This Week in the MAAC: January 23, 2003

“Franck”-ly, Mercyhurst has found it’s man in net

While replacing departed goaltender Peter Aubry has challenged the Mercyhurst Lakers all season, it looks as if at the midway point of the year like they’ve taken a major step forward. Despite the fact that returning goaltender Matt Cifelli had looked sharp at times in the year, head coach Rick Gotkin has turned to rookie Andy Franck to backstop the team.

Last weekend, the move paid major dividends as Franck shut down the high-scoring Quinnipiac offense, limiting the Bobcats to just two goals in as many games with a 66-save weekend.

Franck posted a 3-1 victory at home over Connecticut on January 3, ending a six-game winless skid for the Lakers, its longest since becoming a Division I club in 1998-99. Since that game, Gotkin has kept Franck in net and seen results.

“We’ve been waiting for someone to step up and take the bull by the horns,” said Gotkin. “Matt Cifelli has done fine, but Andy Franck has done a little bit better.

“Andy played great last weekend. You don’t beat teams like Quinnipiac without great goaltending. Our guys fed off of him. We did other things well because Andy gave us the confidence in goal.”

In the four victories, Merychurst’s goals against was 1.25, compared to 5.50 during the winless skid (note: Franck was in net for two of those six games).

Franck’s four-game win streak certainly has improved his numbers. In conference play, he is 6-1-0, with a 2.14 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. His overall stats include three losses to established Division I clubs (Lake Superior, Maine and Colorado College), but are still respectable with a 6-4-0 record, a 3.18 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Most importantly for Franck, it appears that he has stepped into the number one goaltending job for the Lakers.

Now Franck’s challenge will be steering the Lakers’ ship into a playoff run, although he lacks post-season experience. Cifelli, though used primarily as a back-up to Aubry before this year, does have a playoff appearance under his belt. He replaced Aubry in his final game last year, a 6-4 loss to Quinnipiac in the MAAC finals. In that game, Cifelli entered with the Lakers trailing 4-0, saw the deficit creep to 5-1 in the third, before Mercyhurst rallied to within a goal only to fall on a late empty-netter. Franck’s inexperience, though, doesn’t concern Gotkin.

“I just go back to the things he’s done in his career. He had great playoff success in the USHL, leading Sioux City to the championship last season,” Gotkin noted. “There’s no reason for us to think he can’t have the same success at our level. He’s played in a lot of big games throughout his career.”

Weekly Awards

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Nolan Brown, Mercyhurst
Senior, D, Climax, Saskatchewan

Brown picked a good weekend to record his first points of the season. He had three assists in the two games and was a combined +4. Brown assisted on the game-winning goal in Friday’s 5-1 win at Quinnipiac and also assisted on Mercyhurst’s final goal Friday. He then assisted on the game-winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory. Brown was part of a defense that limited the high-scoring Bobcats to just two goals for the weekend and held Quinnipiac to just 1-for-13 on the power play. Quinnipiac had won 21 straight at home before this weekend.

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Andy Franck, Mercyhurst
Freshman, G, Lakewood, OH

Franck stopped 66 of 68 Quinnipiac shots as the Lakers swept the first-place Bobcats 5-1 and 2-1 at Northford, CT. He stopped 30 of 31 Friday and 36 of 37 Saturday. Franck has started and won four straight conference games and has allowed only five goals during that stretch. He’s now 6-1 in MAAC play.

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: Paul Markarian, Bentley
Freshman, F, Quincy, MA

In a weekend split for Bentley, Paul Markarian collected two goals and added two assists for the Falcons. In Friday’s game, Markarian scored his seventh goal of the season and added a helper, and followed up the performance with his team-leading eighth goal and one more assist on Saturday to bring his season totals to 8-7-15.

Military Dominance

In a week that featured some of college hockey’s top rivalries across the country, one of the game’s oldest rivalries provided the most history. For the first time in the 100-year history of its program, Army swept the weekend series versus Air Force in Colorado with back-to-back 2-1 victories.

Key to the weekend was the play of goaltender Brad Roberts. Roberts, who earlier this year pioneered one of the league’s biggest upsets when he made 53 saves in a 3-1 victory over then-undefeated Quinnipiac, turned aside 43 shots in the series opener at Air Force and followed that with a 30-save effort in the series finale.

Despite being outshot in the two-game series, 75-49, Roberts’ efforts, combined with the offensive input from senior Nic Serre and sophomores Chris Casey and Chris Garceau, sparked the victories.

