Youth Between The Pipes
It hasn’t taken long for the youth movement in the MAAC to once again make its statement. From the inception of the league four years ago, young players have been major contributors, as each year, thanks to added recruiting dollars and higher credibility, the league continues to attract better players.
Even in year four, when all four classes playing in the league were recruited as Division I players, the youth movement continues. This time, though, it is most obvious in the last line of defense — goaltending.
A quick look at the overall statistics in the MAAC reveals this to be true. Of the top five goaltenders in goals against and save percentage, four in each category are freshmen and sophomores. The only upperclassmen breaking through are Mercyhurst’s Peter Aubry in goals against and Holy Cross’ Derek Cunha in save percentage.
So who are these top tenders and how much impact can they have? Let’s attempt to break it down.
Scott Galenza, Iona
Frank Bretti’s Iona team has always been known for offense. Since the league’s first year, when Ryan Carter made a name for himself by giving definition to the league’s record book, the Gaels have been a dangerous offensive weapon.
Last season, though, behind a commitment to team defense and solid goaltending from then-sophomore Mike Fraser and senior Ben Brady, Iona finished in the top five in scoring defense. Brady’s departure, though, left a question mark whether Fraser, a goaltender who has had both hot and cold times, could keep the defense going.
Enter Scott Galenza. A 21-year-old rookie from Camrose, Alta., Galenza was the talk of Bretti’s preseason before he stepped onto the ice. Now, six games in, Galenza has begun to make his mark.
It began in the season opener, when the rookie stopped 27 shots to knock off perennial powerhouse Quinnipiac, 3-1. Welcome to the MAAC.
After a tie against Connecticut, Galenza returned to winning form, this time stopping 37 shots to once again beat Quinnipiac.
Galenza has since gotten both starts, making 26 saves in a 4-2 win versus Army last Friday, then dropping his first game the next night in a 4-1 loss at Colgate.
Galenza enters this weekend fourth in save percentage with .918 and third in goals against at 2.56. More important, his Iona team is in uncharted waters — at the top of the team defense category, averaging 2.67 goals against per game.
Artie Imbriano, Connecticut
Last season, Bruce Marshall faced a serious problem. Sitting in the throne as reigning MAAC champion, Marshall was missing a key element to that title team of 2000 — goaltender Mike Senerchia. Returning as the only experienced goaltender was John Chain, a true backup goaltender to Senerchia, career ice time to that point was minimal.
The first weekend of the season, Chain got routed in a 6-1 loss to UMass-Lowell. The following weekend, staying in Hockey East country, Chain looked less-than-impressive, giving up six goals in the first 41 minutes against Merrimack in the first game of a two-game series.
After the sixth goal that night, Marshall decided to try his luck. He pulled Chain in favor of Artie Imbriano, a rookie from nearby Stoneham, Mass. In the final 18-plus minutes of work, Imbriano saw 11 shots, many of high quality. And without time to be nervous about his first college game, the rookie stopped all 11.
What that earned him was a start again the next night in front of his hometown fans. Imbriano saw 39 shots that night. He stopped 36 of them. Yet still, his team came up a goal short, falling 4-2 after Merrimack scored an empty-net goal late.
At that point, Marshall knew one thing — his goaltending woes, at least, had gotten better.
Imbriano finished his rookie season with the only goalie on the UConn roster with a plus-.500 record (7-6-3).
This season, Imbriano has only made two starts, though he also played once in relief. Having allowed only four goals in nearly 140 minutes of play, Imbriano leads the MAAC with a 1.72 goals against average. His .935 save percentage is also tops in the league.
All of this translates to one thing — UConn may not yet be ready for a return to victory lane, but the Huskies certainly have a goaltender who can compete enough to get them there.
Jamie Holden, Quinnipiac
What happened to Marshall at UConn last year could have happened to Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold this year. With the departure of the winningest goaltender in school history in J.C. Wells, the Braves might have been in a desperate situation were it not for the arrival of rookie Justin Eddy last year.
Nonetheless, Pecknold still knew there was a need to replace Wells this season. And so, Pecknold looked west — way west — to British Columbia to find Jamie Holden. Less than one month into the season, Holden has made an impact.
“He’s a great competitor and has great work ethic,” said Pecknold of the goaltender he considered one of the most competitive in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League last year. “He had about 10 or 11 schools on him last year. We were fortunate to be able to sign him.”
Holden has made three starts for the Braves, and was called to relieve Eddy last Friday night against Fairfield. Though he collected a no-decision that night, he’s a perfect 3-0-0, standing second only to Imbriano in save percentage (.927) and goals against average (1.90).
The rookie’s performance couldn’t come at a better time, as Eddy has struggled out of the gate this season. His numbers are borderline opposite to Holden’s, with an .878 save percentage and a 3.15 goals against average.
Notable, though, is that if Eddy gets back on track, the combination of the two could be one of the best goaltending tandems in the country.
Frank Novello, American International
Yet another coach who faced the challenge of replacing a top goaltender this season was AIC’s Gary Wright. The departure of top netminder Chance Thede a year ago left Wright empty between the posts.
Wright found two goaltenders of opposite proportion to fill the openings. Six-foot-two Chad Davis from Allen Park, Mich., was one. Standing five inches shorter was Canadian prospect Frank Novello, from just north of Michigan’s U.P. in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
It didn’t take much time at all for Novello to make his statement. Playing in his first collegiate game against Fairfield at the Q-Cup tournament in Hamden, Conn., Novello made 57 saves. His performance won the game for AIC, as they held on for a 3-2 victory.
