This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Oct. 30, 2008

Nutmeg, Anyone?

Last week, it was squads named “Falcons” making a splash. This time around, Connecticut teams roared, posting a 3-0-1 record in league play. Connecticut looked impressive with a sweep of Army, and Sacred Heart took three points from RIT.

For the Huskies, it was the first time in school history that they had taken four points from Army. In both games, UConn opened a lead and then repelled an Army comeback attempt.

“It’s early and I don’t want to get too excited,” said Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall. “But it was a good feeling knowing that we are able to score and answer teams. We were able to play our game and come out with two wins.”

Andrew Olson had four goals on the weekend to lead the Huskies. The sophomore already has 14 points on the season.

“The kid loves to shoot the puck,” said Marshall. “It’s good to see him get off to a good start. He knows he’s going to take a lot of shots, so if they don’t go in, he doesn’t get discouraged. He’s very consistent.”

Special teams were a problem for UConn last season, but the Huskies are off to a positive start.

“Friday we won the special-teams battle, which was important for us,” said Marshall. “Our power play had been struggling, but we scored four times over the course of these two games.”

The Huskies travel to Union and Quinnipiac this weekend.

“We all know what Atlantic Hockey can be like week to week,” said Marshall. “It’s a battle every week. But it’s good to play against teams from a more quote-unquote established league as well. It will be a different challenge.”

In the lower part of the state, Sacred Heart was banishing some demons. Two years ago, an unheralded RIT team came into the Milford Ice Pavilion three points behind the Pioneers in the battle for first place and came away with a sweep, propelling the Tigers to the regular-season title. Last season RIT swept Sacred Heart in Rochester.

But this time around, the Pios took three of four points from the Tigers, who managed to steal a point on Friday by battling back from a 3-0 deficit to earn a tie. Senior Eric Giosa had three goals on the weekend and freshman Evan Mladenoff had a great game on Saturday, chipping in a goal and an assist. Goaltender Stefan Drew made a career-high 42 saves on Saturday.

“I thought Drew was absolutely outstanding tonight,” Pioneer coach Shaun Hannah said. “There were a lot of funny bounces and plays in front of the net and he was able to stay with everything.”

The biggest goal on Saturday came off the stick of Matt Gordon, who tallied early in the third period, just 11 seconds after RIT had tied the game.

“The third goal was huge,” said Hannah. “To score that quickly after they score is a big momentum shift our way and it totally changes the rest of the game.”

Sacred Heart looks to keep things going with a home-and-home series with Army this weekend.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for October 27, 2008
Andrew Olson — Connecticut

The sophomore had four goals and two assists last weekend to lead the Huskies to a 4-3 and 6-3 sweep over Army. Olson leads the team in scoring with six goals and two assists.

Goaltender of the Week for October 27, 2008:
Stefan Drew — Sacred Heart

Drew made 72 saves in two games against RIT, including a career-high 42 stops in a 4-2 win on Saturday.

Rookie of the Week for October 27, 2008:
Marcello Ranallo — Connecticut

The freshman from Burnaby, B.C., tallied five points last weekend, including two goals on Friday to help the Huskies to their first-ever sweep of Army.

… And Boy, Are Their Arms Tired

The Mercyhurst Lakers have this weekend off, and the rest is well-deserved. Rick Gotkin’s team opened the season with road (air) trips to St Cloud, Minn,, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Omaha, Neb. That’s about 11,500 miles over three weeks.

“On paper, it looked better,” Gotkin laughed. “It was crazy, especially the Alaska trip. We left Erie on a bus at 2:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. We flew out of Pittsburgh at 5:50 a.m., and had a five-hour layover in Minneapolis. Then it was a six-hour flight to Anchorage, change planes, and fly another hour and a half to Fairbanks. We got in at about 7:30 (p.m.) Alaska time. That’s a 22-hour trip.”

The Lakers got back on a Tuesday and had to turn around and fly to Omaha two days later. Some cancelled flights forced the team to bus to Des Moines and split up into three groups to get back to Erie on Monday.

“It was quite the adventure,” said Gotkin. “But the kids got to do some incredible things. They touched the Alaska Pipeline. They ate Mooseburgers.”

The team also had to keep up with schoolwork while away.

“I proctored a test for the first time in my career,” said Gotkin. “It was math — at least they tell me it was math. It looked like a foreign language to me. Thank God our guys are doing so well academically. It makes trips like this possible and the faculty is willing to work with us.”

Mercyhurst went 0-6 on the trip, but Gotkin was looking for a silver lining.

“As disappointing as it is, before the season if you would have told me we’d be 0-6 after this, I wouldn’t have been shocked,” he said. “We were exposed to some pretty good WCHA and CCHA teams. We played on the Olympic ice at St. Cloud and in Alaska.

“I thought we had two winnable games,” said Gotkin. “Saturday in Alaska (when the Lakers opened a 3-0 lead before falling 6-4 to Alaska-Anchorage) and last Friday night in Omaha (3-1 loss). We carried the play for a lot of the game. We played the game the way we want to play.

“We played in front of 30,000 people in those games. We learned a lot. Was it worth it? Time will tell.”

Around the League

Air Force Jacques Lamoureux and line mate Brent Olson are tied for the lead in Division I in scoring with 14 points each. The Falcons are calling this line — which also includes Josh Frider (10 points) — the “FLO” line. The FLO line has been responsible for 15 of the Falcons’ 27 goals. Air Force (6-0) is off to its best start since the 1971 team opened the season 8-0.

Army: The Black Knights are 0-3, but have outshot their opponents 123-75 so far.

Canisius: Sophomore Vincent Scarsella picked up a minor penalty in the first period of Sunday’s 1-1 tie with Merrimack. Amazingly, it was his first career penalty, despite Scarsella playing in 42 games so far, tallying 36 points. Last season, he was the only player in Division I with more than 10 points and no penalties.

RIT: Goaltender Louis Menard had two assists in Friday’s 3-3 tie with Sacred Heart. He’s tied for sixth on the team in points, and tied for second in points per game.