How ‘Bout Them Huskies?
Dog owners out there will hopefully agree with me that the average Husky is no quiet animal. Maybe it’s not a bull in a china shop, but certainly, a Husky dog could do some damage if surrounded by $1M of crystal.
That is, unless the Huskies in question are the UConn Huskies.
Quieter than a church mouse, UConn has slowly glided into the upper tier of the MAAC. And, thanks to a 4-2 win over Quinnipiac last Saturday night, UConn has moved all the way up to third place, poised to make a run at the top.
If you ask UConn coach Bruce Marshall about his climb to the top, he’s excited, but cautious.
“It’s like we keep sending flowers, like we’re telling ourselves, ‘Everything is going to be okay,'” said Marshall, referring to what he believes has been an inconsistent effort from his club. “We have a good game and perform well against Quinnipiac, but then be a no-show against Bentley. We need to figure out if we’re going to come to play every night.”
Now if anyone out there thinks UConn’s rise from the MAAC ashes is strange, let’s not forget history. Last season, the Huskies, who struggled at times, came from the number-four seed in the playoffs to win the second edition of the MAAC championships. And they did this after being on life-support during the quarterfinals, trailing Sacred Heart, 4-1, in that game before finally winning, 5-4.
Some, too, may remember a season ago that the Huskies peaked come playoff time, as the month of January was actually uglier than Cinderella’s wicked step-sisters. A skid that began just about a year ago, with a 5-3 loss to Holy Cross, sent UConn into a tailspin, pitching six losses in eight games. But in mid-February, the Huskies pulled things together, starting with a sweep of Mercyhurst and ending with the Huskies carrying around the championship trophy late in March.
Maybe this year, that streak is beginning a little bit earlier.
“We have two goals. The first is to make the playoffs,” said Marshall. “Once we’ve achieved that, we want to get home ice.”
Marshall realizes that his team currently sits only a point ahead of Quinnipiac and Canisius. Though Quinnipiac has struggled at home lately, over the years they’ve been thought of as a very tough opponent at home. Canisius, though, is even a more dreaded road opponent for the playoffs.
“The way you look at it is, either you go to Buffalo or Buffalo comes here,” said Marshall referring to Canisius’ northern New York location.
One key to UConn’s success thus far has been goaltending. After losing all-star goaltender Marc Senerchia to graduation last season, most thought that between the pips would be an area of concern for the Huskies. Enter rookie goaltenders Artie Imbriano and Jason Carey. Though young and inexperienced, both players have been asked to rise to the occasion at different points this season, and both have done so very well.
Imbriano strung together some impressive performances earlier in the year, but as Marshall tells, has been hampered by injury of late.
“Artie has played well for us, but he’s gotten a bit of a groin injury,” Marshall said. “He played with it and hid the injury as the typical rookie goaltender would, afraid of losing his spot [in the lineup]. But now we know about it and we’re treating it.”
The injury, though, has led to an opportunity for Carey, who was named Rookie of the Week for his performance against Quinnipiac last weekend. Carey was used sporadically in the early parts of the season, but has started three of the last four MAAC games for UConn, posting a 3-0-1 record.
“I think we’re deeper in [goaltending] than we were last year,” Marshall said. “[Imbriano and Carey] are constantly competitive with each other in a positive way.”
The road to the end of the season, though, surely is no cakewalk for UConn. The Huskies face first-place Mercyhurst three times in 14 days, starting with this Friday night in Storrs. Road games against red-hot Canisius and AIC along with one more home game with Quinnipiac will make the month of February a challenge for UConn. Marshall is cautiously optimistic, though, about his team’s chances.
“I look at [each week] as [a chance] to go anywhere from third to seventh if you don’t get any points,” Marshall said. “But [our current position in third place] is a good position to be in because if you split, everyone has to sweep to gain ground.”
For now, though, Marshall and UConn are content to concentrate on the next challenge, that being Mercyhurst on Friday.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Co-Players of the Week:
MARTIN PAQUET, SACRED HEART / K.C. FINNEGAN, ARMY So., F, St. Catherine, PQ / Sr., F, West St. Paul, MN
Paquet recorded five points on three goals and two assists in victories over Bentley and Army. He scored two goals and added an assist in the 7-3 win over Bentley. In the 5-2 win over Army, he tallied a goal and an assist. Finnegan scored the game-winning goal with 8.6 seconds left in overtime in the 2-1 win over Quinnipiac. He scored two goals, including one shorthanded, in the 4-3 win over Canisius.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week:
BEN BRADY, IONA Sr., G, Anchorage, AK
Brady played his best hockey of the season in a 4-2 win over Mercyhurst and a 3-3 tie with Canisius. Against Mercyhurst, he made 38 saves, including all 17 shots he faced in the third period. He stopped 28 of 31 shots in the tie with Canisius. He is now 6-1-1 in the MAAC with a .911 save percentage and a 2.94 goals against average.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week:
JASON CAREY, UCONN Fr., G, Oakdale, MN
Carey had two strong performances in a 3-3 tie against Bentley and a 4-2 win over Quinnipiac. He played all 65 minutes and stopped 33 shots against Canisius. In the victory over Quinnipiac, he warded off 27 of 29 shots.
