Battle of the Big Dogs, Part I
After a week in which some of college hockey’s top rivals battled it out for bragging rights, now the MAAC will see its share. Friday night, Mercyhurst will travel to Quinnipiac for a battle that pundits feel could play a major role in deciding the MAAC regular-season champion.
Thanks to Mercyhurst’s 3-1 loss on Tuesday night to Canisius, the matchup is a dead heat. Both teams sit at 8-1-1 in the MAAC, and trail first-place Iona by one point. Note, though, that Iona has played three more games than both Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac.
So this, potentially, could be the game that propels its winner into first place.
Mercyhurst coach Rink Gotkin, though, won’t put anymore pressure on Friday’s game than any other in the year.
“They’re all big games [at this point],” said Gotkin. “The exhibition games are the nonconference ones. The in-conference games are all worth two points, so they’re all big.
“Friday’s only the biggest game of the year because it’s the next game. Saturday’s game against Bentley will become the biggest game after that.”
No matter how much, though, that Gotkin downplays the game, he knows one thing — his club needs a better effort than that put forward against Canisius Tuesday.
“Winning and losing is a funny thing. I thought Canisius played very well, but we didn’t have a very good start and we couldn’t get going,” said Gotkin. “You learn a lot about your team, though, when things aren’t going so well.
“I think we have a pretty mature team. We only have four seniors, but I think we’re mature. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t come our with a better effort [against Quinnipiac].”
Since Mercyhurst entered the MAAC a season ago, it’s been pretty clear that the top two teams are the Lakers and Quinnipiac. And that, over time, has built a little bit of a rivalry, according to Gotkin.
“I think there’s certainly a rivalry, only because I think both teams have been at the top,” Gotkin said. “Everywhere you go you seem to hear ‘Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac.’
“That said, I think Quinnipiac will come out on fire and we’ll have to weather the storm early. If we do that, we’ll be all right.”
One thing that doesn’t concern Gotkin is the potential for a letdown when they travel on Saturday to Bentley.
“I don’t worry about letdowns because we look to get two points every night,” Gotkin noted. “The Canisius game is two points we can never get back again. There are only so many points out there and end in the we need as many as we can. You can beat Quinnipiac three times, but if you don’t take care of business with the other teams, what good does that do you?”
On the other side of the coin, Quinnipiac enters the weekend on the heels of a 6-5 victory over Holy Cross, three nights after tying ECAC member Cornell, 2-2, on the road.
Head coach Rand Pecknold, whose team led 3-0 before giving up the lead and scored twice in the last three minutes for the victory, was unhappy with his team’s performance and hopes to rectify that against Mercyhurst.
“I think it was deceptive that we were up 3-0. It could have been 3-2 but [goaltender J.C.] Wells made two breakaway saves in the first period,” Pecknold said. “But in the second and third we were flat. Holy Cross competed and played hard for 60 minutes. We competed hard, but we just made stupid mistakes.”
“In terms of whether [this weekend’s game against Mercyhurst] will decide the regular-season champ, I don’t think so. But the importance of Friday night’s game is we need to continue to improve as a club. We’re coming off a poor defensive performance and we have to get that back.”
Pecknold would truly like to get the defensive effort his club gave against Cornell, a game that will be a highlight of the Quinnipiac season.
“At Cornell we played a sound, defensive hockey game,” Pecknold said. “But then we played Holy Cross and didn’t give them the respect they deserved. We were lucky to come out with a win.
When asked if the Quinnipiac-Mercyhurst series was becoming a rivalry, Pecknold said: “It’s hard to start a rivalry in your second year. But we had some really good games last year. It’s a young rivalry, but a pretty good one. We’re two evenly-matched teams.”
So even that you have to wonder if there will be a winner after Friday night’s game.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: TOM PAWLAK, HOLY CROSS So., F, Cheektowaga, NY
Pawlak wins the award for his outstanding play in leading the Crusaders to two victories over MAAC foes American International and Fairfield. He tallied five points in the two games on two goals and three assists. In the 5-2 win over AIC, Pawlak scored two goals, including the game-winner, and recorded two assists. In the 3-1 win over Fairfield, Pawlak tallied an assist on the Crusaders’ third and final goal. He is now fifth on the team in scoring with 12 points (6-6-12).
