While it’s probably too early to call this the home stretch, Atlantic Hockey teams move into almost an exclusive conference schedule, with only four non-league games left in the regular season.
A pair of those will be this weekend when Rochester Institute of Technology travels to Wisconsin for a rematch of the 2010 national semifinal, won easily by the Badgers 8-1.
“They’re the best team we’ve seen on video so far,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “I’m not sure why they have lost some of the games they did, because they’re very good. We watched the [Wisconsin vs. Minnesota-]Duluth games and they looked great. They’ll be the best team and have some of the best players we will play against.”
The Tigers are coming off wins against a pair of teams, that, on paper at least, are more highly regarded than Wisconsin.
RIT defeated No. 11 Ferris State 3-0 and No. 16 Lake Superior State 3-1 to win the Catamount Cup tournament in Burlington, Vt. According to Wilson, it gave a big boost to his team after an up-and-down first half of the season.
“The break helped,” he said. “There was a lot of thoughtful evaluation by the staff on changing some things and focusing on some areas we thought we had to improve. We wanted to get one more power play goal a weekend than we have been scoring. It doesn’t sound like much but if you go back and look at our games, it would have made a big difference.
“Six one-game weekends [in the first part of the schedule] didn’t help. You want to make adjustments and get back at it immediately instead of sitting on it for a week.”
Wilson said he saw a change thanks to the adjustments and playing a full weekend of hockey.
“Tiger hockey is more physical … blocking shots and finishing checks. But we were getting away from that and taking too many shortcuts,” he said. “What we’re looking for can’t be measured in goals or plus/minus. It’s a commitment to playing the kind of hockey we need to play to be successful.”
A highlight of the weekend was the performance of sophomore goaltender Josh Watson, who picked up his first career victory in the win over Lake Superior. Watson has six career starts, four of those coming against ranked opponents. This season he has a .940 save percentage and a 1.53 goals against average but is just 1-1-1. Watson’s start was predetermined, according to Wilson.
“He’s played well but we haven’t scored for him,” said Wilson. “We haven’t been able to get a lead for him until this [Lake Superior] game. We think he’s good, we think [Jordan] Ruby is good. We know Shane [Madolora]’s good.”
Madolora will play on Friday, with Ruby getting the start on Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to these games,” Wilson said. “It should be a great atmosphere and good preparation for the rest of the season.”
RIT’s Madolora, Chris Saracino and Mike Colavecchia were named to the Catamount Cup all-tournament team. Saracino was named the tournament’s MVP with a goal and two assists.
In the Ledyard National Bank Classic at Dartmouth, Holy Cross sophomore Adam Schmidt made the all-tournament team, recording a goal and an assist in the Crusaders’ first round 3-2 loss to the host Big Green.
At the UConn Holiday Classic, the Huskies’ Alex Gerke and Billy Latta earned all-tournament honors. Gerke had a pair of assists in Connecticut’s 2-0 win over Army in the first round (the game doubled as an AHA conference tilt) and Latta had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to Massachusetts-Lowell in the championship game.
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey co-players of the week:
Brant Harris, Connecticut
Chris Saracino, RIT
Harris had a goal and two assists to help the Huskies to a second-place finish in their holiday tournament. The sophomore from Estevan, Saskatchewan, has eight power-play goals so far this season, second in the nation.
Saracino, a junior defenseman, was MVP of the Catamount Cup tournament. He had the eventual game winner against Ferris State and chipped in an assist against Lake Superior State. He was a key factor in the Tigers’ penalty kill going 11-for-11 in the tournament.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Shane Madolora, RIT
Madolora stopped all 23 shots he faced to lift RIT to a 3-0 win over No. 11 Ferris State at the Catamount Cup. It was the first non-conference shutout for the Tigers since moving to Division I and the ninth overall for Madolora, a Division I team record.
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Ryan Misiak, Mercyhurst
Misiak had two goals and an assist to pace the Lakers to a sweep at Alabama-Huntsville.
Men of the month
The league also announced its players of the month for December:
Atlantic Hockey player of the month:
Michael Colavecchia, RIT
The sophomore forward recorded eight points in seven games in December, helping RIT to a 5-2 record. His 15 points overall is tied for the team lead.
Other players nominated: Kyle De Laurell, Air Force; Brant Harris, Connecticut; Andrew Cox, Holy Cross; Paul Chiasson, Mercyhurst.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the month:
Brooks Ostergard, Robert Morris
The senior was 3-1-1 in December with a .955 save percentage and a 1.58 goals against average. Overall this season, Ostergard has a .931 save percentage, tops in the league.
Other goalies nominated: Stephen Caple, Air Force; Garrett Bartus, Connecticut; Max Strang, Mercyhurst; Shane Madolora, RIT.
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the month:
Matt Ginn, Holy Cross
The Lindsay, Ontario, native was 3-1 in net for the Crusaders in December, posting a 1.51 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.
Other rookies nominated: Nardo Nagtzaam, Mercyhurst; Cody Wydo, Robert Morris.
Back in action
After injuring his groin in the first weekend of the season, Air Force incumbent starting goaltender Jason Torf is finally healthy and on Saturday made his first appearance since Oct. 8. He played the third period in relief of Stephen Caple, who allowed four goals through two periods in a 7-1 loss to Denver.
Torf allowed two goals on six shots in the third. Air Force also allowed an empty-net goal after coach Frank Serratore gambled and pulled Torf for an extra attacker midway through the third period.
Back in action, Part II
Another player back from injury is Robert Morris sophomore Colin South. After missing five games to an injury, South made his presence known by scoring both Colonials goals in a 4-2 loss to Ohio State.
What a difference …
UConn has scored 21 power-play goals in 18 games so far this season compared to a total of 27 scored in 37 games last season.
Mercyhurst swept Alabama-Huntsville in Huntsville last weekend 5-1 and 4-3. Those were the last home NCAA games this season for the Chargers, who may have a new lease on life. Unfortunately, only 1,056 and 1,062 people showed up in a rink that seats over 6,660.
If it is going to save its hockey program, UAH is going to need more community support than that.
Breaking the tie
Niagara tied Princeton 3-3 in the consolation game of the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota on Saturday. It was the Purple Eagles’ seventh tie this season, which sets a team record. Niagara is 5-6-7 (yes, 5-6-7) this season and still has at least 18 more games to play.
I stand corrected
Apparently, there is indeed an actual Catamount Cup. I had doubted the existence of the trophy after RIT went home empty-handed last Friday. This was due to a pet peeve of mine: pre-determined tournament formats. The Tigers were going to play the early game no matter what both days of the Catamount Cup, so were slated to face Ferris State on Thursday and Lake Superior State on Friday. As it turns out, both the Tigers and Lakers won their first game, making the early game on Friday the de facto title match.
If two teams went 2-0 or everybody went 1-1, then some convoluted formula would be used to determine the champion. But fortunately, that wasn’t necessary since the two 1-0 teams were able to go head-to-head. But Vermont wasn’t going to award the trophy until after the late game, no matter what. So RIT was on a bus somewhere around Albany when the hardware was handed out.
So in response we got this:
Tweet of the week
Madolora wins for the second time this season. Yes, I am showing some western bias with just one winner from the eastern part of the conference so far this season. But the reason is that most of my followers and followees are on the west side. Want to be considered for TWOT? Follow me @chrislerch.