Fairfield, Army Put on Thin Ice
For the third time this season, the MAAC was forced to postpone a league game when Tuesday’s contest at Fairfield between the Stags and Army could not be played. The previous two cancellations this season happened when Mercyhurst’s flights out of Erie, Pa., were cancelled due to inclement weather. But Tuesday night’s problems were a little bit different.
The ice at the Wonderland of Ice rink, a public skating rink in Bridgeport and the home rink of the Stags, was deemed unplayable. The reason: a faulty Zamboni. According to league officials, postponing the game was the best alternative because of the close geographic proximity.
The problem, though, begs the question that many around college hockey already ask. Will the facilities in the MAAC ever improve?
According to the league, the answer is yes. Though no sanctions have been put in place to force schools to play in Division I quality buildings, most schools in the MAAC are trying to either obtain new facilities or make renovations to existing ones.
The problem, of course, is cost. The MAAC is considered a “cost-containment” league. In other words, all aspects of the league, from travel to scholarships to facilities, are designed for schools that currently do not have the budget to operate similar to an established Division I school like Boston College or Michigan State.
But as the league attempts to become one of the big dogs, including receiving this season an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, one has to hope that the bid won’t be taken for granted. The MAAC and college hockey, in general, has to hope that teams in the league don’t simply rest on the fact that an automatic bid is awarded — rather, that the MAAC representative can be competitive in the tournament.
A lot of that competitiveness will rest of the success of recruiting throughout the league. And, as most know, a major factor in recruiting is facilities.
One league representative, though, says it’s a lot more.
“It’s more than just the building. [Students] want good campus life, good education, an overall better situation.”
Maybe so, and maybe facility improvements are expensive, but schools around the country are improving in this department. Hopefully the MAAC won’t get caught watching.
Breaking the Ties
With the middle of the pack in the MAAC standings looking tighter than a New York subway at rush hour, it’s time to visit how the MAAC tiebreaker will decide who finishes where.
Specifically, the MAAC has put into place a new tiebreaker. Unlike past years, when the top criterion in breaking a tie was league wins, this year, the (more sensible) top criterion will be head-to-head record.
This year’s criteria will be:
1. Head-to-head record
2. Most league wins
3. Record against top seed (if a tie for first, top remaining seed)
4. Coin toss
One note: if the playoffs began today, Quinnipiac, which is currently in a tie for fourth place with Canisius, would travel to Buffalo. Canisius holds the head-to-head lead, 1-0, with two games left. The first of those two games is this Friday at Quinnipiac.
Around the League
The Yellow Jackets defeated Quinnipiac, 4-3, on Friday night… American International hosts Holy Cross at 7:00 Friday night and plays at Bentley at 7:30 Saturday night… The Yellow Jackets netted three goals in the third period to complete the comeback win… Sophomore Andy Luhovy netted the game-winner with only 1:27 remaining in regulation. Luhovy also assisted on the game-tying goal earlier in the period. The forward now has 15 points on the season… Sophomore Alex Walsh netted two goals in the Yellow Jackets victory. Walsh has been an offensive terror with eight goals, including one assist, in only six games played. With his second goal of the night on Friday, he became the team leading goal scorer… Senior goalie Chance Thede played tough all night between the pipes for the Yellow Jackets. The captain stopped 40 shots in the win over the Braves.
The Black Knights upset Quinnipiac, 2-1 in overtime, on Tuesday night, defeated Canisius, 4-3, on Friday night and lost to Sacred Heart, 5-2, on Saturday night… Army’s Tuesday night against Fairfield was postponed until February 20 because of poor ice conditions. They will travel to Bentley on Friday and entertain Iona at 7:00 Saturday night… Senior forward K.C. Finnegan, the ITECH/MAAC Co-Player of the Week, scored the game-winner with 8.6 seconds left in overtime in the win over Quinnipiac. He scored two goals, including one shorthanded, in the win over Canisius… Junior Tim Fisher scored goals against Quinnipiac and Canisius and had an assist against Sacred Heart, extending his point-scoring streak to six games, the longest of his career and the longest by an Army player this season. He has eight points during the streak… Army’s 2-1 overtime win over Quinnipiac was its first OT victory in more than two years. The last was a 5-4 sudden-death win over SUNY Brockport on Jan. 15, 1999. No current Army player had ever scored in OT until K.C. Finnegan’s goal… A sellout crowd of 2,809 watched the Army-Sacred Heart game Saturday night at Tate Rink. The attendance was a MAAC on-campus record for a regular season game.
