This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Oct. 16, 2008

Travel Hockey

The Atlantic Hockey season opened with most teams traveling long distances to play their first games. Canisius was at Ferris State, RIT traveled to Bowling Green and Western Michigan, Mercyhurst was at St. Cloud, and Air Force flew to Sacred Heart for a pair to kick off the conference schedule.

Connecticut earned the most frequent-flier miles, venturing to Alaska-Anchorage for the Kendall Hockey Classic. Mercyhurst treks even father this weekend when the Lakers will be in Fairbanks for the Alaska Goal Rush tournament.

For UConn coach Bruce Marshall, the trip was a chance for his young team to bond and see what it needs to work on. The Huskies didn’t fare very well, falling to Alaska-Anchorage 6-2 and then to Alaska 5-0.

“It was good to get away and good to get tested,” said Marshall. “For the players it was a realization that our strong finish last season doesn’t automatically mean we’re going to pick up where we left off.”

There were bright spots for the Huskies. Sean Erickson returned after missing half of last season with a concussion, and both UConn’s goals on the weekend came with the man advantage.

“I think that’s as many power-play goals as we scored all last season,” said Marshall. “What were we, something like nine percent last year?

“Having Sean back was a huge plus. It’s like having a new player back there (on defense). He was very strong for us and we missed that.”

UConn has the weekend off before hosting Army on October 24 and 25. “We’re something like 1-7-1 against them in our last nine games,” said Marshall. “They are a hard-working, good-checking team and we’ll have our work cut out for us.

“The things we need to work on (from last weekend) are correctable. The talent was there and the effort was there.”

First Blood

Canisius’ 5-2 win at Ferris State on Friday was the first ever for the Golden Griffins over a “Big Four” team. Dave Smith’s team had two power-play and two shorthanded goals (both by Cory Conacher) in the win, and goaltender Andrew Loewen made 50 saves.

Ferris State came back on Saturday to win by the same score, 5-2.

“We played pretty well both nights,” said Smith. “We had good chances in both games. The difference was that on Friday we converted on our chances.”

Freshman Dave Kostuch scored a goal in his first collegiate game, with another rookie, defenseman Wes Love, picking up an assist in his time in uniform. Freshman Dan Morrison made his first start in net on Saturday, making 39 saves before leaving with an injury late in the third period.

“He’s O.K.,” said Smith of Morrison. “He should be fine. I liked the contributions by our new players. A lot of guys stepped up in a big way.”

Canisius opens league play this weekend with a pair of games at Holy Cross. “There was a high level of play by both teams (at Ferris State), and we have to be ready for that high level of play again,” said Smith.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for October 13, 2008:
Brent Olson — Air Force

Olson opened his senior campaign in style, picking up five points to help the Falcons sweep Sacred Heart. Olson had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win on Friday, and had three assists, including one on the overtime game-winner, in a 4-3 victory on Saturday.

Goaltender of the Week for October 13, 2008:
Andrew Loewen — Canisius

The junior made 50 saves, including 21 in the third period, to help the Griffs to a 5-2 win at Ferris State. It was the first win by Canisius over a “Big Four” opponent in school history.

Rookie of the Week for October 13, 2008:
Tyler Brenner — RIT

Brenner’s first collegiate goal was a big one — the game winner five minutes into the third period on Saturday to give the Tigers a 2-1 win at Western Michigan.

Battle of the Brothers

Air Force is running a special promotion for its two-game series against Bemidji this weekend. It’s just $2 to get into each game at Cadet Arena, where the Falcons will raise two banners (AHA title and NCAA tournament), and the games will feature two Serratores. Bothers Frank and Tom Serratore coach Air Force and Bemidji, respectively. Tom has gotten the better of things in their 20 previous meetings, with the Beavers holding an 18-1-1 advantage.

But this is a different Air Force team, which has set school records for wins in its two years in Atlantic Hockey. Last weekend the defending champion Falcons picked up where they left off with a sweep at Sacred Heart. Sophomore Jacques Lamoureux, a transfer from Northern Michigan, looks like a keeper with two goals and two assists in his first action for the Falcons.

Tiger Tales

The RIT Tigers earned a split in their opening weekend, dropping a 4-2 decision at Bowling Green on Friday and earning a 2-1 win at Northern Michigan on Saturday. RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said that goaltender Louis Menard, who got a medical redshirt his freshman season, likely will graduate on time and not return for his fourth year of eligibility next season. Wilson also said he plans to initially split time in net this season between Menard and junior Jared Demichiel, who played sparingly last year.

“In retrospect, I think we should have platooned the guys more last year, but the schedule didn’t always allow for that,” said Wilson. “We’re going to play both of them for the first three weekends, and see where we go from there.”

RIT’s home opener against Clarkson was sold out by Tuesday morning. That won’t be a problem for Saturday, when the Tigers host St. Laurence at Blue Cross Arena, which seats over 11,000. Last season, RIT defeated Cornell at BCA in front of 5,142 fans, an AHA record.