This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Nov. 6, 2008

A Tale of Two Weekends

Army had a rough start to its defense of the Atlantic Hockey regular-season title, getting swept by Connecticut in the Black Knights’ opening AHA series.

But Army rebounded nicely last weekend, picking up three points against Sacred Heart. Such are the trials and tribulations of coaching a young team.

“Give credit to UConn,” said Army head coach Brian Riley. “We fought back and were in position to win those games, but they were able to stick with it and get it done.”

Skating as many as 10 freshmen, Army was able to put that aside and play much better against Sacred Heart.

“Sacred Heart is an offensively gifted team and we needed to make a commitment to defense,” said Riley. “We’ve got a lot of young guys who are learning as they go, and to have a good weekend will help with their confidence.”

Even though it is very early in the season, the home-and-home series against the Pioneers was seen almost as a must-win weekend.

“After this weekend (another home-and-home series, this time with AIC), we’re on the road for the next 11 games,” said Riley. “That put us in a tough spot.”

Tough enough that Riley elected to bench AHA Player of the Year and All-American goaltender Josh Kassel in favor of sophomore Jay Clark.

“We’re very deep (at goalie),” said Riley. “I wish we were as deep at the other positions, where we are very young, but the goaltending will take care of itself.”

Kassel had a rough series against Connecticut, allowing 10 goals on 53 shots.

“Ten goals allowed means that the job’s not getting done,” said Riley. “With three good goalies, everyone will get a chance and hopefully push and bring out the best in each other.

“Josh had an unbelievable year last year and is looking to do the same this season. He knows he’ll get another opportunity.”

With two and possibly three goaltenders capable of starting, Riley says platooning his netminders is not out of the question.

“With this long road stretch coming up, it can tire you out,” he said. “Being deep (at goaltending) is a real help.”

Riley hopes that a positive of this upcoming long road stretch is that his team will mature quickly.

“There’s an adjustment for every college freshman, and even more so here,” he said. “I’ve been really pleased so far. We’ve used freshmen in key situations and they’ve done well. This experience will go a long way in their development.”

Weekly Awards

Players of the Week for November 3, 2008
Jacques Lamoureux – Air Force

The transfer from Northern Michigan is the hottest player in the county right now, racking up another four goals and adding an assist to lead the Falcons to a 5-2, 8-2 sweep of Bentley. Lamoureux leads the nation with 11 goals and 19 points in eight games.

Josh Heidinger – Canisius
Heidinger also had a five-point weekend to help Canisius to a sweep, its first since the 2005-2006 season. He had a hat trick on Friday, the fifth in the team’s Division I era.

Goaltender of the Week for November 3, 2008:
Louis Menard – RIT

Menard stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 5-1 win over Holy Cross on Friday. Menard is an impressive 25-7-6 all-time in AHA play.

Rookie of the Week for November 3, 2008:
Michael Penny – AIC

Penny shined last weekend, scoring all three of AIC’s goals against Canisius. Penny leads the team in scoring with five points in six games, and has scored half of the Yellow Jackets’ goals so far.

Monthly Awards

Player of the Month for October, 2008
Jacques Lamoureux – Air Force

This had to be an easy choice. Lamoureux has scored in all eight games this season, and leads the nation in goals (11), points (19), power play goals (7) and game winning goals (4).
Other Players Nominated: Jeff Gumaer, Bentley; Carl Hudson, Canisius; Andrew Olson, Connecticut; Brodie Sheahan, Holy Cross.

Goaltender of the Month for October, 2008:
Andrew Volkening – Air Force

The junior has played every minute so far, leading the Falcons to a perfect 8-0 record, their best start in the Division I era. Volkening has posted a 1.49 GAA and a .935 save percentage.
Other Goalies Nominated: Andrew Loewen, Canisius.

Rookie of the Week for October, 2008:
Dave Kostuch – Canisius

Kostuch is off to a terrific start, scoring four goals in his first month of play.
Other Rookies Nominated: Michael Penny, AIC; Marcello Ranallo, Connecticut.

Having Their Number

RIT certainly looks like it has Holy Cross’ number … and that number is five. The Tigers have won 10 straight against the Crusaders, including all eight since RIT joined the Division I ranks. And RIT has scored exactly five goals in the last seven meetings between the two schools.

Is it a case of just matching up well against the Crusaders?

“When you have some success, it feels like you match up well,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “This was the type of hockey we were expecting to play (5-1 and 5-2 wins). Not necessarily getting these results, but the style of play.”

The Tigers have split goaltending duties evenly between senior Louis Menard and junior Jared DeMichiel. Both picked up wins last weekend.

“I’m very happy with our goaltending situation,” Wilson said. “I think we are going to be a better team for it down the line. I think Louis may have been tired down the stretch last year. Neither one has given me any reason to play one over the other.”

Soaring Even Higher

Air Force, coming off a convincing sweep of Bentley and winner of all eight contests this season, has risen to the No. 14 position in the latest College Sports poll, the highest ranking ever for an Atlantic Hockey school in that poll and the highest for a non-“Big Four” team since Niagara back in 2000.

It’s the best start ever for Air Force against Division I competition, a product of having the top-ranked offense (5.12 goals per game) and the fifth-ranked defense (1.50 goals allowed per game) in the nation.

“They scary right now,” said Army coach Brian Riley. “I’m glad we don’t have to play them until January. Maybe they’ll have cooled off by then. I think I’m going to fly out there and rub Frank (Serratore’s) head for some of that magic.”

Unfortunately for the Falcons, they’re off this weekend, resuming play on Nov. 14 at Holy Cross.

“The way we’re playing, it’s too bad we have an off weekend,” Serratore told the Denver Post. “For our guys, that’s probably the only thing that can slow them down. It’s just fun right now.”