All or Nothing
The Atlantic Hockey Championship will be settled this weekend in Rochester, N.Y., and this year’s final quartet features a pair of regulars, as well as two teams that haven’t gotten this far in a while.
Air Force is making its fourth trip to the Blue Cross Arena, and the Falcons have enjoyed their home away from home, with a 6-0 record and three titles. Falcons coach Frank Serratore’s team is 12-1 overall in AHA postseason play. But Serratore says that while this year’s version of the Falcons may not have the offensive prowess of past squads, it’s a hardworking group.
“This isn’t the mighty Falcons of last year that beat Michigan,” he said. “This is the scrappin’, fightin’ Falcons and these kids have so much heart and character. I’m really happy this team gets the chance to go to Rochester. We are not a deep or old team, but we have guys who are making contributions who haven’t played. The fighting and scrapping Falcons is what we are.”
RIT is making its third trip to the semifinals, and has a de facto home ice advantage. A sea of orange hasn’t helped the past two seasons, with the Tigers losing 5-0 to Air Force in 2008 and 5-4 in overtime to Mercyhurst last season.
“Two years ago, we weren’t ready to play a single-elimination game,” said Wilson. “We hadn’t played a meaningful game like that in three years. Last season, we made some mistakes and it cost us. Hopefully, we can learn from that.”
Sacred Heart makes its return to the BCA after a three-year hiatus, giving its talented senior class one more shot at a title.
Canisius has never been to Blue Cross, last making the AHA semifinals back in 2004. This is the first time under Dave Smith that the Griffs have gone this deep into the playoffs.
“This is awesome for the program,” said Canisius forward Josh Heidinger. “This puts us in the right direction for future years and it’s great for the present.”
Player of the Week for March 15:
Josh Heidinger — Canisius
The senior had a six-point weekend (two goals, four assists) to lead the Griffs to a quarterfinal sweep of Mercyhurst. He’s the program’s all-time leader in points (132).
Goalie of the Week for March 15:
Andrew Volkening — Air Force
Volkening is in postseason form, allowing just two goals in a sweep of Army. He stopped 60 of 62 shots on the weekend to improve his record in AHA tournament games to 11-1.
Rookie of the Week for March 15:
Adam Hartley — RIT
Hartley had a goal and three assists to help the Tigers to a quarterfinal sweep of Connecticut. He has eight goals on the season; three have been game-winners.
The Early Bird
RIT drew over 7,400 fans to a game at Blue Cross Arena earlier this season, but don’t expect that many people in the building for the Tigers’ 4:05 p.m. semifinal against Canisius on Friday. As the top seed, RIT is slated for the early game. Air Force and Sacred Heart are scheduled to square off in prime time with a 7:35 start.
“It’s a league mandate, but if it were up to me, we would play the early game anyway,” Wilson said. “Besides the additional rest, you don’t have to sit around and watch a game and instead focus just on your game.”
The league’s all-star teams will be announced on Thursday, but here are my picks. Feel free to argue with me in the comments section.
F Cory Conacher, jr., Canisius
F Nick Johnson, sr., Sacred Heart
F Jacques Lamoureux, jr., Air Force
D Tim Kirby, so., Air Force
D Dan Ringwald, sr., RIT
G Jared DeMichiel, sr., RIT
F Cameron Burt, so., RIT
F Matt Fairchild, jr., Air Force
F Dave Jarman, sr., Sacred Heart
D Carl Hudson, sr., Canisius
D Bobby Preece, sr., Bentley
G Andrew Volkening, sr., Air Force
F Andrew Favot, jr., RIT
F Marc Menzione, sr., Bentley
F Owen Meyer, sr., Army
D Paul Ferraro, sr., Sacred Heart
D Al Mazur, sr., RIT
G Ryan Zapolski, jr., Mercyhurst
Honorable Mention: Marcel Alvarez (Army), Eric Sefchik (Army), Josh Heidinger (Canisius), Dave Kostuch (Canisius), Andrew Leowen (Canisius), Vincent Scarsella (Canisius), Andrew Olson (Connecticut), Jordon Cyr (Holy Cross), Steve Cameron (Mercyhurst), Mike Gurtler (Mercyhurst), Chris Haltigan (RIT), Patrick Knowlton (Sacred Heart).
F Joe Campanelli, Bentley
F Eric Delong, Sacred Heart
F Adam Pleskach, American International
D Alex Gerke, Connecticut
D Chris Tanev, RIT
G Thomas Tysowski, Holy Cross
Honorable Mention: Preston Shupe (Canisius), Sean Ambrosie (Connecticut), Garrett Bartus (Connecticut), Grant Blakey (Mercyhurst), Paul Chiasson (Mercyhurst), Adam Hartley (RIT), Steven Legatto (Sacred Heart), Alex Stuart (Sacred Heart).
Player of the Year: Cory Conacher, Canisius
Rookie of the Year: Chris Tanev, RIT
Coach of the Year: C.J. Marottolo, Sacred Heart
Another Season in the Books
This has been my fourth season covering Atlantic Hockey for USCHO.com, which means I was a rookie along with this senior class back in 2006-07. Good luck to all those players whose college career has ended, or will in the coming days and (maybe) weeks.
My son Matthew played his last game a couple of weeks ago, like his brother Jon had four years before him. Between the two, it’s been 17 years of early morning rides to the rink, donuts after, and loads of memories, including a State Title, an 80-point season, a dozen or so tournament championships, a 150-foot goal, and a game-winner with four seconds to play. I thank them, as well as my youngest son Tim (who isn’t into hockey but was dragged along) and my wife Kathleen, who had to shoulder a lot of the load over the years with dad on the road covering college hockey.
Thanks as always to the talented broadcasters I have worked with this year: Ed Trefzger, Scott Biggar, Taylor Osmonson and Greg Keyzer-Andre. They filled in many times for me this season so I wouldn’t have to miss a game of Matt’s final season. Thanks also to Gene Battaglia, who taught me that doing TV was harder than it looks (and that I have a face for radio).
Thanks to the many coaches, players and sports information directors who gave me their valuable time, especially Dave Rourke at Atlantic Hockey.
And finally, thanks to you, dear reader. See you next season.