This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Jan. 29, 2004

Status Quo, for Now

If there was any trepidation among Atlantic Hockey that College Hockey America would come calling to get a replacement for Findlay, that ended Thursday afternoon with the announcement that Robert Morris would join the CHA next season.

The announcement ends weeks of speculation that Atlantic Hockey would be the target for the CHA’s search. But even with that league back to the NCAA-required six clubs for a national tournament autobid, movement discussions may not be over.

According to Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio, his understanding is that the Robert Morris has only guaranteed it will play in the CHA for one season so that the league can maintain its automatic qualifier. After a year, it would reevaluate its position, with DeGregorio noting that the top choice could be to play in Atlantic Hockey.

“I knew it was going to happen. They agreed to play for one year and I think that’s a good thing for hockey,” said DeGregorio. “We made a decision that there would be no new members for 2004-05. So the earliest [Robert Morris] would get in our league would be ’05-’06.

“So with Findlay dropping the program, rather than playing an independent schedule, it would be better to play in the CHA and the league can keep its automatic qualifier.”

So even though all of this sounds like a quick fix, nothing is for certain when it comes to movement between conferences. That’s something that, according to DeGregorio, can’t be controlled.

“Two weeks ago I spent the weekend at Mercyhurst,” said DeGregorio. “[CHA Commissioner] Bob Peters has had that discussion [about moving to the CHA] with [Mercyhurst AD] Pete Russo and Pete assured me along with [head coach] Rick [Gotkin] that they would not play hockey in the CHA. I’ve got to believe that what the AD is telling me is true.”

Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac have both been rumored as potential targets for the CHA. Each school would like to rid itself of the scholarship limitations imposed by Atlantic Hockey.

At the same time, Holy Cross is rumored as a potential target for the ECAC, which loses Vermont at the end of the 2004-05 season to Hockey East. The Crusaders had not confirmed discussions with the league, but DeGregorio noted that they are in the works.

Still, he is not sold on the idea that Holy Cross is hitting the high road away from Atlantic Hockey.

“Holy Cross wants into the ECAC,” said DeGregorio. “And though that may be true for Holy Cross, what I hear there are schools in the ECAC that don’t want Holy Cross and they’ve made it clear they don’t want Holy Cross.

“So your guess is as good as mine.”

DeGregorio noted plenty of options for the ECAC, including taking Holy Cross, as well as the thought of remaining at the 11 schools created by Vermont’s departure. But he also threw in a new wrinkle.

“Union voted for the D-III legislation,” said DeGregorio, referring to the controversial, defeated move to eliminate athletic scholarships for programs “playing up” to Division I. Three members of the ECAC would have been affected: Rensselaer, Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Union, a Division III school playing up, does not offer hockey scholarships regardless.

When the final proposal came to the table, Union voted against its brethren ECAC schools to keep them from giving scholarships, and according to DeGregorio, that’s not sitting well with all of the membership.

“There are schools in the ECAC that are upset at Union,” said DeGregorio, “and maybe those schools might vote to go from 11 [schools] to 10.”

Whatever the decision on conference musical chairs, DeGregorio noted that he can only hope to influence it.

“Every institution has a prerogative, and every [school’s] president has one as well,” said DeGregorio, whose extensive hockey experience includes having served as Hockey East commissioner and athletic director at Merrimack. “Vermont got a new president and the tone has been set [to move to Hockey East]. If an institution decides to move to another conference, you can’t stop them.”

At the present time, all seems quiet on the Atlantic Hockey front. Whether things stay that way has yet to be seen, but for certain, DeGregorio plans on standing tall.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week
Peter Rynshoven, Mercyhurst (Sr, F, Fairbanks, Alaska)

Rynshoven snapped an eight-game scoring drought in a big way with three goals, three assists, a power-play goal, a game-winning goal, a first goal of the game, and a +5 rating in a weekend sweep at Connecticut. Rynshoven had the game-winner and assisted on two others in Friday’s 7-4 win. He scored the first two goals of the game, assisted on the game-winner, and was a +4 in Saturday’s 5-2 win. He scored his three goals on four shots. Rynshoven hadn’t scored a goal or a point since a 5-2 loss at St. Lawrence on December 13.

