as the holiday season approaches, both clubs face a grueling schedule. Fortunate for both, most of the games will be non-league contests, but both clubs will log plenty of mileage.
After finishing a split-weekend two-game series with Sacred Heart (Fri.) and Fairfield (Sat.) this weekend, Quinnipiac will stay away from the friendly confines of home, traveling to Holy Cross, RPI, Union and Minnesota all before the Christmas break.
Mercyhurst’s schedule is similar. After facing UConn next Wednesday night, road games at Union, RPI and two at Army sandwiched between home contests versus Wayne State and Iona, something that may concern Gotkin.
“We’ve got a handful of tough games here. Our next seven games up to break are tough,” Gotkin said. “We need to go one game at a time. More than that, it’s one period, one shift at a time.”
Pecknold was also quick to note that moving to the top of the MAAC standings, though nice, is far from the team’s top goal. With an NCAA bid at stake for the postseason champion, suddenly the regular-season title doesn’t feel as important.
“Our ultimate goal is to make it to the NCAA tournament, and that’s what were working on,” said Pecknold, noting that his team’s regular-season success may have overshadowed its postseason troubles of the past. “There’s no question the league is better this year than it was last year. Everyone knew that going into the season.”
Still, no matter how many ways you slice it, no matter what any coach says, there are three dates that will impact the top of the MAAC standings the most: January 12 — Mercyhurst at Quinnipiac; Feb. 3 — Mercyhurst at Quinnipiac; February 17 — Quinnipiac at Mercyhurst.
Mark your calendars, and my word!
ITECH MAAC Co-Players of the Week: MARK HALLAM, IONA / LOUIS GOULET, MERCYHURST So., F, Medicine Hat, AB / Jr., C, Kapuskasing, ON
Hallam helped lead the Gaels to victories over MAAC rivals Sacred Heart and Bentley. In the 5-1 victory over the Pioneers, he had two assists. He scored two goals (one power play) and tallied an assist in the 7-5 comeback victory over the Falcons. Goulet recorded five points (2G, 3A) in a home and home sweep against Canisius. He scored the game winning power play goal and had an assist in the 4-0 victory Friday night. He scored the game tying power play goal and tallied two assists in the 6-2 win over the Ice Griffs Saturday night.
Also Nominated: Tim Fisher (Army), John DiGennaro (Bentley), Neil Breen (Quinnipiac), Chris Mokos (Sacred Heart).
ITECH MAAC Goalie of the Week: PETER AUBRY, MERCYHURST Jr., G, Windsor, ON
Aubry was outstanding this weekend, stopping 45 of 47 shots (.957 save percentage) in a home-and-home sweep against Canisius. He recorded his second shutout of the season in blanking the Ice Griffs 4-0 on Friday night while making 24 saves. In the 6-2 victory on Saturday night, Aubry made 21 saves. Aubry is 5-1-1 with a save percentage of .960 and a goals against average of 1.09.
Also Nominated: Scott Hamilton (Army), Jason Carey (UConn), Mike Fraser (Iona), Justin Eddy (Quinnipiac).
ITECH MAAC Rookie of the Week: TRENT ULMER, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL Fr., F, Bethune, Sask.
Ulmer wins the award for his solid play in the Yellow Jackets’ 4-3 overtime victory over Holy Cross. He recorded an assist on AIC’s first goal and scored the game-winner 1:51 into overtime to defeat the Crusaders. His goal gave the Yellow Jackets their first road win and second win of the season. Ulmer has four goals and two assists on the year.
Also Nominated: Alex Rogosheske (Army), Robert DeLong (Bentley), Eric Nelson (UConn), Jeff Dams (Holy Cross), Tim Krueckl (Iona), Adam Tackaberry (Mercyhurst), Chuck Metcalfe (Sacred Heart).
Army Moves Into MAAC Win Column
Nobody said being the new kid is easy, and anyone at Army will testify. After a tough season last year in the CHA, Army moved to the MAAC with hopes of some dominance in the league.
And not to say that power isn’t there, or won’t come, but up to this point the road has been tough for the Black Knights.
Army began its MAAC slate with tough games against Iona and Quinnipiac, all part of a six-game road trip to start the year.
Finally last weekend, thanks to a two-goal, three-point effort from Tim Fisher, Army moved into the win column, knocking off a struggling Bentley squad, 5-2, The next night, Army dropped a tough 3-2 decision to Holy Cross to finish the six-game road trip.
Now the Knights will enjoy nine of their next 10 games at home. The combined league record of their next four MAAC opponents is 5-12-3, compared to the 10-9-3 record boasted by their first four.
Lakers and Griffs Exchange “Punch”es at HSBC
The NHL’s Sabres aren’t the only teams making headlines at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., lately. Thanks to a combination of the MAAC, CHA, Canisius College and Niagara University, the HSBC hosted the Punch Imlach Invitational. The two-game evening featured Niagara battling Western Michigan in a non-league contest and Mercyhurst meeting Canisius to end a two-game “home-and-home” weekend series.
