Home Sweet Home (Ice)
Geographically, the MAAC is a strange league. The 11 coaches certainly recognize this, but how often do we, the outsiders, take note?
Nine teams in the MAAC are within a (relatively) short drive of one another. Even for Bentley, the league’s easternmost team, to get to Army and Iona, the league’s two southernmost teams, on a bad day should take about little over three hours. Teams like Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and Fairfield have six or seven teams within 90 minutes to two hours.
But then there are the two teams that may as well be located in a different country — Mercyhurst and Canisius. Relative to one another, Mercyhurst, in Erie, Pa., and Canisius, in Buffalo, N.Y., are virtually next-door neighbors. But relative to the rest of the league, these two schools might as well be in Canada.
Each of the two must make at least an eight-hour bus ride to play anywhere else in the conference. Travel is so long that the Mercyhurst athletic administration now allows the team to fly — yes, that’s right fly — to most road games in the MAAC so that the players do not miss classes on Thursday.
So with the first round of the playoffs only two weeks away, there’s no doubt that one thing goes through the mind of Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin and Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh — home ice.
Even though Mercyhurst has had a bit of a skid lately, going 4-4 in its last eight league games, the fast start for the Lakers this season has already clinched them home ice for the first round.
Canisius, though, is another story. The Griffs have rallied since Christmas break, posting an 8-3-1 record in MAAC play and moving from out of playoff contention to now holding a one-game lead over Connecticut for the final home-ice position.
Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall pointed out that, though the Griffs would love to stay home, the road might not be too bad for them.
“There are two philosophies, I think [about going on the road],” said Marshall. “First off, they do it every other weekend or so, so they’re used to it. But, in the season you have two games in each weekend. They always have the second game to salvage a win. In the playoffs you only have one chance to shake off those bus legs.”
On the other side of the coin, teams like Connecticut, Army, AIC and Sacred Heart all have to think about home ice, with all four still in contention for fourth place. Add to that the fact that none — and I mean none — of those four really wants to travel to Erie or Buffalo. And if Canisius can hold on to fourth, two of those four will head west.
“[When you’re at home] you’re in familiar surroundings and you’re doing things you do day in and day out,” Marshall said. “You’re not sitting around a hotel room, you’re going to classes and there’s a normalcy that you have every day.
“As far as going to Buffalo for us, we’re just coming off a weekend up there. It’s not like it’s been since November or December since we’ve been on the road. So there’s still some familiarity.”
Now, not to be left out in the cold are Holy Cross and Fairfield. They both still have pulses, standing tied for ninth place, five points out of the eighth and final spot. Which gives AIC and Sacred Heart even more to think about: they stand tied for seventh (and thus eighth) place.
Besides travel hassles, one more reason to want to stay home for the opening round is simply history. Only one club — last year’s Iona team that went to the MAAC finals from the sixth seed — has ever won a road playoff game in the MAAC.
“We’re not an automatic at home yet, but it’s nice to have people come here and generate some excitement,” said Marshall, whose Huskies captured last year’s championship on their home ice. UConn again can do that this year, as host of the final four. “We showed last season we can generate some electricity in the building and that can help us.”
Last year, one might think that Iona had a little bit of motivation to win — the fact that they had to travel all the way to Buffalo last year. After making the nearly nine hour bus trip north, the Gaels knew that they wanted to get something for their troubles.
Motivation or not, there’s no doubt that Canisius, Connecticut, Army, Sacred Heart and AIC would all love to be at home as the MAAC playoffs open on March 9. We’re now down to two weeks to find out who will.
ITECH MAAC Player of the Week
COREY LUCAS, CANISIUS
Jr. F, Scarborough, ON
Lucas recorded three points (2-1-3) in leading Canisius to wins over Quinnipiac and Connecticut and into sole possession of fourth place. The junior scored the game-winning goal at the 18:26 mark of the first period in the win, 5-2, over Quinnipiac and scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in the 2-0 shutout victory over Connecticut.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week
SCOTT HAMILTON, ARMY
Jr. G, Clinton Township, MI
Hamilton went 2-1 over the week and backstopped Army to wins over Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. He made 31 saves and became the first goalie in team and MAAC history to be credited with a goal in the 4-1 defeat of Sacred Heart. He began the week with a 26-save performance in a 4-3 win over Holy Cross. In the three games, he stopped 82 of 90 shots for a .911 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week
ADAM TACKABERRY, MERCYHURST
Fr. F, Nepean, ON
Tackaberry wins the award for his great performance in Mercyhurst’s 6-4 victory over Connecticut. He figured in the Lakers’ first four goals by scoring one and helping on three others. His four-point outing was the second of his career. He now leads the team in scoring with 32 points.
Army’s Chamberlain Makes History
Who said that goalies scoring goals is just for Dominek Hasek and Rick DiPietro?
We’d better add Army goaltender Scott Hamilton to that list.
Or should we?
