Connecticut, Holy Cross exploring conference options, but move would require investment

The game of musical chairs that wreaked havoc throughout most of college hockey has settled down, but may not be over. For the 2013-14 season, Hockey East has lined up 11 members, an undesirable number from a scheduling and postseason standpoint.

Included in the list of candidates for a potential 12th team are Holy Cross and Connecticut. Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio confirmed reports that both schools are exploring applying to become the 12th member of Hockey East. The key word, according to DeGregorio, is “exploring.”

“We know they’ve made inquiries,” said DeDregorio. “They’re doing what a lot of teams did over the summer. They’re looking at options and seeing what’s out there. They’re making sure they understand what options may be available to them.”

In both cases, it would mean a substantial financial investment. UConn’s rink is unsuitable for Hockey East, and the school does not offer athletic scholarships. Holy Cross’ rink is also on the small side, and while the school does offer scholarships, the amount is nowhere near the 18 it would have to grant to compete in Hockey East.

The Crusaders would seem a more viable choice, considering the.
City of Worchester has pledged support if the team moved off campus to the DCU Center downtown.

“It’s not me personally, but I do know we went to [Atlantic Hockey] and told them that we were exploring things,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “That’s what the four western teams [Canisius, Niagara, Mercyhurst, Robert Morris] did.

“I don’t think it should come out as a negative about Atlantic Hockey. It’s a great league and we’re happy to be here.”

Should Hockey East make a move to add a 12th team, it will probably impact Atlantic Hockey in some way. If Hockey East takes an ECAC Hockey team such as Rensselaer or Quinnipiac for its 12th member, that would likely mean that a team like Rochester Institute of Technology or Niagara would be interested in a spot in ECAC Hockey.

So the music hasn’t stopped yet.

Players of the week

From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:

Atlantic Hockey co-players of the week:
Andy Starczewski, Army

The junior recorded his first career hat trick on Saturday, accounting for all three Black Knights goals in a 5-3 loss at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Brandon Nunn, Holy Cross

Nunn had a goal and three assists to help the Crusaders earn a split at Niagara.

Atlantic Hockey co-goalies of the week:
Ben Meisner, American International

The junior from Halifax, Nova Scotia, made 75 saves on 77 shots to help AIC to a split at Robert Morris. His 33-save 2-0 shutout on Saturday was the first victory for the Yellow Jackets over the Colonials.

Max Strang, Mercyhurst

Strang won his third and fourth games in a row, making 71 saves in a sweep of Connecticut. That included a 2-0 win on Saturday, Strang’s first career shutout.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Brad McGowan, RIT

The freshman from Langley, British Columbia, had a pair of goals to help the Tigers to a split with Army.

Duel of the Steves

Last weekend’s series between Air Force and Sacred Heart featured strong goaltending performances by both teams. The Falcons’ Stephen Caple came out with a pair of wins, stopping 13 of 14 shots in Friday’s 2-1 victory and then making 28 saves in a 3-2 win on Saturday.

At the other end of the rink, The Pioneers’ Steven Legatto also came up big in defeat, making 36 and 39 saves, respectively, to keep his team close in both contests.

Home Komming

Buffalo, N.Y.., native Branden Komm had a successful homecoming on Saturday when the Bentley goaltender stopped all 24 shots he faced for his first career shutout, a 2-0 blanking of Canisius.

Coming up short

RIT senior forward Mark Cornacchia scored a short-handed goal in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Army. The Tigers trailed 3-1 at the time and it turned the momentum of the game in RIT’s favor.

It was the fifth career short-handed goal by Cornacchia, a school record in RIT’s Division I era. But the more impressive, and strange, statistic is that Cornacchia has 12 career goals, so almost half have come while a man down.

“When Mark is leaned on so much to kill penalties, I bet half his ice time is on the penalty kill,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “When you have a lot of penalties, which we tend to do … he’s out there a lot. His speed is what creates his opportunities.”

Power outages

For the most part, AHA teams are struggling on the power play so far this season. Conversely, penalty killing has been exceptional:

• Canisius has killed off 19 power plays in a row.

• RIT has stopped the last 20 power plays it has faced.

• Air Force has killed off 13 in a row.

• AIC is 20-for-21 in penalty killing in league play so far.

• Robert Morris has the best penalty kill in Division I at 95 percent (39 of 41).

On the other hand, Holy Cross has the best power play in the nation, converting on nine of 28 chances so far (32.1 percent).

Fast starts

It’s early, but Mercyhurst and Air Force are off to their best starts in a while. The Falcons are 4-0-1, their best start since the 2008-09 season, when they won their first 11 conference games. Mercyhurst is 3-0 in league play so far, its fastest start since 2005-2006.