Back on Top
Thanks to a weekend sweep of Holy Cross and a split between Air Force and Bentley, RIT is again on top of the see-saw AHA standings.
For the Tigers, the pair of wins were their 13th and 14th in their last 15 contests and their 11th and 12th straight over the Crusaders, dating back to 1983. At least one strange streak was broken — RIT had scored exactly five goals in each of its last seven games with the Crusaders going into last weekend. RIT won 6-0 and 3-1.
“We’re certainly not 12-0 better (than Holy Cross) or whatever it is,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.”For whatever reason we matched up well and came out on the other side with two wins.”
Special teams were key on the weekend. All three RIT goals on Saturday came with the man advantage, while the Crusaders were held to 0-13 on their power play. The Tigers are converting on 21.2% of their chances, fourth in the nation.
“We killed off a five-minute major and a five-on-three when it was 2-1 (on Saturday),” said Wilson. “Those were big moments in the game for us.”
RIT’s final four games are against the Service Academies. The Tigers travel to Army this weekend before a showdown with Air Force on home ice to close out the season.
“We’re not looking ahead,” said Wilson. “Right now we’re worried about Friday’s game and then we’ll worry about Saturday’s game.
“It sounds like a clichÃ©, but we’re just looking at the next game. We’re not paying attention to the standings. The team has taken on that kind of personality — just take each game as it comes and try to get better.”
Wilson says that while a first-place finish would be nice, it’s all about the postseason, where the Tigers did not perform well last season.
“I think we’ll be prepared,” he said. “I really like where we are mentally. In the first period on Friday (Holy Cross) really took it to us. But we were very calm and confident and went out and got it done.”
Each team has four games left in the regular season, so let’s again reset and see where we are:
• RIT and Air Force have each clinched a first-round bye and home ice for the quarterfinals.
• Mercyhurst has locked up at least sixth place, so the Lakers will get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
• Mercyhurst, Bentley, Canisius, and Army are battling for the remaining two quarterfinal home-ice spots.
• Holy Cross and Sacred Heart are still in the running for a first-round bye.
• Connecticut and AIC can finish no higher than eighth and ninth, respectively, and will be playing in the first playoff round.
Air Force’s Mike Phillipich scored a goal last Friday that hockey players dream about, lighting the lamp with a single tick on the clock to win the game. His shorthanded tally at 19:59 of the third period lifted the Falcons to a 3-2 win at Bentley.
With 10 seconds left in the game and Bentley on the power play, Jeff Gumaer was able to walk in and put a quality shot on Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening, who got a skate on the puck. Matt Fairchild collected the rebound and broke down the left side of the ice, beating two Bentley defenders. Fairchild went behind the Bentley net and threw a centering pass into the slot, where Phillipich put the puck between Joe Calvi’s legs for the game winner.
“Volkening made a big save and Fairchild is so dangerous on the penalty kill,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore after the game. “He might be the best shorthanded threat in the nation. Phillipich is a clever, heady player and he hit the spot.”
Bentley got its revenge the next night with a 4-1 win, but let’s wait and see how important those two points turn out to be for each squad at the end of the season.
Player of the Week for February 16, 2009
Phil Ganand — Mercyhurst
The freshman has won Rookie of the Week honors twice this season but earns his first POYW recognition, thanks to a five-point weekend to help the Lakers sweep Connecticut. Ganand had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 6-3 win and two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 7-4 victory.
Goaltender of the Week for February 16, 2009:
Andrew Loewen — Canisius
Loewen stopped 60 of 61 shots last weekend to lead Canisius to a 3-0, 5-1 sweep of AIC. It’s the third time this season Loewen has won this award, and the ninth time in his career.
Rookie of the Week for February 16, 2009:
Kyle Rank — Bentley
Rank wins the award for fourth time this season. This time he made 28 saves in a 4-1 win over No. 20 Air Force, the first time Bentley has ever beaten a ranked team.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore hasn’t changed the number next to “G” on his starting lineup sheet all season. Junior Andrew Volkening has not just started all 30 games to date; he’s played every minute of them, all 1,814 so far. Only Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen has also played every minute for his team, two fewer than Volkening.
Things don’t expect to change down the stretch with Air Force in a battle for the regular-season title. Volkening, who has a .919 save percentage and a 1.95 GAA this season, played all but 120 minutes last season, appearing in all 39 contests.
Highs and Lows
Canisius took all four games from AIC this season, the first time the Griffs have swept a season series since 2004-2005 when they won all three games against Connecticut. You have to go back to 1998-1999 to find the last time Canisius had won a four-game season series.
On the other hand, Sacred Heart has been swept six times this season, including last weekend at the hands of Army. It’s already the most series losses for the Pioneers since that same 1998-1999 season.