This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Dec. 11, 2003

“All I Want for Christmas Is…”

If there’s anything that gets to me at this time of year, it’s the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas occur so ridiculously close together. One day I’m relaxing, carving turkey and watching football. The next, my head is spinning with what gifts to buy, where and when I have to travel for the holiday and what my plans are for New Year’s Eve.

Similarly, this column suffers the same problems. It seems like I just enjoyed my annual tradition of the Atlantic coaches giving thanks, and now, I need to follow up with another favorite of mine: Atlantic Hockey’s letters to Santa Claus.

There was plenty to be thankful for a couple of weeks back and, similarly, there’s so much that these same people will be asking for this Christmas.

This letter I found on a recent visit to Worcester, Mass., and the Holy Cross campus.

Dear Santa:

I’ve got to admit that this has been a pretty strange year. For a while, I thought that my collegiate career was going to end and that I’d be coaching at a prep school.

Instead, I decided to stick to my roots and stay at Holy Cross. Now that I’m back here, I’ve got to tell you, things are going pretty well. The team is playing well and there’s not much I can ask for…

… Except maybe a power play.

Remember back in the day, when the power play was the one thing that worked for the club? Well, those days are gone and I could really use some help. If I were to get that for Christmas, I could almost guarantee that I’d be heading to the NCAA tournament just like our basketball team does year after year.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Pearl

Here’s a letter that was rerouted from the North Pole and landed somehow in my mailbag:

Dear St. Nick:

For so long now, I’ve sat back and been a good boy and hoped that it would mean something. Well, I’m darn sick and tired of playing Mr. Nice Guy and not getting rewarded.

So this year I won’t just tell you how good I’ve been. I’m also going to tell you that you need to start delivering, baby!

I’ve tried very hard over the last season to pull together a team that can compete. Earlier this year we were struggling, but for the most part it was because our guys are young and just needed to get used to one another.

Now things are working well, and darn it, I want more. I want success in the postseason. I want the taste of victory.

If you’ll bring that for my guys, you’ll make them all very happy Pioneers.

Signed,

Shaun Hannah

Being in Boston, it’s no surprise that somehow a letter from Wakefield, Mass., ended up near my desk either:

Dear. Mr. & Mrs. Claus:

Boy, I’m not sure if I should be asking for anything this Christmas. I was blessed with the chance to get back into college hockey this year as the new Atlantic Hockey commissioner. Now that I’m on the job, I guess the only real thing that I need this year is a fan base.

I see the other leagues with huge followings, folks who would come to their league championship if it were played at the North Pole. Our league doesn’t have that. Just like Rudolph, it’s no fun being the odd man out.

So if you could just bring me, oh, say 3,000 or so bodies to put in the seats at Tate Rink for our championship game, that would be great.

Oh, and if you think I’ve been really good, it would be great to have all of the bickering over the number of scholarships given within the league stop. We’ll give the schools their 15 eventually, but some people, especially those lousy media folks, need to realize that it all takes time.

Sincerely,

Bob DeGregorio

Santa’s nearest neighbor in the league was pretty direct about what he’d like.

Dear Santa:

Okay, let me make this plain and simple. I want one thing for Christmas this year: overtime wins.

Santa, let me tell you, there’s nothing more frustrating then battling for 65 minutes and coming away with very little to show for it. Sure, we’ve had five ties in our seven overtime games this year, but we all know they’re like kissing your sister, so I’d say that’s getting a little boring.

If you could send us a few OT goals, that would be just swell. To see my guys out on the ice celebrating for once would make all the difference in the world. Heck, if we’d won our darn overtime games at this point, we’d be 9-5-0 and I’d be making room for that Coach of the Year award on my trophy shelf.

So if you can find a way to have a puck squeak in here or there in OT, or even better, help us win games in regulation, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Still smiling!

Brian Cavanaugh

And finally, though I don’t like writing letters too much, I have my own Christmas wish list:

  • A new regular-season champion (no offense to Rick Gotkin and Mercyhurst, but change can be good). I’m thinking Pioneers or Crusaders.
  • A league tournament that isn’t played 200 miles away from the center of the league.
  • Same note: A league tournament that can be played (and attended) in the same weekend.
  • A seat on the Hobey Baker committee.
  • A talk show on ESPN (yes, a guy can dream).
  • A road roommate for hockey trips who doesn’t snore (yup, that’s targeted at one specific reader, Mr. Hendrickson).
  • $10,000 and a seat at the World Series of Poker (a little known fact about me).
  • A victory for an Atlantic Hockey team against the WCHA (let’s just get this last one out of the way).
  • A victory for an Atlantic Hockey team in the first round of the NCAA tournament (do it against a WCHA team and it counts double).
  • More teams in Hockey East to schedule Atlantic teams (I won’t lie, covering those games is like being a proud dad in the press box. The rest of the media looks to me to enlighten them about the league. And for the record, some of the misconceptions I hear are hilarious: “So this is probably the last season once Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac leave, right?”)
  • Three things: college hockey, TV, 24 hours a day (if not, poker can sub nicely).