Also Nominated: Marcus Willy (Bentley), Eric Ellis (Mercyhurst), Martin Paquet (Sacred Heart).
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: RICK MASSEY, HOLY CROSS Fr., G, Weymouth, MA
Massey was brilliant in goal for the Crusaders in defeating American International and Fairfield. He turned away 24 of 26 shots in a 5-2 win over AIC, which included two acrobatic saves to thwart two-on-one breaks for the Yellow Jackets. Massey stopped 25 of 26 shots in the 3-1 win over Fairfield, including killing off a 6-on-4 power play late in the third period. In the two wins, he stopped 49 of 52 shots for a .942 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.
Also Nominated: Ray DeVincent (Bentley), Peter Aubry (Mercyhurst), Eddy Ferhi (Sacred Heart).
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: ADAM TACKABERRY, MERCYHURST Fr., F, Nepean, ON
Tackaberry had four assists in a 8-1 win over Army and one assist in a 4-2 loss to Colgate. He helped out in five of the Lakers’ 10 goals in the two games. The freshman leads the team with 18 points and 11 assists. Tackaberry has a three-game scoring streak and has scored at least one point in four of the last five games.
Also Nominated: Mike Ciarletta (Bentley), Greg Kealey (Holy Cross), Justin Eddy (Quinnipiac).
Holy Cross, Canisius Rebound
The first two teams to make statements in the second half of the year are not the ones that everyone expected. After sluggish first-half performances, Holy Cross and Canisius have both jumped feet-first into the second half and found the winning track.
The Crusaders did so by earning two wins over Fairfield and AIC last weekend. MAAC Goaltender of the Week Rick Massey, who has shown signs of brilliance, though he lacks consistency, was the Crusaders’ catalyst, allowing only three goals in the two games.
Holy Cross nearly made it three in a row, losing a tough decision to Quinnipiac on Tuesday night, 6-5, surrendering two goals in the final three minutes.
Regardless, Pearl’s squad has risen from 10th place to fifth in one week. Now, though, they’ll have to watch the rest of the league play, as their only game this week is against No. 10 Providence on Sunday.
Likewise, Canisius has looked good in the second half. After a solid showing at the Alabama-Huntsville tournament, finishing second after a 3-1 loss to Nebraska-Omaha in the finals, the Griffs did something no other MAAC team had done to date — beat Mercyhurst. A 3-1 victory thanks to a fast start and solid defense has raised the Griffs from tenth place to eighth, sitting one point out of the logjam in fifth.
Now the Griffs face a partially resurgent Bentley squad, winners of two in a row, this Friday night. And after that, they’ll have their work cut out facing Quinnipiac at home next Tuesday night.
Wrong Result for Wright
Looking for win number 200, AIC coach Gary Wright came up empty last weekend three times. Losses to Bentley, Holy Cross and then Fairfield on Wednesday have left the veteran Wright still searching for the inevitable No. 200.
More importantly, though, AIC has now dropped six in a row, four in a row in the league, and has fallen from fifth place down to ninth — a place better known as “not in the playoffs.”
Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets, AIC plays only Sacred Heart this weekend, and will have some time to recover before next week’s home-and-home with Army, a series that could put a more permanent stamp on one school not making the postseason.
Around the League
The Yellow Jackets lost to American International 5-2 on Friday night and to Bentley 5-3 on Saturday night… American International plays at Fairfield at 7:00 Wednesday night and host Sacred Heart at 7:00 Saturday night… Three freshmen had multi-point games for the Yellow Jackets this weekend. Guillaume Caron posted a goal and an assist in the 5-2 loss at Holy Cross, while Trent Ulmer dished two assists. Anthony Rufrano recorded a goal and an assist in the 5-3 loss to Bentley… Sophomore transfer Alex Walsh saw his first action of the season against Bentley and netted his first career goal in the third period… American International is 7-1-0 against Fairfield in MAAC Hockey League play, including a 3-0 victory over the Stags on October 27. The Yellow Jackets have dropped two games, one nonconference, to Sacred Heart this season.