The Falcons tied Connecticut, 3-3, on Tuesday night and lost to Sacred Heart, 7-3, on Friday night and 4-2 to Fairfield on Saturday night… Bentley battles Army at 7:30 Friday night and American International at 7:30 Saturday night. Both games are at home for the Falcons… Freshman Joe Lovell chalked up four assists in three games last week. Lovell had two assists against Connecticut and two helpers in the loss to Fairfield. Lovell now has 11 points on the season for the Falcons, ranking him fourth on the team and tops among Bentley rookies… Bentley earned its first point at home this season with last Tuesday’s 3-3 tie against Connecticut. Freshman Mike Mulligan had two goals for the Falcons… Senior Ray DeVincent continues to play well in goal. In his last five games, DeVincent is 2-2-1 and has allowed 15 goals, lowering his goals against average to 4.85 this season. DeVincent made 27 stops on Saturday against Fairfield, four days after making 35 saves in a 3-3 tie with Connecticut.
The Ice Griffs lost a road game at Army, 4-3, on Friday night and tied Iona, 3-3, on Saturday… Canisius has road games at Quinnipiac Friday night at 7:00 and at Connecticut 7:30 Saturday night… Canisius had their five-game winning streak snapped by Army in a 4-3 loss at Tate Rink at West Point… Junior forward Brad Kenny scored the game-tying goal with 1:10 remaining in the third period as the Ice Griffs tied Iona 3-3 in New Rochelle. Senior goalie Stephen Fabiilli stopped 40 shots for the Ice Griffs… The Ice Griffs defeated Quinnipiac, 4-2, on January 16 in Buffalo and dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Connecticut on November 4 in Storrs, CT… Senior forward Todd Bisson notched a goal and an assist on the weekend to move to a tie for 4th place in the MAAC with 25 points … Junior forward Chris Duggan is tied for 4th in assists with 16.
The Huskies tied Bentley, 3-3, on Tuesday night and defeated Quinnipiac, 4-2, on Saturday night… Connecticut entertains Mercyhurst at 7:30 Friday night and Canisius at 7:30 Saturday night… Senior forward Michael Goldkind tallied three points in UConn’s 1-0-1 week. Goldkind’s game-tying tally came with 9:00 remaining in regulation in UConn’s come-from-behind rally against Bentley on Tuesday. He also was credited with an assist on the game’s second goal, also scored in the third period. With the two-points, Goldkind hit the 100-point mark in his career in points scored. In UConn’s defeat of Quinnpiac, Goldkind assisted on a power play tally late in the second period to give UConn the 2-1 lead… Freshman goalie Jason Carey, the ITECH/MAAC Rookie of the Week, had two strong outings in net for UConn this week. Carey’s performance in UConn’s come-from-behind tie against Bentley was solid. He recorded 65:00 in net, stopping 33 shots on goal. Against Quinnipiac, Carey warded off 27 shots. His record is 4-3-1 overall and has made 10 appearances in goal so far this season.
The Stags lost to Holy Cross, 6-5, on Friday night and beat Bentley, 4-2, on Saturday night… Fairfield’s Tuesday night contest vs. Army was postponed due to poor ice conditions at Fairfield’s rink. They play at Sacred Heart at 7:00 Friday night… Freshman Hunter Greeley recorded a goal and an assist in the loss to Holy Cross, and on Saturday netted pair of goals, including the game-tying tally in the win over Bentley. He currently ranks eighth in team scoring with seven points . All but one of Greeley’s seven points have come after the Christmas break… Dan Cotter, Bernie Gately, Tim Desmarais, and Jim Lubinski all recorded goals in the 6-5 loss to Holy Cross. Freshman goalie Bill Whitfield made 32 saves in just his fourth start of the season… Aaron Cardinal and Jim Lubinski each added tallies in the 4-2 win over Bentley. Freshman Craig Schnappinger was back in net for Fairfield and made 15 saves in the effort. His record now stands at 6-7-1 overall and 6-5-1 in the MAAC.
