This Week in the MAAC: Oct. 25, 2001

Quinnipiac Repeats At Q-Cup

For the second consecutive year, the Quinnipiac Braves are victors in their own tournament, the Q-Cup. With a 5-2 victory over Bentley in the semi-finals and a 5-1 win over AIC in the finals, the Braves took home the trophy in what some would call a watered-down tournament.

The less-than-first-rate field included the above mentioned along with Fairfield leaving folks to question whether the Braves were simply looking to add hardware to the shelf.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, though, said an easy schedule wasn’t the goal.

“It just depends on the year, and which teams we can get,” Pecknold said. “Last year we had Air Force, and we used to always have Iona. They just couldn’t fit it into their schedules [this year].”

Pecknold actually defended the strength of the teams that did play.

“Fairfield and Bentley were better than they were last year. And AIC was solid — they played us pretty well.”

Probably the highlight of the tournament was the 57-save performance by AIC rookie netminder Frank Novello over Fairfield that led the Yellow Jackets into the title game, 3-2.

Weekly Awards

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Ryan Olson, Quinnipiac Sr., F, Pincher Creek, Alberta

Olson was named MVP of the Quinnipiac Cup for helping Quinnipiac win the championship against AIC 5-1, with a one goal and one assist effort on Saturday night. Olsen scored three goals and one assist on the weekend including the game winner against Bentley on Friday night 5-2, helping his team capture the championship.

Also Nominated: Patrick Tabb (AIC), Greg Kealey (Holy Cross), Kelly Bararuk (Iona), Ron D’Angelo (UConn), Chris Duggan (Canisius)

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Frank Novello, American International Fr., G, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Novello had an outstanding game in AIC’s first win of the season against Fairfield, 3-2, in the opening round of the Quinnipiac Cup. The freshman goaltender had 57 saves and only let in 2 goals in AIC’s 3-2 victory. Frank was named to the All-Tournament team after his team had lost to Quinnipiac 5-1 in the championship game in which he had stopped 30 shots.

Also Nominated: Scott Galenza (Iona)

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: Andrew McKay, Holy Cross Fr, F, Bellefeuville, QUE

McKay scored a goal in each of the Crusader’s games this weekend against Air Force. He scored his first collegiate career goal on a power play in the first period of Friday night’s game. Holy Cross lost to Air Force 4-3 on Friday night, but bounced back on Saturday night beating the Falcons 7-6.

Also Nominated: Brent Williams (Iona)

Limited Nonleague Success Is Lone Highlight

The MAAC continued to struggle against out-of-conference opponents last weekend, with losses for Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart among the conference lowlights.

The only silver lining in the nonleague cloud were victories by Canisius and Holy Cross over Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force respectfully. Both team had near sweeps in their two-game series, as both feel by one goal in the Friday night matchups. Holy Cross came back for a 7-6 shootout win on Saturday, which the Griffs blew away UAH, 9-3, in the second game.

Among the nonleague losses was an 0-3 record against Hockey East opponents. Northeastern used three power-play goals to knock off Mercyhurst, despite the excellent play of back-up goaltender Matt Cifelli. Providence routed Sacred Heart, 8-1, scoring eight unanswered goals after Sacred Heart took the early 1-0 lead. And UConn followed-up its impressive tie against Iona on Friday with a 6-0 loss to UMass-Lowell on Saturday.

This week’s only nonleague matchup is UConn traveling to Bemidji State. The next major contest to watch is Iona traveling to Colgate one week later.

Major Blunder For Bentley

Since joining the MAAC three years ago, things haven’t exactly gone Bentley’s way. Struggling to qualify for the playoff in season one, the Falcons didn’t even come close last season, finishing in last place in the 11-team league.

This past weekend, the Falcons finished last in the Q-Cup, this year comprised of all MAAC members, with Fairfield and AIC joining Bentley and Quinnipiac. The only good news for Jim McAdam’s squad was that the games didn’t count in the MAAC schedule.

After losing on Friday night, 5-2, to host Quinnipiac, the Falcons looked to be head to victory on Saturday. Leading 5-2 against Fairfield in the consolation game, Bentley’s Andy Peters took one penalty he’ll probably never forget. Peters was called for hitting from behind, issued a five-minute major and also given a game disqualification.

