This Week in the MAAC: Feb. 20, 2003

True Or False?

Such a magical question is “true or false?”

It’s also loaded. And when it comes time for MAAC playoffs, the question is doubly loaded, yet some how doubly magical.

So in my best effort, I will attempt to provide truth or fallacy to some of the questions about the league pounding through your head.

True or false: Quinnipiac will win the regular-season championship.

False. Despite controlling its own destiny thanks to Mercyhurst’s loss at home last weekend to Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac will not sweep its remaining six games and will not, in turn win the regular-season title. The Bobcats are 3-5-0 in their last eight games and got manhandled (at least on the second night) against the CHA’s worst team last weekend. Right now, coach Rand Pecknold doesn’t know which team will show up night in and night out. And that, my friends, is why I give the crown to Mercyhurst.

True or false: Bentley’s Ryan Soderquist will be named Coach of the Year.

This one is, in fact, true. Hands down. Likely there’s never been as deserving a candidate for the award. Soderquist entered a program that was a perennial last-place team and, to date, has put it in contention for home ice in the playoffs. Soderquist has instilled a sense of pride, confidence and discipline in the Falcons that has taken a team whose heart has overridden its talent (or lack of). Soderquist has squeezed every ounce from his Falcons team and is now in position to reap postseason accolades.

True or false: Soderquist will lead Bentley to home ice in the playoffs.

Despite the praise that I give Soderquist, looking at the remaining schedule, I’m not sure home ice is within Bentley’s grasp. The Falcons have a one-point lead on Sacred Heart and are tied with Canisius for the final home-ice spot. To this point in the year, Bentley has been the beneficiary of a lack of being taken seriously. At this point in the year, every team now takes Bentley seriously. The resultant, with six games remaining in the season, could be Bentley struggling to the finish line. Regardless, the effort the Falcons have shown to this point is ,commendable and Bentley will be a welcome (and potentially dangerous) addition to this year’s MAAC playoffs.

True or false: Sacred Heart is the league’s most dangerous team.

True, very true. Sacred Heart is a hockey team that, to this point, has not played to potential. The Pioneers have 21 players on their roster with playoff experience — more than any other team in the league. They also have the weapon of goaltender Eddy Ferhi. He alone could scare a team out of the playoffs. Last season, the Pioneers tasted how sweet playoff success can be, advancing to the semifinals before losing a one-goal game to Quinnipiac. This year, despite its current sixth-place position in the standings, Sacred Heart is a very dangerous team.

True or false: Either Connecticut or American Int’l will make a run for the final playoff spot.

False. The top eight teams, as you see them today, will be the playoff field (not necessarily in that order). Connecticut is likely going to become the most talented team in MAAC history to not make the playoffs. To this point in the season, things simply haven’t come together for UConn. To be successful, every coach will tell you that you have to beat teams you should beat. And Bruce Marshall is the first to admit that simply hasn’t happened. As for AIC, its fate could be determined this weekend against Fairfield, a feisty lame-duck in the playoff picture. If AIC is going to make a run at the playoffs, this is a must-sweep weekend.

True or false: It’s extremely difficult to pick a league MVP.

This is false. And true. Well, sort of. If we were picking one single player as MVP, it would be an easy pick. Quinnipiac’s Jamie Holden is by far the best player in this league. But the MAAC league enjoys giving out awards, and divides up the league’s top player honors three ways: Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year. We know who takes the latter of those three. But the other two remain a bit of a tossup. Offensively, Matt Craig from Quinnipiac and Brandon Doria from Holy Cross are both deserving candidates, along with others who fall close behind too numerous to mention. Defensively, Quinnipiac’s Matt Erhart and Wade Winkler might have to fight it out for the award, but Winkler’s 11 goals in 20 league games might take the cake. In addition, Mercyhurst’s T.J. Kemp and Fairfield’s Steve Calderara also might fight for consideration. So, like I said: True and false.

True or False: Jim Connelly is not exactly the best prognosticator and likely all of what is said here is wrong.

That’s absolutely true. So enjoy the (not-so-comical) comic relief this might have provided and don’t bet the farm on anything I tell you here.

Weekly Awards

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Brent Williams, Iona Sophomore, F, Prince George, B.C.

Sophomore Brent Williams tallied three goals last weekend to aide the Gaels to a split with Bentley. Williams tallied two goals in Saturday night’s contest, tying the game at 2-2 midway through the third period and tallying the game-winning goal 1:10 into overtime.

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Bryan Worosz, Canisius Sophomore, G, Brantford, Ontario

Sophomore netminder Bryan Worosz helped Canisius split a weekend series with Holy Cross. Friday night, Worosz stopped 19 Crusader shots in the 2-1 victory and followed up that performance with 26 saves securing the 1-1 tie. Currently, Worosz ranks third in the MAAC in goals against average (2.48). He also posts a .906 save percentage against conference opponents.

ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: David Borrelli, Mercyhurst Freshman, F, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Borrelli scored his fifth goal of the season and his second game-winner in Saturday’s overtime win against Sacred Heart. His only other game-winner was far less dramatic. It came in the third game of the season and the first MAAC game, an 8-2 win at home over AIC October 25. Borrelli also had an assist in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Pioneers. He was a combined +2 for the weekend.

Will The Real Quinnipiac Please Stand Up?

Call them the Slim Shady of the hockey world, but for the last month it has been hit or miss which Quinnipiac team will show up each night.

The two faces of the Bobcats include a team that is possibly the deepest talent-wise in the league that, when it gives 100 percent, is virtually unbeatable. The other team, though, does the exact opposite, leaving head coach Rand Pecknold scratching his head.

“We’re pulling a Jekyll-and-Hyde routine, showing up one night and disappearing the next,” said Pecknold, whose Bobcats fell out of first place last weekend when Mercyhurst split with Sacred Heart and the Bobcats were in nonconference play. “We have great chemistry in the locker room but don’t have kids who will compete night in and night out.”

Not mincing words, Pecknold acknowledged the problem. He also acknowledged that with six games left in the regular season, this turnabout probably couldn’t have come at a worse time.

That translates to the fact that, even though the Bobcats control their own destiny as far as the regular season is concerned, the club is not very focused on winning a title.

“For us right now, we need to focus on getting a bit of positive momentum going into the playoffs,” said Pecknold. “Ultimately, in our league, the regular-season championship is a nice pat on the back but it’s not what it’s all about.

“Teams recognize that winning the MAAC tournament and going to the NCAAs is the top priority. So right now, we need to get on a roll and get some confidence back. We need to learn how to compete like we did earlier in the year.”

Though the Bobcats have clinched home ice in the first round, the team’s recent skid translates to the concern of becoming a first-round casualty.

“Last year was a great example. There was no easy game in the first round,” Pecknold said. “You’re at the point where the number-seven or -eight seed can pull that win off and it’s not a longshot for it to happen. And thus, you’re at a point in the year that you have to be doing the little things to win hockey games.”