Goaltender of the Week
Jamie Holden, Quinnipiac (Jr., G. Telkwa, B.C./Merritt)

Holden had an outstanding weekend for the Bobcats, posting back-to-back shutouts against Army by scores of 2-0 and 3-0. It marked the first time in program history that Quinnipiac has recorded shutouts in consecutive games. Holden has not allowed a goal in a school-record 167:07 dating back to the first period against Holy Cross on Jan. 17. He made 31 saves in the win on Friday night, including several spectacular saves with the game in doubt through the first two periods. He followed that up with a 24-save outing on Saturday, playing a key role in the penalty-killing unit that warded off seven Army power plays. For the season, Holden is a sparkling 6-1-2 in Atlantic Hockey action with a 1.42 GAA and a .956 save percentage.

Freshman of the Week
Jamie Hunt, Mercyhurst (Fr, D, Calgary, Alberta)

After not playing in eight of the last nine games, Hunt played in back-to-back contests for the first time since early December. He finished with four assists in the two games and a +3 rating. Hunt assisted on the Lakers’ first, sixth, and seventh goals Friday and on Mercyhurst’s first goal Saturday.

Holden Down the Fort

Posting a collegiate shutout is a tough thing.

I remember from my days at Massachusetts-Lowell a guy by the name of Dwayne Roloson. He was an All-America netminder, a Hobey Baker finalist and to this day stands as one of only three players ever awarded MVP of the Hockey East tournament when his team didn’t win.

Roloson is currently playing for the Minnesota Wild and at the top of the NHL is many statistical categories. But as good as he was, it took him until December of his senior season before he ever got a shutout.

That’s what makes Quinnipiac goaltender Jamie Holden’s feat last weekend so impressive. Holden, one of Atlantic Hockey’s better netminders, didn’t just shut out Army — he accomplished the feat on back-to-back nights.

“Anytime you can shut someone out and come back and do it again, you know he’s playing well,” said Army coach Rob Riley. “We got a crossbar the second night, but that’s what happens; the goalie eventually looks pretty invincible.”

Riley said that in talking with Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold after the first game, each conceded that the game could have been 6-5 either way. But thanks to great goaltending by Holden and Army goaltender Brad Roberts, the final score was 2-0.

Riley was quick to point out, though his club now hasn’t scored in three-and-a-half games, it’s not for lack of opportunity.

“When you lose or you get shut out, you feel like you didn’t get chances,” Riley said. “But we had a lot of quality chances in here on Friday night. That was the game he played really incredible.”

Holden finished Friday night with 31 saves, then came back Saturday with another 24. After Saturday’s game, the senior goaltender credited his team, drawing on defensive greatness to make a comparison.

“The team has been playing really well in front of me,” said Holden. “Defensively we only gave up 24 shots [Saturday]; it kind of reminded me of the New Jersey Devils and [Martin] Brodeur.

“He has 10 shutouts this year and a lot of that has to do with his team, and I think the two games this weekend had a lot to do with my team in front of me.”

Riley, though, says you have to credit the goaltender.

“When you get four breakaways and he’s gloving them or knocking them wide, that gives his team tremendous confidence,” said Riley. “We caught him at the wrong time.”

Missing Military Firepower

As mentioned above, offense hasn’t been the easiest thing to find for Army. The club hasn’t scored since early in the second period of its first game against Air Force two weeks ago, a span of 216 minutes, 13 seconds.

Needless to say, that’s become an issue in the Army locker room.

“We’ve been in quite a drought here so it becomes somewhat of a psychological thing,” said Riley. “We just tried to be positive and give the spirit a lift and get the confidence back.

What’s been toughest for the Black Knights is the fact that the effort of the players has been there, but pucks simply haven’t been finding the back of the net.

“It’s easy to be negative, but as long as guys are giving effort, you’re going to get some goals and give the team some chances. We’ll snap out of it, it just better be soon.”

One attempt to “snap out of it” was giving senior goaltender Billy Moss a start Saturday night against Quinnipiac. Hoping to change things up, Riley was impressed by Moss’ play.

“He had a good game,” said Riley. “It’s a 2-0 game in the third so you feel like he gave us a chance to win against a tough team in a tough building.

“But we have to score a couple of goals and if you do that you have a chance.”

Regardless, Riley said goaltender Brad Roberts is still his top dog.

“Brad has been such a consistent No. 1 guy — even Friday giving up two goals with 36 saves — so [Saturday] was a matter of giving a senior a well-deserved try.”