Serre was Saturday’s hero scoring in the second period to get Army on the board and then burying the game-winner six minutes into the third before allowing Roberts to carry things from there. In Sunday’s game, each of the sophomore “Chris-es” scored goals as the Black Knights we able to hold on to a 2-1 lead at the end of two as Roberts turned aside all 11 Air Force shots in a period that saw the Falcons outshoot Army, 11-2.

The historic sweep brings to light an Army program that, though steeped in college hockey tradition, has often been forgotten. The Army-Air Force series, a major event on each school’s schedule, pales in comparison for the Black Knights when put into context with Army’s annual meeting of Canada’s Royal Military College.

The Army-RMC series dates back to the early 1920s when General Douglas
MacArthur was superintendent of the Academy. Despite taking years off during
both war and non-war times, the series enters its 72nd edition this February 8 when Army will host the Canadian academy.

Despite RMC’s success in the early going of the series, holding Army winless for the first 16 meetings, the Academy at West Point holds the lead in the all-time series, 36-29-6. Last season, the RMC pulled off what was considered an upset, scoring late in the third to even the score at two before Shannon Goudie netted the overtime game-winner at 1:56.

It was only the second time since 1988 that RMC was victorious, with both wins coming in Army’s last two road games in the series to Kingston, Ont. Some more tidbits of the long-standing rivalry:

  • Each team has had its share of blow aways. RMC posted a healthy 10-spot in
    the second year of the series, winning 10-5. Army scored 11, 10 and 12 goals
    respectively in consecutive home contests in 1977, 1979, and 1981.

  • Only five times has the game gone to overtime (overtime was not used in
    college hockey or this series at times) of the 71. Ironically, the three
    that did not end in ties were decided by 3-2 scores. Even more ironic is
    that of the six ties in the series, four of them were 4-4 scores.
  • Hockey, Buffalo style

    With the Frozen Four making its way to the depths of Buffalo this season, its two host schools – Canisius and Niagara – will give the city a little taste of college hockey rivalry this weekend when the two schools clash in a non-league battle.

    This is the fifth straight year that the two Buffalo-area schools will meet in a regular season, non-league match-up. This year, however, is the first time that the two schools will play a home-and-home series (until this year, the clubs played a single, non-conference game).

    This relatively new rivalry between has already had some notable moments. The most significant of those came in 2000.

    In the same year that Niagara made its only trip to the NCAA tournament as an at-large team during the CHA’s inaugural season, it was the Griffs that pulled off the upset, beating Niagara, 2-1, in an sold out Amherst (N.Y.) Pepsi Center. Broadcast on Empire Sports Newtork, it was the first time a game involving a MAAC league team was nationally televised, (well, regionally if you didn’t have a satellite dish back then).

    In that fateful game, Canisius goaltender Sean Weaver turned aside 59 Niagara shots, including 24 in the final period. The win prompted a local newspaper to print the headline “Dream Weaver” the next day, though the thought-of phenom never posted a winning season after the 1999-00 campaign.

    It was one of only eight losses for Niagara that season, which went on to upset New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champion North Dakota in the regional final.

    Nutmeg Braggin’ Rights

    The Niagara/Canisius series isn’t the only in-state rivalry series played this weekend. Though hard to call a rivalry just yet, UConn and Yale will meet in a non-conference clash for what some would call bragging rights for Connecticut, except for the fact, of course, that Connecticut has plenty other (MAAC) hockey teams in the state.

    Saturday’s game between the two Constitution State-based schools will be the first scheduled match-up for the two clubs. It won’t be the first time these clubs have met.

    In November of 1999, Yale and Connecticut played in the consolation game of the Festival of Lights Holiday Tournament in Lowell, Mass. Yale had fallen a night earlier, 2-0, to Air Force, while UConn had been shellacked in the semi-finals by host Lowell, 13-1.

    The consolation tilt turned out to be a great one as UConn held a third-period lead thanks to two late second period goals that gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead. But back-to-back Bulldog goals midway through the third period killed UConn’s hope of the ultimate upset as they fell, 3-2, despite a 32-save performance by standout goaltender Marc Senerchia.

    After the loss, UConn coach Bruce Marshall said: “”If we can take this effort into [MAAC] league play then we’ll be a lot better in the league. We have a lot of games left and if we can pull out 15 or so, we’ll be in good shape.”

    After that game, UConn went on to post an 18-8-1 for the remainder of the season and win the MAAC tournament on home ice.