Besides drawing rave reviews from the coaches, the tournament also drew a healthy crowd. Announced attendance for the evening was 6,671, about eight times the size of an average MAAC game.
“It was a tremendous experience for our kids,” said Rick Gotkin. “There was a real nice crowd there for both games and the two games were great hockey games. It was an overall great atmosphere.”
Reports from around the league say that, thanks to the good relationship between the MAAC, Niagara, and Canisius, the tournament hopes to continue on an annual basis.
Around the League
The Yellow Jackets defeated Holy Cross 4-3 in overtime on Friday night… American International hosts Canisius on Friday night at 7:00 and at 4:00 on Saturday. The game on Saturday is the MAAC Game of the Week and can be accessed on www.broadcast.com or www.maacsports.com… Freshman Trent Ulmer , the ITECH MAAC Rookie of the Week, netted the game winner 1:51 into overtime. Ulmer now has four goals in his first season of collegiate play… Olivier Gagnon got the Yellow Jackets on the board first with his team leading fifth goal of the season… Senior goalie Chance Thede recorded 43 saves in the victory over the Crusaders. Thede has reached the 40-save plateau four times in the early going of this season…Sophomore Bryan Bassler netted two goals. Bassler’s first goal tied the game at 2, and his second goal of the third period deadlocked the score at 3, sending the game into overtime.
The Black Knights won their first game as a member of the MAAC with a 5-2 victory over Bentley on Friday night. They lost a tough game 3-2 to Holy Cross on Saturday night… Army plays their home opener on Friday night at 7:00 against Bentley. On Sunday at 2:00, they faceoff against Hockey East member UMass-Lowell… The Black Knights scored three goals in a 3:13 span over the second and third periods to take a commanding 5-1 lead in the victory over Bentley… Junior forward Tim Fisher had two goals and one assist, freshman Chris MacLeod tallied three assists, and junior Joe Carpenter chipped in with a goal and an assist in the victory over Bentley… Junior goalie Scott Hamilton made 27 saves in the victory… Army has an all-time record of 7-0-0 against Bentley including a 5-2 win last weekend… Army is 6-17-0 all-time against UMass-Lowell with their last victory coming in 1989.
The Falcons lost to MAAC foes Army and Iona. Army beat them 5-2 on Friday night and Iona came from behind to win 7-5… Bentley goes on the road this weekend with revenge on their minds. They take on Army at 7:00 Friday night and battle Iona Saturday night at 7:30…On Sunday against Iona, there were no seniors in the starting lineup as sophomore netminder Kevin Williams made his first ever collegiate start… The newcomers hardly hurt the Bentley attack as the Falcons scored a season-high five goals on Sunday and its seven combined goals were the most for a weekend series this season by Bentley… Junior Steve Tobio had three assists on Sunday and increased his team-leading point total to seven, all on assists. Freshman Mike Mulligan contributed a goal in each game over the weekend and leads the Falcons with five goals… The Falcons continue to improve on the power play. Against Iona, Bentley was 3 for 6 as junior John DiGennaro scored two as Bentley skated with the man advantage.
The Ice Griffs were swept by Mercyhurst in a home and home series over the weekend. They were shutout 4-0 on Friday and lost 6-2 on Saturday… Canisius plays two games at American International this week. Friday night’s game begins at 7:00 and Saturday’s game is at 4:00… Junior goalie Sean Weaver registered 26 saves in the 4-0 loss on Friday night and had 16 saves in Saturday’s game… Junior forward David Deeves scored the Ice Griffs first goal on Saturday and senior defenseman Jason Spence scored to give Canisius a 2-1 lead in the second period… The Ice Griffs won all three games against American International last year.
The Huskies continued their fine play with a decisive 7-2 victory over Fairfield on Friday night… Connecticut plays Hockey East opponent UMass-Amherst at 7:00 Thursday night. The Huskies will try to become the first MAAC team to defeat a Hockey East member this year. The MAAC is currently 0-3-0 against the Hockey East… The Huskies exploded for six goals on only 12 shots in the second period against Fairfield. The six goals in one period tied the MAAC record… Senior Ciro Longobardi scored a power play goal that started a five-goal scoring spree in an eight minute span of the second period. Freshman Jason Carey earned his first collegiate win in net recording 22 saves… Twelve Huskies scored at least one point in the victory.
The Stags were routed by Connecticut, 7-2, on Friday night and by Quinnipiac, 10-0, on Saturday night… Fairfield will have another chance to defeat the first place Braves as they host Quinnipiac at 1:30 on Sunday… Sophomore Dan Cotter and freshman Nate Bauers had the tallies for Fairfield against Connecticut… Saturday night saw the Stags again come out of the gate strong as they out shot Quinnipiac 12-8 after the first period. However, the Braves got on track and eased to a 10-0 victory. Freshmen goalies Bill Whitfield and Gregg Norcross each made 16 saves in the defeat… The Stags have made a name for themselves this year as a team who comes out strong in the first period. In three conference games, the Stags have out shot their opponents 32-18… Contrasting, the Stags have struggled in the second as they have been outshot by their opponents, 40-30, in the three conference games thus far.