The Crusaders beat Fairfield, 6-5, on Friday and lost, 4-3, to Mercyhurst on Saturday… Holy Cross goes on the road to battle American International at 7:00 Friday night and Sacred Heart at 5:00 on Saturday… Junior forward Pat Rissmiller had five points in the two games. He scored the game-winner and added two assists in the win over Fairfield and tallied a goal and an assist against Mercyhurst. The junior leads the team with 10 goals and is third in the MAAC in overall power play points … The Crusaders scored four third period goals, including three in a 42-second span, to defeat Fairfield… The loss to Mercyhurst on Saturday night snapped a five-game home winning streak for the Crusaders… Freshman goaltender Rick Massey made a career-high 42 saves in net for the Crusaders against Mercyhurst, including 18 in the second period… Friday night’s 6-5 win over Fairfield gave Holy Cross their season high in goals, assists, and points, and tied their season high in power-play goals … The Crusaders had a season-high five players tally multiple point nights against Fairfield.
The Gaels won a home game against Mercyhurst, 4-2, on Friday night and tied Canisius, 3-3, on Saturday… Iona plays at Army at 7:00 Saturday night in their only game next week… Senior goalie Ben Brady, the ITECH/MAAC Goalie of the Week, made 38 saves, including all 17 shots in the third period, in the win over Mercyhurst and stopped 27 shots in the 3-3 tie with Canisius… The Gaels 4-2 win over the Lakers was their first in six tries… Iona defeated Army, 6-3, on October 20 and the series is deadlocked at 2-2-1. Iona’s four goals against Mercyhurst were the most the Lakers have allowed against a MAAC opponent this year… Iona is 6-0-1 in their last seven conference games… Sophomore Mark Hallam scored the Gaels eighth shorthanded goal of the season versus Canisius… The 71 penalty minutes versus the Ice Griffs was a season high for the Gaels… Iona is 8-8-2 when the score first and 9-1-1 when leading after two periods.
The Lakers lost at Iona, 4-2, on Friday night and beat Holy Cross, 4-3, on Saturday night… Mercyhurst has road games at Connecticut at 7:30 Friday night and at Quinnipiac at 7:00 Saturday night… Freshman Adam Tackaberry leads the team in scoring with 26 points . The 11 goals tie him for first on the team… Mercyhurst’s 4-2 loss to Iona was the first ever against the Gaels . Iona was 0-for-2 on the power play against Mercyhurst and now have not scored a power-play goal against the Lakers in 16 opportunities lifetime. It marked the first loss for Mercyhurst in conference when tied after two periods… The Lakers are now 6-1 lifetime against Holy Cross. Senior Jeff Gould’s two assists in the game give him 12 against the Crusaders in six career games. Junior Tom McMonagle’s two goals give him seven in six career games against Holy Cross… Mercyhurst has now allowed more than two goals in just three conference games this season. They are 1-2 in those games.
The Braves lost to Army, 2-1 in overtime, on Tuesday night, 4-3 to American International on Friday night, and 4-2 to Connecticut on Saturday night… Quinnipiac entertains Canisius at 7:00 Friday night and Mercyhurst at 7:00 Saturday night… Freshman goalie Justin Eddy was consistent in goal for the Braves. In two losses, Eddy make 78 saves for a .928 save percentage while allowing just six goals. For the season, Eddy is 6-7-2 but has a 2.96 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He has recorded 30 or more saves eight times this season… The Braves have lost three straight games for the first time since the 1995-96 season. It is the Braves’ longest losing streak since they dropped five straight in the 1995-96 season. Quinnipiac recorded just five regular-season losses in its first two years in the MAAC Hockey League but already has six losses in 2000-2001… Quinnipiac is 8-3 at home so far this season but have lost three straight games at home for the first time… Quinnipiac had a season-low two penalty minutes in Friday’s loss to AIC… The Braves have just seven games with 12 or less minutes in penalties this season. They are 4-3 in those games.
The Pioneers defeated Bentley, 7-3, Friday night and Army, 5-2, Saturday night… Sacred Heart hosts Fairfield at 7:00 Friday night and Holy Cross at 5:00 on Saturday… Sophomore Martin Paquet, the ITECH/MAAC Co-Player of the Week, recorded five points on three goals and two assists. He scored two goals and tallied an assist in the win over Bentley. In the victory over Army, he scored a goal and added an assist… The Army game was the 200th game in the seven-year history of the program. The Pioneers are 85-109-9 in that time. It was also Head Coach Shaun Hannah’s 60th win with the Pioneers. He has a 60-69-7 record in five seasons at Sacred Heart… The Sacred Heart special teams have been active this season. The Pioneers have scored 18 power-play goals in 93 chances and have killed off 112-of-131 power plays… Senior Eric Drake passed Jim Heffernan for third place on the all-time career list for assists. Drake has 38 assists in his four-year career. He is also six games away from breaking Paul Adimando’s 108 career games played record.