This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Oct. 23, 2008

Falcons Soar

Last weekend was a good one for teams nicknamed “Falcons.” While the rest of Atlantic Hockey went 0-9 in non-conference matchups, Air Force swept Bemidji in resounding fashion, and Bentley earned a split with a pair of ECAC teams, including a 4-3 overtime win at Rensselaer.

Senior Jeff Gumaer’s goal, his second of the game, at 1:44 of the extra period won the see-saw game for the Bentley Falcons. Rookie goaltender Kyle rank won his first start in net, making 20 saves.

“It was a very satisfying win,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist, whose team outshot Rensselaer 25-23. “In the past you needed a goalie to make 45-50 saves to win a game, but now (Atlantic Hockey) teams are winning games by outplaying opponents. And I think we outplayed them.”

The Falcons lost to Colgate 4-1 on Saturday.

“I was happy with our play both nights,” said Soderquist. “On Friday, our defense played well, only allowing 22 shots on net. But we didn’t get much offense going and didn’t get any bounces.”

Soderquist said senior leadership, especially early in the season, is a key to playing well.

“The seniors really stepped up,” he said. “All of our goals (on Saturday) were scored by seniors. That’s their role. It’s the mark of successful teams.”

Rank will compete for time with sophomore goaltender Joe Calvi, who made the AHA All-Rookie team last season.

“We decided before the weekend to start them both,” Soderquist said. “Hopefully they’ll push each other.”

In Colorado Springs, the other Falcons soundly swept former CHA rival Bemidji, winning 6-2 and 6-0. Newcomer Jacques Lamoureux had six points on the weekend to lead the way, and goaltender Andrew Volkening stopped 31 of 33 shots. The Falcons dominated in the shots-on-goal category, 69-33. Force is 4-0 to open the season for the first time since 1975.

“We’re playing really well right now,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We expected two dogfights with them, considering our record against them in the past (1-18-1 coming into the weekend) and how well they do against WCHA and CCHA opponents. I think everybody was probably predicting a split before the weekend.”

Lamoureux has made an immediate impact, racking up 10 points in four games, including six last weekend. The Grand Forks, N.D., native wanted to come to the Air Force Academy in 2006, but was not accepted. He played for Northern Michigan his freshman year and then re-applied to the Academy, getting in last year and sitting out last season.

Lamoureux had just one goal and one assist in 16 games with the Wildcats.

“It’s tough for any player to produce points if you’re not on a top line or on the power play,” said Serratore. “I think being here last year, being part of the culture, has helped as well.”

The line of Lamoureux and seniors Brett Olson and Josh Frider has 10 goals so far, half of the Falcons’ scoring to date. Serratore says that experience has been a key factor in his team’s strong start.

“We have lots of returning players who know how to get the job done,” he said. “Teams with that kind of make-up tend to do well early.”

Many coaches use the first part of the season to switch players in and out of the lineup. Not Serratore.

“We’re not that deep,” he said. “We’ve got 13 forwards and eight defensemen. But I told the guys who are not playing, ‘You’re a shot off the ankle of being in the lineup, so you need to be ready.'”

Andrew Volkening isn’t going anywhere either. The junior played in every game last season, and he’s played every minute so far this year.

“He’s one of our leaders,” said Serratore. “Not so much by being vocal, but leading by example.”

The Falcons return to league play this weekend with a pair of games at AIC. Serratore says his team should not take anyone lightly.

“I’ve been around hockey long enough to know that every time things are looking really good … beware.”

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for October 20, 2008
Jacques Lamoureux — Air Force

The sophomore transfer from Northern Michigan is off to a terrific start, already tallying five goals and five assists through four games. Last weekend, he collected six points with three goals and three assists to lead the homestanding Falcons to a 6-2, 6-0 sweep of Bemidji. Lamoureux scored the game winner in both contests.

Goaltender of the Week for October 20, 2008:
Andrew Volkening — Air Force

The junior made 31 saves on 33 shots to post a sweep of Bemidji. Volkening has a 1.49 GAA and .933 save percentage through four games.

Rookie of the Week for October 20, 2008:
Kyle Rank — Bentley

The freshman from Islip, N.Y., made the most of his first collegiate start, stopping 20 shots in a 4-3 overtime win at Rensselaer.

Close … And Not So Close

Holy Cross took three points at home from Canisius in the only conference action last week, while the rest of the league suffered losses in nonconference play:

Army — Josh Kassel allowed just one goal in the Black Knights’ season opener, but it wasn’t enough. Merrimack defeated Army 1-0, despite the Black Knights holding a 44-22 advantage in shots on goal. Goaltender Joe Cannata was outstanding for the Warriors.

Mercyhurst — The Lakers ventured to PalinLand last weekend, and came away with a loss to each Alaska school. On Friday, Mercyhurst dropped a 5-0 decision to the Alaska Nanooks, but Saturday’s contest with Alaska-Anchorage was a different story, with the Lakers jumping out to a 3-0 lead after the first 14 minutes. But Mercyhurst couldn’t seal the deal and lost to the Seawolves 6-4.

It’s back on the plane this week as Mercyhurst travels to Nebraska-Omaha for a pair of games. The Lakers won’t play their first home game until November 14. By the end of this weekend, Mercyhurst will already have traveled 11,500 miles this season.

AIC — The Yellow Jackets were in Nebraska last weekend, falling to the host Mavericks and then to Quinnipiac in the consolation game of the Maverick Stampede Tournament. Special teams were a problem — AIC went 0-9 with the man advantage but gave up five power play goals.

Sacred Heart — The Pioneers were shut out twice at Notre dame, marking the first time in school history that they failed to score on a weekend. They’ll look to regroup at home this weekend against RIT.

RIT — Speaking of the Tigers, large crowds (2,100 at Ritter Arena on Friday and 3,296 at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday) couldn’t propel them to a victory against Clarkson or St. Lawrence. On Friday, the Tigers led 2-0 but lost 6-4. On Saturday, St. Lawrence posted a 2-1 win. RIT outshot their opponents in both games, and despite the losses, coach Wayne Wilson was upbeat.

“They were good, close games,” he said. “We can compete with anyone in the country. They have a lot of depth in their league and when you start playing those teams night in and night out, it could be different. I think we stack up very well. I think we’re very much like an ECAC team with how we play.”

Clarkson coach George Roll concurred. “I have a lot of respect for (Atlantic Hockey). (RIT) is going to have an exciting, successful season.”

Russell Jaslow contributed to this report