This Week in Atlantic Hockey: October 22, 2009

It Could Be Worse…

What could be worse than a 1-9 opening weekend for Atlantic Hockey? How about an 0-14 record last weekend to plunge the league to 1-23 in nonconference games to date.

“I’m sure the coaches aren’t any happier than I am,” said league commissioner Bob DiGregorio. “(Atlantic Hockey) teams are just not getting the bounces. Teams have been in plenty of those games but weren’t able to pull them out.”

No AHA team is mentioned in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s poll, something neither the league nor I can find happening before.

Air Force, which opened last season 13-0, is 0-4. It’s the Falcons’ worse start since also losing their first four games of the 1996-1997 season, the year before coach Frank Serratore took the reins. Last weekend, Air Force was swept at home at the hands of Alabama Huntsville by identical 4-2 scores.

“College hockey games are so tight that it comes down to who makes the most mistakes,” Serratore said after the game on Friday. “The team that usually makes the most mistakes is the one that usually loses. We worked hard and our energy was good, but they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t. We are all pressing right now. We have to stick together and I’m confident that we will turn it around.”

Serratore said on Saturday and he was pleased with the effort and can take away some positives going into a big weekend against RIT.

“We took some steps in the right direction this weekend,” he said. “We scrapped and fought hard. We are a struggling team right now and we just have to go back to work and stick together to get through it.”

Co-regular season champion RIT is also winless, dropping games at St. Lawrence (3-1) and Clarkson (5-3). The Tigers are off to an 0-3 start, their worst ever under Wayne Wilson and overall worst since 1987-88. RIT had an 88-49 shots on goal advantage last weekend, but came up empty.

“If I had to use a word, it would be ‘disappointing’,” said Wilson. “Not ‘frustrating’. I’m optimistic. When I think back four years ago when we got outshot by St. Lawrence 65-15 at home and won that game, this is better because we really would have deserved to win if we had been able to pull these games out.

“We held St. Lawrence to four shots in the first period and five shots in the third period. Against Clarkson we had two shots that their goalie never saw but they hit him. Sometimes you get the lucky bounce off a shin pad and it goes in; sometimes you get the opposite. We need a little bit of puck luck now.”

Things don’t get any easier for RIT and Air Force as they square off against each other in conference play this weekend.

“We’ve got to play these games sometime and at this point, it’s good to get on the road early,” said Wilson. “(Air Force) is going to regroup. We know they’re going to be hungry. These games are going to be even tougher than the ones we’ve played. It’s league play now.”

“I think you’ll be seeing all these teams tying their skates a little tighter and really coming out hard this weekend,” said DiGregorio.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for October 19, 2009
Cory Conacher – Canisius

The junior had a hat trick, the ninth in program history, to help the Golden Griffins fight back from a three-goal deficit at Lake Superior State.

Goalie of the Week for October 19, 2009
Thomas Tysowsky – Holy Cross

Freshman, Goaltender, Amherst, N.Y.
The rookie from Amherst, N.Y., stopped 25 of 27 shots in is his collegiate debut at Merrimack.

Rookie of the Week for October 19, 2009:
Sean Ambrosie – Connecticut

Ambrosie scored his first career goal and added in an assist last weekend at Ferris State.

Staying Positive

Despite the league’s rough start, there have been positives:

– There were indeed a lot of close games last weekend, with seven of the fourteen contests decided by a single goal or including an empty net goal in the final seconds. Bentley lost by a goal to No. 20 Northeastern and No. 18 Quinnipiac, the latter coming in overtime. Ten of the fourteen games were on the road, which just Canisius and Air Force at home.

– Commissioner DiGregorio was at several of the games and was impressed by the rookies he saw.

“Holy Cross looked very good (at Merrimack),” he said. “(Coach) Paul Pearl has done an excellent job getting some good young players. Army’s freshmen looked impressive (the next night at Merrimack). Bentley played very well despite losing their entire first line. Their young players really chipped in.”

– Attendance at AHA venues so far this year has been excellent. RIT drew a record 7,421 fans to its game against Colgate, played at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. Since RIT’s on-campus rink, Ritter Arena, holds only 2,100 and was at nearly 90 percent capacity last year, tickets are going to be hard to come by this season.

Also, Air Force extended its sellout steak to 10 straight games going back to last season. The Falcons averaged 105 percent capacity last year (they can sneak more fans in due to the building being shared with the basketball arena).

Bentley, Army, Air Force and Canisius are home this weekend. The Griffs are hoping for large crowds on their Homecoming weekend.

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