Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio is comfortable with an 11-team conference if it comes to that, but he would like to see a full complement of 12 schools after Connecticut departs for Hockey East after the 2013-14 season.
DeGregorio said the league is currently in contact with four schools that have expressed a recent interest in joining the conference:
St. Anselm: “We have met and the ball is in their court right now,” he said. “They would make a great addition to the league. They have a great facility and tradition. The women’s program would also be a great addition to the CHA.”
Rhode Island: “They have formed a committee to look at costs of taking both the men’s and women’s programs to Division I. It’s obviously a big financial commitment but they are interested.”
Navy: “There has been some interest for some time but I think it would be another three or four years [before things get serious]. They are in the midst of taking their football program to the Big East [in 2015] and that’s where their focus is right now.”
Alabama-Huntsville: “They are focused on the WCHA right now and I think they would be a very good fit there. It’s important to college hockey that this program continue.”
If those don’t work out, DeGregorio said there have been preliminary inquiries from some other schools, but he declined to comment further. And, there’s always the distinct possibility of living with 11, at least for a few seasons.
“We’ve drawn up an 11-team schedule and an 11-team playoff structure,” DeGregorio said. “Another team can come sooner or later. We’ll be ready.”
The best of times …
November has featured a Tale of Two Weekends so far for the Connecticut Huskies. The Worst of Times was Nov. 2 and 3, when the Huskies were swept at Niagara 3-0 and 5-0. The following Tuesday, the school announced that coach Bruce Marshall was taking a medical leave of absence.
The Best, or at least Better of Times was last weekend, when a struggling UConn offense put 44 shots on net against Sacred Heart for its first win of the season, a 5-3 victory over the Pioneers.
Last Saturday, UConn played its best game of the season so far, a 3-1 win at Merrimack, a team that the Huskies will face in Hockey East play the season after next. After being dominated in the first period the Huskies clamped down defensively and outworked and outscored the Warriors.
“I thought they played with a purpose,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy told USCHO’s Patrick Bradley after the game. “How many shots did they block? I loved the way they battled. They played the game they needed to play.”
UConn blocked 23 shots in all, and goaltender Garrett Bartus made a 2-1 lead stand up until the final 18 seconds when the Huskies sealed the deal with an empty-net goal by Evan Carriere. Sean Ambrosie got the winner in the third period and assisted on UConn’s first goal by Cody Sharib in the second.
Fifteen of 18 players had points last weekend.
“We definitely played better,” assistant and interim head coach David Berard said. “Niagara is a really good team, and people around the country and especially in the league are going to figure that out if they already haven’t.
“[Niagara] exposed some things. We had to take a hard look at how we were playing and make some adjustments, particularly offensively. We were averaging 23 shots a game, and for the most part that means one to two goals.
“Last year we had one of the best power plays in the country but this year we were struggling to score. We have good team speed and I think we were restricting guys and thinking too much. We freed them up offensively and we scored some goals.”
Berard, who has been an assistant at UConn since 2011 after a long stint in the same role at Providence, said that he is happy with the way the Huskies responded to adversity in dealing with the humbling losses at Niagara and the sudden announcement by Marshall.
“It was a lot to deal with,” he said. “But I’m proud of the players for the way they handled it. We’re not the most talented team in the country. We’re going to have to outwork teams. And I think we did that, responding to a good comeback by Sacred Heart on Friday and playing our best game so far at Merrimack.”
UConn will need another good effort on Saturday when the Huskies travel to Bentley.
“We didn’t beat Bentley in three tries last year,” Berard said. “They’re very talented. It’s going to be a really tough test. After Saturday’s game we told the guys, ‘Enjoy this, but be ready.’ We’ve already forgotten about our last game. We’re totally focused on the next one.”
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Kyle Fletcher, Holy Cross
The senior had a pair of goals and a pair of assists last weekend to help the Crusaders to four points in wins over Bentley and Sacred Heart. Fletcher leads his team with 10 points, including a team-best five goals.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Carsen Chubak, Niagara
They’re going to name this award “The Chubak” if this keeps up. The junior wins it for the third consecutive week, this time leading the Purple Eagles to a sweep at Army. When the Black Knights scored midway through the third period of the second game of the series on Saturday, it ended a scoreless streak of 258 minutes, 32 seconds for Chubak, breaking the school’s record of 232 minutes, 38 seconds set in 2000 by Greg Gardner. Chubak made 116 straight saves during the streak.
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Terry Shafer, Robert Morris
Shafer started his collegiate career in style with a shutout in his first start. He blanked Canisius last Friday 4-0, stopping all 24 shots he faced. It was the first win in Buffalo for the Colonials in over six years.
Finding the touch
Canisius has had some problems on offense this season, getting shut out four times already and scoring just 10 goals in its first eight games.
But thanks in part to the Griffs’ top line of Pat Sullivan, Kyle Gibbons and Doug Beck, Canisius exploded for six goals last Saturday at Rochester Institute of Technology en route to a 6-3 win, their first at Ritter Arena since 2007.
Sullivan had two goals, including the winner in the third period, and added an assist. Gibbons scored just 12 seconds into the contest, the fastest goal in program history. The last two Canisius goals were empty-netters but those were a reward for playing an up-tempo game on offense that’s going to give teams problems if the Griffs can keep it up.
The list of candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for hockey is out, and among the 20 are six players from Atlantic Hockey, more than from any other conference:
• Stephen Carew, Air Force
• Alex Gerke, Connecticut
• Brendan Jamison, Robert Morris
• Dan Koudys, Bentley
• Brandon Nunn, Holy Cross
• Cheyne Rocha, Army
The list will be whittled down to 10 finalists in early 2013 and the winner announced at the 2013 Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
Tweet of the week
RIT senior Mike Colavecchia pointing out the benefits of the one-piece P.J., which apparently has a made a comeback among college students, including hockey players. I personally wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those things but I’m from a different and more uptight era.
Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.