November 8, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: What a weekend for Niagara

By Allen Lessels

What a weekend for Niagara and for a couple of Purple Eagles in particular.

Senior forward Giancarlo Iuorio and junior goalie Carsen Chubak stepped up in a major way at home and led their team to a shutout sweep of Connecticut, 3-0 and 5-0.

Iuorio scored all the goals in the first game and Chubak stopped 60 saves to earn both shutouts. Chubak now has three shutouts for the season.

Niagara coach Dave Burkholder praised the defense of the entire team, as well as Chubak’s effort.

“Carsen Chubak didn’t make a mistake all weekend and I thought our defensive zone coverage was great, especially five-one-five,” Burkholder said on the team’s web site. “A majority of UConn’s good chances were on their power play. I was very happy with the effort. Our guys were paying the price, doing what it takes first and foremost defensively and as a result we scored our share of goals.”

Iuorio and Chubak both are putting up eye-popping numbers.

Chubak has a save percentage of .962 and goals against average of 1.23.

After tying for the team scoring lead with totals of 10-14-24 last season, Iuorio is off to an 8-3-11 start.

“We have a ton of depth up front and Giancarlo has definitely contributed to that,” Burkholder said. “He’s been unbelievable all year. He has been a great leader and he works on his game daily which is what you want to see out of your senior captain. When he’s not in the classroom he’s here working on his game. You get what you deserve. He’s currently on a hot streak and hopefully he keeps it going.”  

The Purple Eagles face a tough test ahead with a pair of games at Army this weekend.

Niagara and the Black Knights are the two Atlantic Hockey teams that are without a league loss among teams that have played more than one game.

The flip side of Niagara’s success last weekend was the struggles of UConn.

The Huskies have had trouble scoring all season. They have not scored more than two goals in a game and scored three goals total in their first three games. Then they ran into Chubak.

Tough news came on Tuesday when UConn announced that Bruce Marshall, in his 25th year as the Huskies coach, is taking a medical leave of absence. No timetable was given for his return.

Assistant coach David Berard, a former Providence College player and assistant coach, will take over head coaching duties.

The Huskies again will look for their first win of the season at home against Sacred Heart on Friday night. UConn plays at Merrimack of Hockey East on Saturday. 

Player of the Week

Pick a Purple Eagle, any Purple Eagle. Go with senior forward Giancarlo Iuorio (pictured right) this time. All he did was score all three goals in a 3-0 win over UConn on Friday night and add a couple more in a 5-0 win on Saturday.

Goalie Carsen Chubak, last week’s honoree, had himself a great weekend, too. He earned both shutouts with 34 and 26 saves, respectively.

Game of the week

Bentley at Holy Cross, Friday

The Falcons and Crusaders square off in their first of three meetings in the regular season. They finish off the series with a home-and-home set on Jan. 25-26. Last year, Holy Cross won the third game of the series, 6-4, after the teams played to a couple of ties, 6-6 and 2-2. 

Power Rankings

1. Niagara (4-2-3, 3-0-0) . . . The Purple Eagles had themselves an impressive series at home against UConn, posting a pair of shutouts, 3-0 and 5-0. Niagara now hits the road for games against Army on Friday and Saturday.  

2. Holy Cross (4-2-0, 3-2-0) . . . The Crusaders won their series opener at Air Force, 3-2, and then fell, 7-0, in Game 2. Holy Cross faces Bentley at home on Friday and then is at Sacred Heart on Sunday.  

3. Air Force (2-3-3, 2-1-1) . . . Junior defenseman Adam McKenzie led Air Force’s big comeback from a first-game loss to Holy Cross with a goal and a pair of assists in a 7-0 win on Saturday. Junior goalie Jason Torf stopped 63 of 66 shots for the weekend, including 23 on Saturday for his eighth career shutout.

4. Bentley (3-3-0, 2-1-0) . . . Brett Gensler continued his two-points-a-game pace in a split with Robert Morris. The junior forward is now at 5-7-12 for the young season. Sophomore defenseman Steve Weinstein is at 3-4-7. . . . The Falcons are at Holy Cross in their only game of the weekend.

5. Army (2-3-1, 2-0-1) . . . The Black Knights landed a couple of monthly Atlantic Hockey awards for October: Senior forward Andy Starczewski had six goals and four assists for 10 points for Player of the Month honors and freshman forward Joe Kozlak’s two goals and four assists earned Rookie of the Month honors.

6. Robert Morris (3-3-0, 2-2-0) . . . Sophomore forward Scott Jacklin had a five-assist weekend as the Colonials split a series with Bentley. His four assists in a 5-2 win on Friday tied a school record for a game. Senior forward Adam Brace had two goals and two assists for the weekend.

7. Mercyhurst (2-2-1, 2-1-0) . . . Laker goalies Max Strang, a senior, and Jordan Tibbett, a junior, combined to stop 67 of 68 shots in a sweep of Sacred Heart. Strang had 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career in a 3-0 victory. Tibbett made 39 saves in a 3-1 win.

8. RIT (2-4-1, 1-1-1) . . . RIT bounced back from getting a single point with a 2-2 tie at AIC on Friday for a 3-0 triumph on Saturday night. Junior Josh Watson had 19 saves for his first career save. The Tigers host Mercyhurst on Friday, Canisius on Saturday. 

9. Canisius (1-4-3, 0-0-1) . . . Sophomore forward Tyler Wiseman scored three of his team’s five goals in a pair of ties, 3-2 and 2-2, with Clarkson. He had scored four goals in his first 28 career games. . . . The Griffs host Robert Morris on Friday and are at RIT on Saturday.

10. AIC (3-4-1, 0-2-1) . . . The Yellow Jackets went 1-1-1 in a three-games-in-five-nights stretch, tying RIT, 1-1, losing to RIT, 3-0, and then winning a 2-1 game at Quinnipiac on Tuesday.  . . .  Senior goalie Ben Meisner stopped 39 shots in the victory over Quinnipiac and sophomore Matt Cassidy had the game-winner with his first goal of the season. 

11. UConn (0-4-1, 0-3-0) . . . UConn announced on Tuesday that head coach Bruce Marshall, in his 25th year leading the program, will be taking an indefinite leave of absence for medical reasons. The Hartford Courant reported Marshall’s condition is not life-threatening. Assistant coach David Berard has assumed Marshall’s duties.

12. Sacred Heart (0-6-1, 0-4-1) . . . Nick Curry, a sophomore forward and transfer from UMass-Lowell, scored his first goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to Mercyhurst on Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers lost the opener of the series, 3-0, on Friday night . . . Sacred Heart plays at UConn on Friday night and faces Holy Cross at home on Sunday at noon. 

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