The Black Knights lost to Mercyhurst 8-1 on Friday night and were shut out 4-0 by Sacred Heart on Saturday night… Army’s only game next week is a tilt at Connecticut at 3:00 on Sunday… The eight goals allowed against Mercyhurst were the most since a 9-3 loss to Princeton early in the 1997-98 season and the most allowed in a home game since a 9-3 setback to Boston College in the fourth game of the 1994-95 season… Senior Mike Fairman scored the Black Knights’ lone goal of the weekend in the second period against Mercyhurst… Army played both games this weekend without injured regulars Joe Carpenter and Tim Murphy… The Black Knights will be looking to snap a five-game winless streak when they play at Connecticut. Army has played just once in Storrs in the last 19 years, a 4-2 loss in the 1998-99 season.
The Falcons won their second straight game and first in MAAC play by defeating American International 5-3 on Saturday night… Bentley hosts Canisius on Friday night and Mercyhurst on Saturday night. Both games begin at 7:30… Sophomore captain Marcus Willy and freshman Michael Ciarletta led the Falcons to a 5-3 victory over American International on Saturday. Each scored a goal and added an assist in the win. Willy scored the game-winning goal at 10:21 of the third period… Senior goalie Ray DeVincent earned his second straight win in goal for Bentley by making 19 stops in a 5-3 Falcon victory over AIC. In the past two games, DeVincent has recorded 49 saves while allowing just four goals overall… The second line of Willy, Ciarletta and junior Paul Monzione combined for five points (3 goals, 2 assists)… Bentley improved its road record to 2-5-1 but is still looking for its first home win.
The Ice Griffs’ one game last week was a 3-1 upset of Mercyhurst on Tuesday night They will travel to Bentley at 7:30 Friday night… The Ice Griffs are 3-0-1 against Bentley in their last four meeting including a 2-2 tie on October 27… Canisius went 1-0-2 against Mercyhurst last year but has lost twice to the Lakers this year, a 4-0 defeat on November 10 and 6-2 loss on November 11… Senior forward Todd Bisson leads the team in scoring with 14 points (6-8-14). Junior forward Chris Duggan is second with 11 points (4-7-11)… Junior goaltender Sean Weaver has an overall record of 4-4-1 with a 3.19 goals against average and an .877 save percentage.
The Huskies lost two games to CHA member Air Force. They lost 3-0 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday… Connecticut plays two home games this week: Sacred Heart at 7:30 Thursday night and Army at 3:00 on Sunday… Freshman goaltender Jason Carey had a great game in net for the Huskies on Friday despite losing 3-0. He recorded 32 saves… Junior goalie John Chain kept the Huskies in the game by making 35 saves in the 2-1 loss on Saturday… Carey and Chain combined for 67 saves on the weekend while only giving up five goals… Sophomore forward Travis Wood scored Connecticut’s lone goal of the weekend. The goal gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead just 2:58 into the first period… Connecticut lost to Sacred Heart 5-1 and tied the Pioneers 1-1 earlier this season. The Huskies beat Army 3-2 in the teams’ first meeting of the year on November 25.
Fairfield hosts American International at 7:00 Wednesday night and first-place Iona at 8:00 Saturday night… The Stags lost to Holy Cross 3-1 on Saturday… The game featured 60 minutes in penalties; 11 penalties were given out in the second period, seven of which were assessed to the Stags… Sophomore Ryan Tormey would score the lone goal for the Stags on a power play with an assist from Steve Calderara. Freshman goalie Craig Schnappinger made 33 saves in the effort and took the loss bringing his overall record to 4-4-1 and 4-2-1 in the MAAC… Fairfield was shut out 3-0 by the Yellow Jackets in their first meeting of the year on October 27… Calderara’s assist moved him into a tie for fourth place in defenseman scoring in the MAAC with 10 points.