Hamilton was credited with Army’s fourth goal on Friday night in a 4-1 win over Sacred Heart. Looking at the boxscore, you might think that Hamilton picked up a loose puck with the Sacred Heart goalie pulled, and fired it down the ice into the open net. But that’s far from what happened.
Hamilton actually made a save on an Army shot late in the game. The rebound went to Sacred Heart’s Ricky Naumann, whose centering pass to the defense missed everyone and rolled all the way into the gaping net at the far end. Hamilton was credited with the goal as the last Army player to touch the puck.
So we’ll give Scott the credit he deserves, but won’t chalk him up with “The Rick” just yet.
For those of you interested in some of the deep issues surrounding the MAAC, you may want to check out Dave Hendrickson’s Hockey East column this week. He will be discussing the MAAC autobid and how Hockey East coaches feel, as well as some legislation proposed by the MAAC to shorten the current hockey season.
Around the League
The Yellow Jackets beat Bentley, 6-3, on Saturday night… American International fell, 3-1, to Quinnipiac on Tuesday night. The Yellow Jackets host Connecticut at 7:00 Friday night… Junior captain Olivier Gagnon scored two goals in the win over Bentley. He leads the team with 12 goals and is tied for the team lead with 27 points … Freshman Guillaume Caron netted his 10th goal of the year and added two assists, including one on the game-winning goal, scored by sophomore Andy Luhovy , in the 6-3 defeat of Bentley. Caron is tied with Gagnon for the team lead with 27 points … Luhovy now has 19 points on the season.
The Black Knights defeated Holy Cross, 4-3, Tuesday night, Sacred Heart, 4-1, on Friday night but lost to Fairfield, 4-1, on Saturday night… Army defeated Fairfield, 6-2, on Tuesday night… They travel to Canisius at 7:00 Friday night and Mercyhurst at 7:30 Saturday night… Junior goalie Scott Hamilton , the ITECH/MAAC Goalie of the Week, became the first goalie in team and MAAC history to be credited with a goal. It was scored at the 19:33 mark of the third period. In the three games, he stopped 82 of 90 shots for a .911 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average… Army broke the MAAC on-campus attendance record for the third time this season with a crowd of 2,923 Saturday night. The Black Knights totaled 30,390 fans in 17 home games this season, for an average of 1,788 per night… Senior Mike Fairman was pointless against Sacred Heart and Fairfield. It is only the third time this year he has been held pointless in back to back games and he has never been held pointless in three straight games this year.
The Falcons lost road games at Holy Cross, 6-2, Friday night and at American International, 6-3, on Saturday night which eliminated Bentley from playoff contention…. Bentley has road games at Sacred Heart at 7:00 Friday night and at Fairfield at 8:00 Saturday night… Senior goalie Ray DeVincent eclipsed the 1,000-minute mark for the season against AIC. He’s only 35 minutes away from 10th on the Falcon’s all-time list for minutes played in a season by a goalie. He is 9th all-time on Bentley’s career list for minutes played… Junior Steve Tobio is third in MAAC defenseman scoring with 19 points and is tied for 16th overall in assists… Freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 39 of Bentley’s 64 goals this season . The 1-2 punch of freshmen Joe Lovell and Mike Mulligan have been effective with 16 points each. The tandem is currently tied for ninth in the MAAC in freshmen scoring.
The Ice Griffs won home games against Quinnipiac, 5-2, on Friday night and shutout Connecticut, 2-0, on Saturday night to extend their winning streak to three games and move into sole possession of fourth place… For the second straight year, Canisius upset CHA member Niagara on Tuesday night at the Amherst Pepsi Center, winning, 4-3. The Griffs host Army at 7:00 Friday night and Iona at 2:00 Saturday afternoon… Junior forward Corey Lucas , the ITECH/MAAC Player of the Week, scored the game-winning goals in both games and added an assist in the win over Connecticut. These were the first two games he has played in since injuring his shoulder on December 29 against Alabama-Huntsville… Senior goaltender Stephen Fabiilli made 41 saves in winning both games. He has won three straight games and his 3.03 GAA and .902 save percentage are both good for fifth in the MAAC… Senior Todd Bisson leads the team with 14 goals and 29 points . Junior Chris Duggan has a team-high 17 assists and is second on the team with 26 points .
The Huskies lost to Mercyhurst, 6-4, on Friday night and to Canisius, 2-0, on Saturday night… Connecticut plays at American International at 7:00 Friday night and entertain Quinnipiac at 7:30 Saturday night… Junior defenseman Matt Herhal and freshman forward Matt Owens each registered two assists in the loss to Mercyhurst… Senior forward Michael Goldkind chipped in with a goal and an assist against Mercyhurst.