    To all, Happy Holidays!

    Weekly Awards

    Player of the Week

    Matt Craig, Quinnipiac (Jr., F, London, ONT) – The preseason Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year put together another fine weekend in the 5-2 win over Mercyhurst on Friday. Craig got the Bobcats rolling with a pair of goals within the first 9:03 of the contest, and Quinnipiac never looked back. It was the second straight multiple-goal game for Craig, the third of the season and seventh of his career. He leads the team in goals (nine) and points (14).

    Goaltender of the Week

    Jordon Wakefield, Mercyhurst (Fr., G, Sprucegrove, Alberta) – Wakefield snapped Mercyhurst’s first-ever three-game conference losing streak in the MAAC-turned-Atlantic Hockey by turning aside 29 shots at American International on Saturday. Wakefield made his third career start and second in the conference and posted his first collegiate win and shutout. Included in his 29 saves was a first-period stop of AIC’s Guillaume Caron on a breakaway. Wakefield improved to 1-1-0 overall with a save percentage of .925 and a goals against average of 2.64

    Freshman of the Week

    Joey Coccimiglio, Canisius (Fr., F, Sault Ste. Marie, ONT) – Coccimiglio sparked the Griffs’ offensive barrage Friday night as he led Canisius with two goals and one assist with a plus-2 rating. Coccimiglio opened the scoring just 2:41 into the game with his fifth goal of the season, and added his second goal of the game, the eventual game-winner, with 3:17 left in the opening frame.

    Tip o’ the Fedora

    It’s a must that I throw a shout out to Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Wakefield. The rookie recorded his first collegiate win in style, shutting out AIC, 9-0.

    Wakefield joins Connecticut’s Scott Tomes as the only rookie goaltenders in the league to record victories this season. Tomes’ was much like Wakefield’s, as he gave up only one goal in a 4-1 win at Alabama-Huntsville.

    I’ve got to say, though, when a goalie pitches a shutout to get his first victory, that’s one impressive stat, like a guy scoring his first goal in a game that he picks up a hat trick. It’s extremely rare to say the least (as a comparison, when I worked in the American Hockey League we had a goalie named Mike Fountain. He had begun his career in the NHL with Vancouver and as a member of the Canucks scored a shutout for his first victory, becoming only the 19th player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.)

    Anyway, Jordan, for your shutout I pass along a tip of the cap!

    It’s Been a While

    With Holy Cross continuing to pummel its league schedule, moving to 11-1-1 after sweeping Army last weekend, historians everywhere are heading to the Crusader media guide to figure out where this start ranks.

    The answer: This is the best start for HC since the 1979-80 season, when it began 13-3-0 under the school’s all-time winningest coach, Peter Van Buskirk.

    Snow Way We’re Playing

    The New England blizzard last weekend led to a handful of cancellations across college hockey, some affecting Atlantic league play.

    Despite Canisius’ tough-skinned ability to weather the winter, its game on Saturday night at Quinnipiac was postponed with no reschedule date yet announced. Similarly, Sacred Heart called off its game against Bentley. The Pioneers will host the Falcons on January 6 at 7 p.m. to make up that action.

    Back-‘Yard’ Hockey

    As was mentioned a few weeks back, Sacred Heart will host Colgate in non-league action this Friday night. The game will be played at SHU’s home-away-from-home, the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn.

    Tickets for this game are still available and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster, at the Arena box office, or by clicking here.

    Before I Forget…

    It’s not often that I get mail with corrections to what’s written here (which I believe is due more to a lack of readers with magnifying glasses than to me always being right). But last week I actually challenged folks to double-check my math.

    I said in my column that Holy Cross’ then 11-point lead was the largest in the history of the Atlantic/MAAC leagues. But as I almost expected, I was wrong. Last season, Mercyhurst held a 13-point lead over second-place Quinnipiac on February 22, 2002.

    Jason Patten, known to many for his former role the voice of the MAAC Hockey League, pointed out this error, and for that I am thankful.

    (For the record, Holy Cross played twice and won last weekend, while Quinnipiac played only once, and thus the Crusaders have opened up a 13-point lead to equal Mercyhurst’s record).

    And to All a Good Night

    This is the final column for me for 2003. With limited play over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be taking a hiatus. Be sure to check back right after Christmas for the Holiday Tournament preview that will take a look at the UConn Hockey Classic featuring Connecticut, Sacred Heart and Bentley, and the Rensselaer/HSBC Tournament featuring Mercyhurst.

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