The Crusaders went 1-1 over the weekend losing to AIC 4-3 in overtime on Friday and defeating Army 3-2 on Saturday night… Holy Cross travels to New Rochelle where they will face off against Iona at 7:30 on Friday night… The win over Army was the Crusaders first since 1995. Army had won the last four times… Freshman forward Jeff Dams had three goals over the weekend, one vs. AIC and two vs. Army. On the season, Dams has four goals and one assist for five points, which ranks him 4th on the team, tied for 5th in the conference overall, and tied for 2nd in the conference among freshmen… Freshman defenseman R.J. Irving tallied 2 assists over the weekend, the second on the game winner against Army… Junior goaltender Derek Cunha recorded his first win as a Crusader in the win over Army. He made 22 saves on the night… Holy Cross has scored at least one power play goal in every MAAC game this season… The Crusaders 4-3 overtime loss to AIC on Friday broke Holy Cross’ 12-game overtime unbeaten streak. Before that loss, the Crusaders had gone 3-0-9 over their last 12 OT games, with their last loss coming to Fairfield, 7-6 in OT, on January 26, 1994 at the Hart Center.
The Gaels had another successful weekend picking up two victories. They defeated Sacred Heart 5-1 on Saturday and Bentley 7-5 on Sunday… Iona hosts Holy Cross at 7:30 Friday night and Bentley at 7:30 Saturday night… Sophomore forward Mark Hallam , the ITECH MAAC Co-Player of the Week, had five points in the two games. He had two assists in the win over Sacred Heart and two goals and an assist in the comeback victory over Bentley… Freshmen forwards Joe Krmpotich and Tim Krueckl both had outstanding games. Krmpotich scored two shorthanded goals, including the game winner, in the second period of the 5-1 victory over the Pioneers. Krueckl scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, both on the power play, in the 7-5 defeat of Bentley. Krueckl now has five goals and two assists on the season with four of his goals coming on the power play. He also has two game winning goals… Sophomore goalie Mike Fraser recorded 22 saves in the 5-1 win over Sacred Heart.
The Lakers continued their great play with a home and home sweep over Canisius. They defeated the Ice Griffs 4-0 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday… Mercyhurst has the week off and next plays at Connecticut on November 22… Junior center Louis Goulet , the ITECH MAAC Co-Player of the Week, had two power play goals and three assists in the two games. He leads team with six goals and two game-winners… Junior goalie Peter Aubry , the ITECH MAAC Goalie of the Week, stopped 24 shots Friday in recording his second shutout of the season, then returned to stop 21 of 23 shots against the Ice Griffs Saturday. Aubry is 5-1-1 with a save percentage of .960 and a goals against average of 1.09… The Lakers were only 1-25 on the power play entering the weekend set with Canisius but scored a combined 5 times in 13 chances against the Ice Griffs. Conversely, Mercyhurst has allowed only one power play goal in 35 enemy attempts… Mercyhurst got goals from six different skaters over the weekend and points from eleven different skaters.
The Braves remained tied for first place and extended its MAAC regular-season unbeaten streak to 28 games with a 4-1 victory over Sacred Heart on Friday night and a 10-0 rout over Fairfield on Saturday night… Quinnipiac takes the ice at 7:00 Friday night at Sacred Heart and at 1:30 Sunday at Fairfield… Junior center Neil Breen had two goals and one assist in the two wins. His seven goals are tied for the team lead… Freshman goalie Justin Eddy improved his record to 4-1-1 with a 4-1 victory over Sacred Heart. He made 24 saves, including six in a third-period man-down situation that saw the Pioneers have a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:35. For the season, Eddy has a 1.64 goals against average and .949 save percentage… The Braves’ 10 goals against Fairfield tied a season high. It was also the 11th time in the Rand Pecknold era that Quinnipiac reached double figures in goals in a game. Eight different players scored at least one goal and eight registered multiple-point games. It was the Braves’ 13th straight win over the Stags. Quinnipiac has outscored Fairfield, 48-6, in its last five contests.
The Pioneers struggled this weekend losing two MAAC games. They were beaten by Quinnipiac 4-1 on Friday night and lost to Iona 5-1 on Saturday night… Sacred Heart’s lone game this weekend is a tilt with Quinnipiac at 7:00 Friday night… Freshman forward Chuck Metcalfe had an assist in the loss to Iona. For the year he has four goals and one assist for five points… Junior center Chris Mokos scored the Pioneers lone goal against Quinnipiac. He leads the team in scoring with two goals and five assists for seven points… Sacred Heart is 0-7-1 against the Braves over the last two seasons including the loss last weekend.