The Stags lost at Iona, 9-4, on Friday night and won at Army, 4-1, on Saturday night. Fairfield dropped the rematch with Army, 6-2, on Tuesday night… They host Holy Cross at 8:00 Friday night and Bentley at 8:00 Saturday night. Fairfield’s win over Army on Saturday was their first ever victory against the Black Knights. Army leads the all-time series 14-1-1… Sophomore forward Dan Cotter recorded three points in the two losses. He notched a goal and an assist in the loss to Iona and scored the game-winner against Army. He is second on the team with 22 points … Freshman goaltender Craig Schnappinger made 17 saves in the win over Army to improve his record to 7-9-2 overall and 7-7-2 in the MAAC… The Stags finish the regular season with five home games where they are 4-2-2 this season… Fairfield is tied for ninth place with Holy Cross, just four points behind eighth place Army.
The Crusaders lost to Army, 4-3, a week ago Tuesday night and beat Bentley, 6-2, on Friday night… Holy Cross visits Fairfield at 8:00 Friday night and Sacred Heart at 5:00 Saturday night… Sophomore forward Brandon Doria notched his first career hat trick in the win over Bentley. He scored the first two goals for the Crusaders and his third goal gave Holy Cross a 4-1 lead… Freshman Greg Kealey tallied one assist in each game to extend his point scoring streak to five games . He is tied for first on the team with 28 points , which also ranks him second among freshmen in the MAAC… Junior Derek Cunha made 28 saves in the victory over Bentley to pick up his second victory of the year… Junior Pat Rissmiller scored a goal against Army and the game-winner against Bentley. He leads the team with two game-winning goals and is tied with Kealey for first on the team with 28 points .
The Gaels routed Fairfield, 9-4, on Friday night and lost to Sacred Heart, 4-3 in overtime, on Saturday night but clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs… Iona has road games at Mercyhurst at 7:30 Friday night and at Canisius at 2:00 Sunday afternoon… Senior forward Adam Bouchard tallied a MAAC season high six points in the win over Fairfield. The hat trick was the first of his career and he now has over 100 career points. He has 17 points in his last nine games… Freshman forward Tim Krueckl scored a goal and added an assist in the win over the Stags and notched two goals in the overtime loss to Sacred Heart. He stretched his point-scoring streak to 11 games … The Gaels are 15-2-3 in their last 20 home games against MAAC opponents… The victory over Fairfield was the 500th in school history… Sophomore forward Ryan Manitowich recorded five points against Fairfield and has set career highs with 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points .
The Lakers beat Connecticut, 6-4, on Friday night and lost at home to Quinnipiac, 5-3, on Saturday night but clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs… Mercyhurst hosts Iona at 7:30 Friday night with first place on the line and Army at 7:30 Saturday night… The Lakers lead Iona 5-1 in the all-time series but the Gaels won the last meeting, 4-2, on January 26… Freshman forward Peter Rynshoven had two goals and an assist against Connecticut. It was his second three-point game of the season… Defenseman Jody Robinson and forward Brad McDonald each scored their second goal of the season in the win over Connecticut… The Lakers scored four power play goals in the two games but gave up six. Their penalty killing percentage dropped to .887 but their power play percentage climbed to .209… Mercyhurst is now 3-3 in February and have outscored the opposition 24-22.
The Braves were defeated by Canisius, 5-2, on Friday night but defeated Mercyhurst, 5-3, on Saturday night… Quinnipiac eked out a 3-1 victory over American International on 7:00 Tuesday night… The Braves will travel to Connecticut at 7:30 Saturday night… Senior forward Shawn Mansoff tallied three goals and two assists in the two games, including a two goals and one assist in the win over Mercyhurst. He is currently on a six game goal-scoring streak and is second on the team in scoring with 32 points … The Braves victory over Mercyhurst was their first road win since December 3, a 3-2 victory over then #11 ranked Union… Sophomore forward Brian Herbert had four points on the weekend and is third on the team with 29 points . He currently has a seven game point scoring streak … With an assist on Friday against Canisius, senior forward Terry Harris became the 15th player in Quinnipiac history to record 100 points. In 109 career games, he has totaled 101 points … When a Quinnipiac player scores two or more goals in a game this season, the Braves are 12-1-1.
The Pioneers lost at Army, 4-1, on Friday night and won at home against Iona, 4-3 in overtime, on Saturday night… Sacred Heart entertains Bentley at 7:00 Friday night and Holy Cross at 5:00 Saturday night… Junior Lloyd Marks had two goals, including the game-winner 1:40 into overtime, in the victory over Iona. He has 22 points this season. He has 76 career points and needs 12 more points to move into second place on the all-time scoring list. His 40 goals is third on the all-time list… Sophomore goalie Eddy Ferhi made 32 saves, including 10 in the third period, in the win over Iona to earn his seventh win of the season. For the season, he has a 2.46 goals against average and a .927 save percentage with 520 saves… The Pioneers are 3-0-2 in their last five home games and they finish the regular season with four home games… Sacred Heart is 11-1-1 when leading after two periods and 9-3-0 when scoring first.