Back To Familiar Territory
It hasn’t taken long for Mercyhurst to return to ground familiar to its feet. It’s not yet Thanksgiving and the Lakers, still undefeated in MAAC play, have climbed to the top of the MAAC thanks to a sweep last weekend of Army, coupled with Iona’s first league loss of the year, to Holy Cross.
Now, the critical thing is staying at the top. Currently tied with the Gaels, Mercyhurst will play only one game this weekend, a nonleague contest against RPI. The Lakers have not exactly found riches in nonleague play: a perfect 0-3 to date.
“There’s only going to be two or three or four points to separate the top teams, so at this point to be tied for first is nice,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “But they don’t give out the MAAC championship on November 15.
“Points are points. It doesn’t matter who you get them against. Obviously we just try to win as many games as we can. We have a great deal of respect for the teams that comprise our conference.”
Iona, on the other hand, has one league contest this weekend as the Gaels complete the season series with Quinnipiac. Iona won the first two games against the Braves in the first month of the season.
The cast of characters, for the most part, are the usual for Mercyhurst. Louis Goulet and Adam Tackaberry are the top two scorers on the club, each amassing 10 points in league play. And senior netminder Peter Aubry has been solid, winning four of the five MAAC games for Mercyhurst while collecting the lone tie as well.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Branden Doria, Holy Cross Jr., F, Bayonne, NJ
Doria netted a hat trick and assisted on another Crusader goal in Friday’s 5-2 victory over first-place Iona. With the victory Holy Cross remained undefeated 2-0-2 in league play. Doria’s second goal of the night was the game-winner. Doria also dished out an assist in Saturday’s rematch with Iona in New Rochelle, bringing his weekend point total to five. With 12 points on the season, he is now tied for the team lead with Greg Kealey.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Eddy Ferhi, Sacred Heart Jr., Goalie, Charenton, France
Ferhi recorded 37 saves while allowing only one goal in a 4-2 win over Fairfield, and also held his ground on a rarely-seen penalty shot late in the second period with the teams tied at one. Against Maine on Sunday, Ferhi stopped 47 of 51 shots, including five in overtime, to lead the Pioneers to a 4-4 tie. His save percentage for the week was .944.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: Frank Novello, American International Fr., Goalie, Sault Ste. Marie, ONT
Novello made 89 saves in lifting the Yellow Jackets to two road wins over Fairfield; he turned away 49 saves on Friday night to record his first career shutout and followed with a 40-save effort on Saturday. Novello is now 3-3-1 on the year with a .941 save percentage.
Though early in the season, the Sacred Heart team picked fourth in the coaches’ preseason poll has seen a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
After opening the season with an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of Providence, the Pioneers’ start to the MAAC schedule was less than they might have hoped. The Heart dropped two of its first three league games, including a frustrating loss to Mercyhurst fueled by bad penalties late in the game.
But if the early season has been a rollercoaster, this weekend past is certainly the top of the hill. After a Tuesday win at home against Fairfield, the Pioneers traveled to Maine last Sunday to face a Black Bears squad that has looked impressive early in the season.
With spanking written all over this matchup, the Pioneers walked into tradition-steeped Alfond Arena and stole a 4-4 tie with the two-time national champs.
Sophomore goaltender Eddy Ferhi keyed the victory, stopping 47 shots on the afternoon including 19 in the second period and five in overtime. The Pioneers actually led the game after two periods, 3-2, but surrendered two goals in the first five-and-a-half minute of the third to trail, 4-3.
That was until Lloyd Tennant, who has delivered all of his points in the form of goals this season, scored the tying goal with 4:40 remaining.
Now the challenge for Sacred Heart will be keeping the ball rolling. The Pioneers play three league games in five days, with a home-and-home series with Army this weekend and a Tuesday matchup against AIC. With a 2-2 record in the MAAC, Sacred Heart has two-to-three league games in hand over the top of the league.
If there is any time to make up ground, this is it.
Yellow Jackets Have Fairfield’s Number
AIC coach Gary Wright may petition the MAAC league to schedule Fairfield University for the entire season. With early-season struggles to amass wins, the Yellow Jackets have found the Fairfield opposition kind, taking all three early season matchups between the two clubs.
Included in that was a two-game road sweep of the Stags last weekend that catapulted AIC from the basement to a tie for sixth with Sacred Heart and Bentley.
The fact that AIC has taken three games from Fairfield isn’t that unusual. What is strange is the way each game was won.
In all three contests, Fairfield grossly outshot AIC. But the Yellow Jackets’ last line of defense, Frank Novello, shut down the Stags each game.
The series opener was back on October 19 in the semifinals of the Q-Cup tournament in Hamden, Conn. That night Fairfield registered 59 shots to AIC’s 26, but lost, 3-2, thanks to Novello’s 57-save performance.
Last Friday night, AIC mustered but 13 shots and stuck only one past Fairfield netminder Craig Schnappinger, but still hung on for a 1-0 victory. Novello stopped 49 that night.
Saturday, the shot total was 42-19 in favor of Fairfield, but a 4-2 decision went to AIC yet again.
The brought the series shot total to 150-58 in favor of Fairfield. Total goals, though, favored AIC, 8-4 — not to mention the 3-0 advantage in wins.
“He’s the real deal,” said Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin of Novello. “He’s the goalie to watch out for. He’ll steal a few games here and there.”
Obviously, Fairfield should have talked to Gotkin before the season.
Most of the writing staff of USCHO, as we do each year, will take next Thursday off to celebrate Thanksgiving (and to all Canadian readers — yes, we realize it’s not October).
The regular MAAC column, along with all of the other league coverage, will return the Thursday following, November 29. Happy Thanksgiving to all!