March 9, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Expect the unexpected

By Allen Lessels

How about that? 

AIC captain Tom Mele (photo: Richard Orr)

AIC captain Tom Mele (photo: Richard Orr)

Do you think perhaps that the folks from Holy Cross and UConn, RIT and Air Force sat up and took notice last weekend when the scores started coming in from various Atlantic Hockey outposts?

Care to wager whether Paul Pearl at Holy Cross and Bruce Marshall at UConn, Wayne Wilson at RIT and Frank Serratore at Air Force have already mentioned more than once this week that rankings and records don’t mean a darned thing when it comes to playoff hockey?

Four Atlantic Hockey first-round games were played last weekend and in each one the team that finished lower in the standings, the team that had to go on the road for its game, came out on top.

Underdogs were four-for-four. And each won by at least three goals. 

We’re talking Upset City.

The results: AIC beat Army, 6-3; Sacred Heart won at Bentley, 6-3; Canisius ended Niagara’s season, 6-3; and Mercyhurst knocked off Robert Morris, 5-1.

And the pairings for this weekend’s best-of-three quarterfinals that begin on Friday and finish, if  necessary, on Sunday: AIC, No. 12 in the regular season, is at No. 1 RIT; No. 11 Sacred Heart is at No. 2 Air Force; No. 8 Canisius is at No. 3 Holy Cross; and No. 7 Mercyhurst is at No. 6 UConn.

Last weekend, the Sacred Heart win was perhaps most shocking, particularly because of the way it came about.

Bentley led 3-1 entering the third period and not once all season had Sacred Heart rallied to win when down with 20 minutes to play.

Until Saturday night. 

“We just talked in the locker room about getting it to 3-2, and keep playing our game, and we’ll get our chances to score,” said Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marattolo (North Haven, Conn.) on the school’s Web site.

The Pioneers made it 3-2, and then junior forward Matt Gingera scored his first of three goals in the third period to tie it. Nine seconds later, sophomore Ben Ketchum (Greenwich, Conn.) got what ended up being the game-winner.

“Their effort was unbelievable,” Marattolo said. “I couldn’t be more proud of those guys in that locker room tonight, the way they battled for each other.”

It was that kind of a Saturday night all over the place in Atlantic Hockey.

NEHJ Player of the Week

Matt Gingera, jr., Sacred Heart

Now that’s a timely hat trick. Gingera scored three times in the third period, the last into an empty net, to lift Sacred Heart to its 6-3 win over Bentley. It was the first hat trick of the season for Sacred Heart.

Looking Ahead          

Sacred Heart at Air Force, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary)

The Pioneers knocked Air Force out of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in the semifinals last year when Patrick Knowlton, now a senior, scored with 42 seconds left in regulation.

Around Atlantic Hockey

AIC

Sophomore forward Adam Pleskach and junior forward Nielsson Arcibal each had a goal and two assists to lead the Yellow Jackets past Army, 6-3. Six different players scored for AIC and sophomore goalie Ben Meisner had 36 saves. … The Yellow Jackets split a pair of games with RIT, its opponent this weekend, during the season.

Air Force

The Falcons surged at the end of the season to take the runner-up spot in the league but won’t be looking past Sacred Heart, which had to rally to escape last place. That’s in part because Sacred Heart took three of four points from Air Force at home in early January. The teams tied, 5-5, the first night and Sacred Heart won, 4-2, the next.

Army

Senior Cody Omilusik at 18-13-31 and junior Danny Colvin at 9-22-31 shared the team’s scoring lead. Junior defenseman Mark Dube (Billerica, Mass.) scored a pair of power-play goals in Saturday’s 6-3 loss to AIC and finished at 13-4-17 for the season. Six of his goals were on the power play. … Omilusik is the only one of Army’s top 11 scorers who does not return next season.

Bentley

Senior forward Dustin Cloutier scored a pair of goals and junior forward Jamie Nudy had one to give Bentley a 3-1 lead entering the third period, but the Falcons could not hold on against Sacred Heart. … Senior forward Erik Peterson finished his career fifth on the school’s Division 1 scoring list at 48-47-95 and Cloutier was right behind in sixth at 39-54-93.

Canisius

Senior forward Eric Rex had two goals and an assist, senior forward Vincent Scarsella added a couple of goals and freshman defenseman Ben Danford contributed three assists to the Griffs’ 6-3 win over Niagara. Danford leads Atlantic Hockey’s rookie defensemen in scoring at 2-23-25. … Canisius is 0-4-2 in its last six games against Holy Cross, its quarterfinal opponent. Three of three of the losses have been by one goal.

UConn

The Huskies benefited in a big way from Saturday’s rash of upsets: When both Niagaraand Robert Morris lost in the first round, UConn moved up to a home-ice spot for the quarterfinals. … Mercyhurst comes to Storrsfor the quarters. The teams split a pair of games at UConn during the regular season. … FreshmanCole Schneider is at 11-18-29 and needs one assist and one point to set UConn Division 1 freshman records.

HolyCross

The Crusaders won one game and tied the other at Canisius this season. … The Crusaders’ third-place finish in the regular season was their best since they were first in 2005-06. … Holy Cross is 6-0-0 in Atlantic Hockey tournament games at the HartCenter. … Sophomores Kyle Fletcher at 12-20-32 andRob Linsmayer at 11-21-32 are the leading scorers for the Crusaders, and senior Everett Sheen is close behind at 14-16-30 and is at 49-50-99 for his career.

Mercyhurst

Senior goalie Ryan Zapolski stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced and senior forward Scott Pitt had two goals and an assist to lead the Lakers to a 5-1 win at Robert Morris. … The Lakers played a pair of games at UConn in January. The Huskies took the first game, 3-1, and the Lakers the next, 9-4. Mercyhurst was 3-for-6 on the power play and also scored two short-handed goals. … Junior forward Phil Ginand(Milford, Mass.) has left the Lakers and signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.  

Niagara

Senior forward Brian Haczyk scored at 7:39 of the third period to cut the Canisius lead to 5-3, but the Purple Eagles could get no closer and ended up losing, 6-3. … Senior forward Paul Zanette had an assist on the Haczyk goal, which was fitting. Zanette and Haczyk closed out huge senior years with the loss: Zanette was at 29-26-55 and Haczyk at 28-17-45.

Robert Morris

Senior forward Nathan Longpre and senior defenseman Denny Urban wrapped up illustrious careers at Robert Morris with a 5-1 loss to Mercyhurst. … Urban had an assist in the game and finished at 8-32-40 for the season and at 28-84-112 for his career. Longpre was at 14-28-42 this year and 47-91-138 for his four years. Both played in 136 games.

RIT

RIT and AIC, quarterfinal opponents this weekend, split a pair of games at AIC in early December. Sophomore goalie Shane Madolora needed only 16 saves to get his first career shutout in a 4-0 win in the opener. RIT lost the next night, 6-2. … Madolora added four more shutouts the rest of the way. He and Dartmouth’s James Mello lead the country with a .929 save percentage and Madolora’s 2.09 goals-against average is seventh-best.

Sacred Heart

Gingera was just one of the Sacred Heart heroes with his third-period hat trick in a 6-3 comeback win over Bentley. Senior goalie Olivier StOnge, senior forward Evan Mladenoff and sophomore forward Ketchum were a few of the others. … St. Onge, in his second straight start, made 42 saves for the win. Mladenoff’s second goal of the game cut Bentley’s lead to 3-2 in the third period. Ketchum score the game-winning goal nine seconds after Gingera had tied it midway through the third.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.