With Bentley skating a man down, Fairfield ripped off four — count ’em, four — power-play goals to take a 6-5 lead that they would hold on to in victory. The four tallies brought the game total for PP goals to six for Fairfield. The Stags went six-for-nine with the man advantage, one night after going zero-for-five against AIC in defeat.

“Our conditioning level is one of our strongest suits,” said Fairfield coach Jim Hunt. “So with the penalty coming late in the game, our legs were fresh.

“We had some many power plays over the weekend, and we were just trying to throw it to the net. We did that early in the five-minute major and it worked, and we gained a spark.”

And as they say, the rest is history.

Bruises For Stags

The five-minute major that sparked the rally for Fairfield Saturday also added to the list of injuries that the Stags suffered over the weekend.

To put it mildly, the improved depth of the Stags is being tested early in the season. Four Fairfield players ended up in the hospital after hits that Hunt thought warranted punishment.

When asked about the major assessed to Bentley, Hunt said: “It was a long-overdue call over the course of the weekend. We had four guys hospitalized over the weekend and things were getting out of control.”

The Stags’ injuries included concussions to Ryan Tormey and Tom Palladino, a broken shoulder for Vin Tampone and a broken wrist for Peter Hams. Tormey returned this season after suffering from a concussion much of last year. He and Palladino are expected to play this weekend.

Stirring The Pot

I’ll tell you that when I sat down to write last week’s column about the MAAC increasing its scholarship limit, that never did I think that it would create such conversation among MAAC fans.

Certainly, it’s safe to say that the fans of the MAAC believe strongly in their product and the success. Most of those very fans realize that an increase in the scholarship limit would automatically add another step of legitimacy to the league provided that the member institutions can afford the financial commitment that accompanies.

In the same breath, I will say that the coaches that have addressed this issue with me and other media are all supportive. Does that mean that every coach supports 18 scholarships? No. But those who have been vocal about this certainly believe in the need to become competitive with more established programs in the NCAA, and that will be best addressed with an increase in scholarship revenues.

One fan on the USCHO message board noted that talk of this increase, particularly by Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin, came as a result of the MAAC’s near-upset in the NCAA tournament last year. I have to say that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Most coaches have been pressing to see additional scholarship funds since nonleague competition began two years ago. It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to figure out that it is difficult to compete with powerhouse programs without this funding. What the MAAC has accomplished, in my mind, is incredible.

One promise — we’ll continue to monitor this situation and report as time goes on.

Mea Culpa

Mixed with all the fan mail that I obtained this past week, were plenty of emails from the Army contingent regarding a grave mistake on my part in last week’s column. It seems that in discussing facilities of the member schools, I overlooked the Black Knights’ gem of a building, Tate Rink. Probably the biggest sin seeing that Army, by far, has the nicest on-campus rink, seating more than 2,000 spectators with a full-sized lobby and locker room facilities missing from most other MAAC rinks.

So as promised to all those who wrote, I apologize to the Army family for forgetting!

Early Rematch Highlights Week

Probably the marquee matchup in the MAAC this week is the early-season rematch of Quinnipiac and Iona. The two teams opened the MAAC season for the fourth year in a row on October 12, with a 3-1 Iona victory that night.

This time, though, the setting has changed. A raucous Quinnipiac environment will greet the Gaels, looking to stay undefeated in MAAC play.

“We were packed on both Friday and Saturday, which was nice,” said Pecknold in reference to the Q-Cup, held in Northford, Conn., last weekend. They expect another sellout this Saturday.

Both teams will play the night before, making fatigue a bit of an early-season issue. Quinnipiac travels to Army, while Iona is home against AIC.

According to Pecknold, fatigue shouldn’t be a factor, but it may not mix well with inexperience.

“Iona has to play Friday night as well, but they’re at home and have to travel [to Quinnipiac on Saturday] too,” Pecknold said. “[Fatigue is] only a factor because there are so many freshmen in the lineup and they have to get used to it.”

Remembering the first game between the clubs, Pecknold noted that the 3-1 loss was probably generous on the scoreboard, feeling his Braves were outplayed that night.

“[Iona] played better than a 2-1 win with an empty-netter,” said Pecknold. “I really think they’re a great team. This is the first time I thought they had a team, not just a few kids to carry the mail. And it shows. [They had us] running around like chickens with our heads cut off.”

With the traditional rivalry moving to Connecticut, look for an early-season war to develop.