This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Oct. 29, 2009

Righting the Ship

Pardon the mixed metaphor, but Air Force righted its ship last weekend, getting the better of RIT 5-4 and 3-2. The two wins in front of sellout crowds at Cadet Ice Arena were the Falcons’ first and second of the season after an 0-4 start.

“If you would have told me that we would sweep RIT and that our freshman line would score most of the goals, I would have laughed at you,” coach Frank Serratore told USCHO.com on Saturday. “What we learned tonight is that we will be competitive in the league, but we also know that every night will be a slugfest.”

Both games were back-and-forth affairs that were decided in the final minutes, and in the case of Saturday’s game, the final second.

On Friday night, Tim Kirby got the game winner with 1:45 to play. Saturday was as dramatic as things can get with Matt Fairchild scoring with one tick on the clock in overtime. On an Air Force power play, Steve Carew’s shot from the slot hit off the back boards and came right onto the stick of Fairchild at the side of the net, and he slapped the puck in just as time expired.

“It was exciting for our kids, for the fans, and as a coach, that never gets old,” Serratore said after Satuday’s dramatic win. “You’re euphoric, just elated, and right after that you look at the other bench and you see the other coach; Wayne Wilson is a friend of mine and you feel for the guy, because that’s a gut-wrenching way to lose.”

Wilson’s Tigers are in uncharted territory at 0-5. RIT has started its season like this only once before, back in 1987, well before coach Wilson’s tenure at RIT. RIT has never been 0-6 in team history, dating back to the team’s inception in 1962. This was the first since since joining the league in 2006 that RIT has failed to take a point on a weekend.

“It’s a tough way to lose,” Wilson said on Saturday. “Just getting a penalty in overtime gives them an opportunity to open up the door and they took advantage of it. They needed the whole clock to do it. My hat’s tipped to them. It’s disappointing, and frustrating. It’s a long season. I was happy with a lot of things tonight, just not the result. We’ve said that now for a while. Now we have to get to the other side of that.”

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for Oct. 26, 2009
Nick Johnson — Sacred Heart

Big things are expected from the senior forward this season, and he came through with four goals, two on Friday at Rensselaer and two on Saturday at Union, including the game winner in overtime.

Goalie of the Week for Oct. 26, 2009
Andrew Volkening — Air Force

After a rough start to the season, the all star was back in form with two wins over RIT. In all, he made 65 saves in the two contests.

Rookie of the Week for Oct. 26, 2009
Adam Pleskach — AIC

Pleskach opened his collegiate career in style, tallying three goals and two assists in his first two games as the Yellow Jackets gave Union and Rensselaer all they could handle in a pair of close losses.

My Bad

In my AHA Season Preview, I stated that Holy Cross had “underachieved” last season. I also went against the wisdom of the coaches’ preseason poll and picked Canisius to finish above the Crusaders.

My bad.

Paul Pearl took me to task on my “underachieved” comment and his team proved me wrong, at least that this point in the season, by sweeping Canisius last weekend in Buffalo.

“What we had [last season] was a young team that came into its own later in the season,” Pearl said. “That was why were were a lot stronger at the end of the season and we’re hoping to carry it over into this year.”

So far, so good. The Crusaders suffered a pair of close losses to Providence (2-1) and Merrimack (3-1) before a pair of 3-2 wins at Canisius to open league play.

“We’ve had four good efforts,” Pearl said. “Four good defensive performances. All four games could have gone either way. We got the bounces in the Canisius games but didn’t get them the week before.”

Freshmen Tom Tysowsky has made three starts so far with a 2.01 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Senior Ian Dams has played one game and has equally good numbers: a 2.03 GAA and a .946 save percentage.

“Both guys have played very well and we’re seeing the benefit of limiting shots,” Pearl said.

As far as who is going to be the main man between the pipes, Pearl says he taking it day-by-day.

“Both guys are seeing the puck well and making great saves,” he said. “Right now we’re just going on feel and and how well they go in practice.”

Due Diligence

In her column last week, USCHO.com’s CCHA correspondent Paula Weston broke the news that Mercyhurst was exploring applying to the CCHA.

“It’s an option,” Lakers coach Rick Gotkin said this week. “We all recognize that landscape continues to change and there’s certainly the idea that the CCHA is looking for a 12th team.”

Mercyhurst has long been on record as wanting to offer the full 18 scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Atlantic Hockey currently has a limit of 12.

“It’s [scholarships] and geography that at least makes us take a look,” Gotkin said. “For us, it’s four and a half hours to Detroit and it’s eight hours to Boston.

“But it’s all just thinking out loud at this point. We may not even apply. If we apply we may not get accepted. Other schools in other leagues including ours do these things all the time but we’re doing it out in the open. And it’s not that we’re unhappy with Atlantic Hockey. We enjoy being a part of it and the relationships we have. But we’ve got to do the due diligence.”

Around the League

Early Success: Bentley’s 4-3 win over Connecticut last Friday was the fifth straight time the Falcons have won their home opener. Holy Cross’ 3-2 win at Canisius on Saturday extended the Crusaders’ streak of never losing a season-opening league game. Holy Cross is 6-0-1 in openers in the seven year history of the AHA.

Rough Start: Canisius has been outscored 11-2 in the first period so far this season. The Golden Griffins have only allowed eight goals total in the second and third periods of their games so far.

Save the Puck: New Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo got his first career win on Saturday when his Pioneers defeated Union 6-5 in overtime.

Stuck on 188: RIT’s 0-5 start to the season means that Wilson will have to try again this weekend to become RIT’s all-time leader in victories. He remains tied with Eric Hoffberg (1989-99) with 188 wins.

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