The Crusaders defeated American International 5-2 on Friday and Fairfield 3-1 on Saturday to jump from 10th into a tie for 5th place in the MAAC standings… Holy Cross nearly upset Quinnipiac on Tuesday night, losing 6-5 on two late Quinnipiac goals… The Crusaders play at No. 10 Providence at 2:00 Sunday… Sophomore forward Tom Pawluk recorded five points (2-3-5) in the two wins. He scored two goals, including the game-winner, and recorded two assists in the 5-2 win over AIC. He assisted on the third and final goal in the 3-1 win over Fairfield… Freshman goaltender Rick Massey stopped 49 of 52 shots in the two wins for a .942 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average… Senior co-captain Brian Askashian scored the game-winning goal against Fairfield, the night after scoring his first goal of the season against AIC… The Crusaders skated on a season-high 10 power plays against Fairfield… The five goals against AIC matched a season high… Holy Cross won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Gaels lost to Alaska-Fairbanks 6-2 Friday night and 7-0 on Saturday in the first ever meetings between the two teams… The Gaels managed only 39 shots on goal in the two losses… After having outscored their opponents 21-5 in their previous three games, the Gaels were outscored 13-2 in the two losses, including 11-0 over the final four periods… Alaska-Fairbank’s shutout over Iona marks the second time the Gaels have been blanked by a nonconference opponent this season. Iona was shut out by Alabama-Huntsville, 4-0, on November 3… The 7-0 loss to the Nanooks was the Gaels’ largest margin of defeat in almost three years. Alabama-Huntsville handed the Gaels consecutive 16-1 routs on February 27 and 28, 1998… Iona plays at No. 10 Providence at 7:00 Friday night and at Fairfield at 8:00 Saturday night.
The Lakers routed Army 8-1 on Friday night and lost to Colgate 4-2 on Saturday. Mercyhurst then dropped a 3-1 decision to Canisius on Tuesday night… Mercyhurst plays at Quinnipiac at 7:00 Friday night, and at Bentley at 7:30 Saturday night… Freshman Adam Tackaberry recorded four assists in the win over Army and one assist in the loss to Colgate… Junior goalie Peter Aubry remains the only unbeaten goalie in MAAC play with an 8-0-1 record; he stopped 59 of 63 shots in the two games. He has a .961 save percentage and 0.97 goals against average in MAAC play… Colgate was the last nonconference opponent of the season for Mercyhurst. The Lakers are now 0-3 lifetime against the Red Raiders. The Lakers finished non-conference play at 0-5-1 and were outscored 20-7… Mercyhurst has outscored conference opponents 48-11 in MAAC play to date… Mercyhurst plays 17 consecutive conference games (seven home, 10 away) to end the regular season.
The Braves tied Cornell 2-2 on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the two schools… Quinnipiac returned home after an eight-game road trip and squeaked by Holy Cross, 6-5 on Tuesday night. Quinnipiac now hosts Mercyhurst at 7:00 Friday night… The Braves are 1-2-2 against the ECAC this season and 1-4-2 overall in non-league play… Freshman goalie Justin Eddy made 38 saves in the tie at Cornell. He has an overall record of 6-3-1, a 2.67 goals against average and a .919 save percentage… Senior Chris Cerrella tallied two assists in the tie at Cornell. He is the top scorer in the MAAC Hockey League with 24 points, and has recorded a team-best three multiple-goal and nine multiple-point efforts on the season… Cerrella has scored at least one point in 14 of the Braves’ 17 games this season… Senior Shawn Mansoff is second on the team in scoring with 17 points.
The Pioneers shut out Army 4-0 on Saturday in their only game last week… Sacred Heart goes on the road to play Connecticut at 7:30 Thursday night and American International at 7:00 Saturday night… Sophomore forward Martin Paquet recorded two goals and an assist in the 4-0 win over Army. Paquet leads the Pioneers in scoring with 17 points (8-9-17)… Sophomore goalie Eddy Ferhi recorded his second straight shutout and made 24 saves in the 4-0 win. He has made 43 saves in the two shutout victories. He has a 4-2-2 record, a 2.35 GAA and 270 saves in 509:51 minutes this season… Head coach Shaun Hannah coached in his 130th game with the Pioneer program. In his five years, he has a record of 58-65-7… Senior Eddy Bourget is among 12 finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. The winner will be announced in April at the Frozen Four in Albany, N.Y.