February 21, 2014

Atlantic Hockey: Depth drives Huskies ahead

By Allen Lessels

Freshman blueliner Ryan Segalla (Boston, Mass.) has 12 points through 28 games for the Huskies. (Photo: UConn Athletics)

Mercyhurst and Bentley each swept their series last weekend to pull away a bit from the Atlantic Hockey pack.

It was mostly splitsville behind them.

Mercyhurst, which lost a pair of games at Air Force the week before, got right back into winning form with two decisive wins at RIT.

Bentley grabbed four points on the weekend with a pair of wins against Army.

The dual sweeps leave Mercyhurst with a two-point lead on Bentley entering the penultimate weekend of the regular season. The Falcons, in turn, are three points ahead of Air Force and UConn, who are tied for third place. Robert Morris is just a point behind Air Force and UConn.

Air Force, UConn and Robert Morris were among the teams that split their weekend series.

UConn dropped a 3-1 decision at home to Holy Cross on Friday and rebounded for a 5-0 win in Worcester on Saturday for its third straight split of a league series.

With only one weekend remaining in the regular season after this, the Huskies will try to take a step toward securing a top four spot with a home and home series against Army this weekend. The teams play in Storrs on Friday night and at West Point on Saturday.

The Black Knights are bringing up the rear in the league and looking to snap a 13-game losing streak. Two of their last three games have been 5-4 losses in overtime, first to AIC and then to Bentley.

The Huskies need to match Army’s intensity, said freshman defenseman Ryan Segalla (Boston, Mass.).

“You always know what you’re going to get from them,” Segalla said. “They come ready to play and they never give up. It’s going to be a good test for us as we head to the playoffs. They’re hard to play against.”

So, too, are the Huskies, Segalla thinks, in large part because of their balance and depth.

UConn is one of only two teams in Atlantic Hockey – Army is the other – that does not have a player who is among the top 25 scorers in the league.

“What’s great about our team is we don’t have one line or one guy we rely on,” Segalla said. “We have four lines, six solid defensemen and we have two goalies. We have consistency in our lineup and don’t have any guys with 30 points. I think that’s going to be key when it comes to the playoffs because we’ll be able to wear teams down, which is good.”

The Huskies are led in the scoring column by their senior forwards Billy Latta (11-10-21), Jordan Sims (7-13-20) and Brant Harris (10-9-19).

 Junior Jacob Poe (4-10-14) leads the defensemen in scoring and Segalla (1-11-12) and fellow freshman and Joona Kunnas (2-10-12) are close behind.

The goalies are senior Matt Grogan (.926 save percentage, 239 goals against average with a 10-9-2) and freshman Robby Nichols (.944, 1.77 and 6-1-2).

Player of the Week

Matt Blomquist, so., D, Bentley

Blomquist had a five-point weekend with a goal and four assists to help the Falcons to a sweep of Army. He had a goal and an assist in a 6-1 win on Friday and then added three assists, all on power play goals, in a 5-4 OT win on Saturday.

Games of the Week

AIC at Holy Cross Friday, Holy Cross at AIC Saturday

The Yellow Jackets and Crusaders enter the weekend tied for eighth place in the Atlantic Hockey standings and looking to improve their chances of landing the home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs that goes to teams ranked from fifth to eighth.

Power Rankings

1. Mercyhurst (17-12-5, 15-4-4)  . . . The Lakers bounced back from a lost weekend at Air Force with 6-3 and 6-2 wins at RIT. Junior goalie Jimmy Sarjeant returned after missing three weeks with an injury and made 43 saves on Saturday. 

2. Bentley (16-10-4, 14-5-4. . . Freshman forward Tyler Deresky had a timely second career goal for the Falcons. His OT tally gave Bentley a 5-4 win over Army. Sophomore defenseman Matt Blomquist contributed a goal and four assists on the weekend.

3. UConn (16-10-4, 13-7-3) . . . The Huskies rebounded from a 3-1 loss at home to Holy Cross with a 5-0 win at Holy Cross on Saturday. Freshman goalie Robby Nichols made 38 saves to earn his second shutout of the season.

4. Air Force (18-10-4, 13-7-3) . . . Senior Jason Torf, after missing 13 games with a groin  injury, returned to make 18 saves and lead the Falcons to a 4-2 win at Canisius on Saturday. Air Force plays RIT at home this weekend.

5. Robert Morris (12-14-4, 12-7-4) . . . A 5-3 loss at Niagara on Thursday snapped the Colonials’ nine-game (7-0-2) unbeaten streak. Sophomore Terry Shafer threw a 44-save shutout at Niagara in a 5-0 victory on Saturday.

6. Niagara (10-16-4, 10-9-4) . . . Freshman forward Stephen Pietrobon’s second short-handed goal of the season was the game-winner in a 5-3 decision over Robert Morris. Pietrobon scored with 2:25 left in the game and Niagara added an empty net goal.

7. Canisius (11-16-3, 10-10-3) . . . Senior goalie Tony Capobianco had 24 saves to beat Air Force, 4-0, for his first shutout of the season and sixth of his career on Friday. He had 31 stops in a 4-2 loss to the Falcons on Saturday.

8. Holy Cross (9-18-3, 8-12-3) . . . Senior goalie Derek Kump (Falmouth, Maine) made 20 saves and freshman forward Mike Barrett scored the winning goal to lead the Crusaders to a 3-1 win at UConn on Friday night. UConn won the rematch, 5-0, in Worcester.
9. AIC (10-19-19-13-1) . . . The Yellow Jackets bounced back from a 5-4 OT loss to Sacred Heart at home with a 7-6 win at Sacred Heart on Saturday. Senior forward Jon Puskar had two goals and two assists in the win.

10. RIT (8-17-5, 7-13-3. . . The Tigers dropped a pair of home games to Mercyhurst, 6-3 and 6-2, and now go on the road to face Air Force. The Mercyhurst games finished a seven-game home-stand in which RIT went 0-5-2.

11. Sacred Heart (9-21-0, 8-15-0) . . . The Pioneers split a series for the third straight weekend, winning 5-4 in overtime at AIC and losing 7-6 at home. Freshman Justin Danforth scored the game-winner on Friday, 3:31 into OT. He also had two assists.

12. Army (3-24-0, 3-200) . . . The Black Knight losing streak stretched to 13 games against Bentley. Saturday’s loss was Army’s second 5-4 loss in overtime in its last three games. Freshman Clint Carlisle got it to OT with an extra attacker goal with 56 seconds to play.

Twitter: @AllenLessels
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