Since then, Novello’s won-loss fortune hasn’t been good, but his save totals still impressive. Sporting a defense that he could probably sue for lack of support, Novello posted another 57 save performance, this time losing 5-2 to Connecticut. Add that with 48 saves in an OT loss to Bentley, and 21 saves in just over half a game of relief last weekend at Army, and you’ll find Novello’s name near the top of the save percentage list. He has totaled 213 saves in less than five full games of work, placing him third behind Imbriano and Holden with a .926 save percentage.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Kurt Kamienski, UConn Jr., Forward, Pittsfield, Mass.
Kamienski netted a hat trick and added two assists in UConn’s 5-2 win over AIC on Friday. He had a part in every Husky point scored, assisting on the game-winner and scoring a power-play goal. He now leads the team in goals with three and with six points total on the season. The hat trick marks the second of his career at Connecticut.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Sean Weaver, Canisius Sr., Scarborough, Ont.
Weaver had a strong weekend in goal for the Griffs, playing in all 125 minutes for them. The senior was 1-0-1 on the weekend and had 42 saves and a 2.40 GAA. Against Bentley on Friday night he stopped 19 of 21 shots, in a game that Canisius won 9-2. Weaver turned away 23 shots to preserve a 3-3 tie against Holy Cross on Saturday night.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: Lyon Porter, Fairfield Fr., Forward, Shaker Heights, Ohio
The rookie forward notched his first career goal against Quinnipiac on Friday night. The third-period goal was the game-winner in Fairfield’s 5-3 victory against the Braves. Porter has a goal and an assist on the season for the Stags.
Tip Of The Fedora Up North
It may seem like just yesterday that Brian Cavanaugh began his college coaching career. But now, 22 seasons after beginning the journey at Canisius, Cavanaugh has reached a milestone few have accomplished. By virtue of Canisius’ 9-2 win over Bentley last Friday night, Cavanaugh reached the 300-win plateau.
“It’s an honor I share with all of my assistant coaches, who have all been volunteers and part time,” said Cavanaugh.
Interestingly, all of those wins have come at Canisius. That places Cavanaugh in an elite group of active coaches. Only three others — Boston University’s Jack Parker, Michigan’s Red Berenson, and St. Lawrence’s Joe Marsh — have reached 300 wins and remained at one school for their entire career.
“I think I’m more proud of the fact I’m closing in on 600 games at one school,” said Cavanaugh. “Being mentioned with Parker, Berenson and Marsh, puts me in pretty good company. I’m honored to be listed among those three legends.”
Cavanaugh wasn’t the only Golden Griffin to reach a career milestone last weekend. Senior forward David Deeves, in notching a five-assist weekend, was able to reach the 100-point plateau for his career. In 105 games played, Deeves has scored 43 goals and added 57 assists for an even 100. This season, Deeves has become the playmaker — all 10 of his points are assists.
“David’s a special student-athlete,” said Cavanaugh of the senior who is in school not on an athletic scholarship, but on academic and need-based money. “He’s probably a player who slipped through the [recruiting] ranks. He put up good numbers in junior hockey and we were really fortunate to be able to recruit him at Canisius. He provides an awful lot for our young students to look up to.”
Hockey East and the WCHA aren’t the only leagues moving officials around these days. The MAAC has also decided to get into the act, sending one of its referees to the ECAC last weekend.
Peter Torgerson led a crew that officiated the Iona-Colgate game in upstate New York last week. According to Bob Russell, supervisor of officials for the league, ECAC and Hockey East referee Scott Hansen will complete the swap on December 8, when he and ECAC assistant referees Kevin Redding and Keith Savoie officiate the Army-Air Force game at West Point.
Hansen, who has also been selected as a referee for the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, works both in the ECAC and Hockey East, and was most recently seen at Boston University last Sunday night when he worked the Fox TV game between the Terriers and the University of New Hampshire.
Crusaders, Gaels Square Off Twice
Excitement will be high this weekend for both Holy Cross and Iona as they match up in a home-and-home series that could be the most defining of the season at this early juncture.
The Crusaders have come out of the gate flying with a 1-0-2 record in league play and a 2-1-2 record overall. Last weekend they laid their first claim to legitimacy traveling to Mercyhurst and Canisius and recording ties in both games.
This weekend, though, may be the biggest test for the Crusaders. With Iona making its own early statement for top team in the league, Holy Cross may have its hands full with the league’s best defense and third-best offense.
The Crusaders, though, aren’t too shabby in their own right. The Holy Cross offense, led by the MAAC’s top scorer Greg Kealey (6-5-11), actually sits ahead of Iona averaging 4.40 goals per game.
Holy Cross’ goaltending woes of a year ago also may be seeming to subside. Senior Derek Cunha sports a 2-0-1 record, including a relief win earlier in the year at Air Force, where he made 36 saves in a 7-6 victory. And sophomore Ricky Massey, though still winless, played well in a 3-3 tie against Canisius last Saturday.
“I feel like we have two number-one goaltenders,” said Pearl, who will start Cunha in the opening game of the series on Friday night and will decide afterwards who gets Saturday’s start.
Even though it’s obvious that Pearl and his club are looking forward to the weekend series, he still won’t get too high or too low about these two games.
“It’s really no different than playing anyone else in the league,” said Pearl. “It’s important to us to get better every night.
“Last weekend we made big steps but didn’t play 60 minutes either game. Against Iona, they’re probably the most high-octane offense in the league so we’re going to have to play great defense against them.”
As far as the game Pearl would like to play, he said he’d prefer a “normal game.” Normal in comparison to the shootouts that his team has been involved in, such as a 5-5 tie with Mercyhurst and a 7-6 win at Air Force.
All in all, Pearl is hoping for competitive hockey.
“I’m not even thinking about how many points we went to get out of the weekend,” said Pearl. “I just want to have them go out and play well. You’re not going to win the league in November.”