Chubak finds a zone in goal for Atlantic Hockey-leading Niagara

In what is already turning into an another “on any given night” season, Niagara has managed to fly above the fray, opening 3-0 in league play after beating contenders Connecticut and Mercyhurst by a combined score of 10-1.

Most of the damage inflicted by the Purple Eagles was last weekend, when they beat the Huskies 3-0 and 5-0.

“Friday was a closer game [than 3-0] and Saturday we really played well,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “It all starts and ends with Carsen [Chubak].”

The junior goalie had back-to-back shutouts and already has three on the season. He’s currently first in the nation in save percentage (.962) and second in goals against average (1.23).

“He’s in a zone right now, both in games and in practice,” Burkholder said.

Niagara has struggled in non-league contests, twice losing third-period leads at Michigan State and getting blown out 10-2 at Colgate.

“We’re playing better as a team right now [than then],” Burkholder said. “Going through the humbling experience at Colgate and having a two-goal lead twice and only getting a point at Michigan State, it was a learning experience for us.”

Niagara travels to Army this weekend in a battle of the only two unbeaten teams left in conference play.

“They have a really fast power play and they get good crowds there,” Burkholder said. “It’s going to be a real challenge.”

I asked Burkholder if he was worried that some complacency might set in after a couple of convincing wins.

“We make it difficult [for the players] Monday to Thursday,” Burkholder said. “We won’t let it.”

Players of the week

From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:

Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Giancarlo Iuorio, Niagara

The senior forward had a whopping six points last weekend against Connecticut, including five goals and an assist in a 3-0, 5-0 sweep. Iuorio already has eight goals this season.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Carsen Chubak, Niagara

Chubak wins the award for the second straight week. Coming off a 70-for-71 save performance against Clarkson last weekend, Chubak went one better, stopping all 60 shots he faced in a sweep of UConn.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Ben Carey, Air Force

The rookie from nearby Aurora, Colo., had a pair of goals in a split with Holy Cross. He registered a tally in each game.

Men of the month

Atlantic Hockey player of the month:
Andy Starczewski, Army

Starczewski’s four goals in October were best in Division I. He had three assists in the Black Knights’ 7-2 win at Holy Cross on Oct. 27.

Other players nominated: Brett Gensler, Bentley; Brandon Nunn, Holy Cross; Jeff Smith, Rochester Institute of Technology; Zach Hervato, Robert Morris.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the month:
Carsen Chubak, Niagara

Even before his back-to-back shutouts last weekend, the junior was putting up good numbers, a 1.64 goals against average and a .951 save percentage in October.

Other goalies nominated: Tony Capobianco, Canisius; Matt Ginn, Holy Cross.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Joe Kozlak, Army

The Duluth, Minn., native posted six points in October, second on the team. He has two goals and three assists in his three conference games.

Other rookies nominated: Andrew Gladiuk, Bentley; Castan Sommer, Holy Cross; David Friedmann, Robert Morris.

Marshall takes leave

Our thoughts are with Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall, who has taken a medical leave from the team, announced in a brief statement by the school on Tuesday. Assistant coach David Berard will coach the Huskies in Marshall’s absence.

Still at the top

Bentley’s Brett Gensler led the AHA in scoring last season and has started off in the same place with 12 points so far. He ranks third in the nation in points per game (2.00)

Badly needed boost

Canisius had just five goals in six games going into last weekend’s series with Clarkson but equaled that total in the two games, fighting to a pair of ties with the Golden Knights.

Sophomore Tyler Wiseman had three of the Golden Griffins’ five goals on the weekend, two of them coming on the power play.

Major improvement

Rochester Institute of Technology allowed 12 goals in losses to Robert Morris and Colgate to close out October but goaltenders Jordan Ruby and Josh Watson combined to let in just two last weekend as the Tigers took three points at American International.

Watson pitched his first career shutout in a 3-0 win on Saturday. As a result, RIT’s GAA dropped from 5.20 to 3.95

Meisner in a landslide

In election night action, AIC’s game at Quinnipac was too close to call for most of the contest and ended in a 2-1 victory for the Yellow Jackets.

AIC senior goalie Ben Meisner stopped 39 shots as the Bobcats outshot AIC 40-17. Exit polling and the scoreboard clearly indicted Meisner was the difference.

Missing Cole

Connecticut failed to score a goal last weekend and is last in the conference in goals (0.80 per game), shots on goal (131 through five games) and power play percentage (3.2 percent).

The early departure of Cole Schneider for the pros is clearly hurting. Schneider has yet to score a goal for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL. He had two assists in 12 games last season and has one helper in four contests so far this year.

Tweet of the week

Weak sauce this week as the Twitterverse drowned out hockey to focus on politics. So instead I’ll put a plug in for Movember, which has an official Twitter account @movember.

Men around the world sport mustaches in November to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.

Several AHA teams are participating, so check with the program you follow to find out how you can contribute.

Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.