an old (and bawdy) adage, first place in the Atlantic Hockey
standings this season was a lot like the village bicycle
everyone got a ride. At least it seemed that way.
some time atop the league. So did Sacred Heart. Holy Cross
made an appearance there, too. Quinnipiac ended the regular
season there but given the way Mercyhurst has played lately,
the Lakers may have ascended to the top spot had the playoffs
started a week or two later.
tournament is as open as a Las Vegas 7-11. And while ECACHL-bound
Quinnipiac has emerged as the top candidate to win the playoff
championship and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that
accompanies it, the rest of the field would like nothing
better than to send the short-timing Bobcats into the sunset
a favorite in Atlantic Hockey as recently as two weeks ago
seemed as logical as drawing lottery numbers. But as they’ve
kept winning, we’re drawn closer and closer to the
Quinnipiac Bobcats’ ping-pong ball. The future ECACHL
team put together a 13-2-0 run to close out the season,
led by an offense that was held under four goals only three
times in that stretch. The four semifinalists should be
converging on Hamden, Conn., at this time next week, hoping
to wrest the title away from a team that will never have
an opportunity to defend it. Their odds won’t be great.
8 Army at No. 1 Quinnipiac
Army: 7-20-3, 5-16-3 AHA QU: 19-2-3, 16-6-2 AHA Season Series: Quinnipiac won, 3-0
Knight Fact: Freshman Robb Ross (10-9-19)
is tied with Ryan Cruthers atop the team points standings.
If Ross can take the lead by the end of the season,
he will be the first plebe since Glen Giovanucci in
1978 to win the Black Knights’ scoring title
outright. It should be noted that Army counts exhibition
games in its stats. Bobcat Fact: Fast-closing Quinnipiac
won more games in February (seven) than October, November
and December combined (six).
Army Wins: By mucking things up, making Quinnipiac
feel like it’s skating in a Slurpee, and goalie
Brad Roberts allowing two or fewer goals. How Quinnipiac Wins: If the Bobcats
keep good spacing on the ice, they should find plenty
of shooting lanes at the offensive end. And they way
they’ve played the last two months, more than
enough of those shots would go in.
7 Bentley at No. 2 Canisius Bentley: 7-19-6, 6-13-5 AHA Canisius: 16-14-4, 14-7-3 AHA Season Series: Canisius won, 2-1
Fact: Bentley has wins over league powers
Canisius, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart
this season, but it went 0-5-1 against also-rans Connecticut
and Army. Golden Griffin Fact: Freshman forward
Joel Kitchen produced four game-winning goals this
season, tied for most in the conference.
Bentley Wins: With good goaltending from
Simon St. Pierre and at least three goals –
a total the Falcons have reached just once since January.
That game, though, was a 4-3 win over these Golden
Griffins on Feb. 25. How Canisius Wins: By using superior
speed and puck control to keep play down in Bentley’s
defensive end. Worosz will handle the rest.
6 Connecticut at No. 3 Mercyhurst UConn: 11-22-3, 10-12-2 AHA Mercyhurst: 15-15-4, 14-7-3 AHA Season Series: Mercyhurst won,
Fact: Senior forward Tim Olsen is one point
shy of No. 100 for his career. Laker Fact: Sophomore goalie Mike
Ella has started – and won – five straight
games after playing just twice before Christmas.
How UConn Wins: By making it a
track meet. When the Huskies get going, they can
skate with anyone in the conference. A few early
flurries might rattle Ella, who is new to the starting
role and has no NCAA playoff experience. How Mercyhurst Wins: By protecting
Ella, being dangerous in transition and finishing
around the net. High shot totals probably mean high
goal totals against UConn.
5 Sacred Heart at No. 4 Holy Cross
SHU: 13-20-1, 13-10-1 AHA HC: 15-13-6, 12-7-5 AHA Season Series: Sacred Heart won,
Fact: Sacred Heart was in first place in
Atlantic Hockey with two weekends left in the regular
season. But after back-to-back sweeps at the hands
of Quinnipiac and Mercyhurst, the Pioneers find themselves
on the road for the first round. Crusader Fact: Holy Cross is last
in the league in penalty killing, skating off just
78.6 percent of opponents’ power plays.
Sacred Heart Wins: By doing what it did in
two recent wins over HC: being opportunistic offensively
and getting clutch goaltending from Kevin LaPointe.
The Crusaders likely will generate more shots in this
game, so the Pioneers have to make theirs count. How Holy Cross Wins: By kicking SHU
when it’s down. The Pioneers have lost five
straight, so their confidence has to be shaken a bit.
An early Holy Cross goal or two could break the will
on the other bench.
as been written about how the top five teams in Atlantic
Quinnipiac, Canisius, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross and Sacred
are utterly interchangeable. There was not one sweep of
the three-game season series between any two members of
that quintet this year. A few got five points from somebody
else, but that was it. All five are capable of beating each
other and, thus, conquering the league tournament.
But the most dangerous team is probably Holy Cross, simply
because the Crusaders can draw from the experience of winning
it last year. Paul Pearl’s is a veteran group with
a dangerous attack led by Pierre Napert-Frenette, James
Sixsmith and Tyler McGregor, a reliable defensive corps
and a solid goaltending tandem in Tony Quesada and Ben Conway.
Perhaps the No. 1 contributor to the Golden Griffins’
surprising season, the senior led the league in goals against
average (2.41) and save percentage (.921) and was one of
just three AHA netminders with a winning overall record
Reid Cashman, Quinnipiac This
sophomore easily led the league in scoring, and, yes, he’s
a defenseman. His 29 assists led all players, and his 13
goals were nearly double the total of the next closest AHA
rearguard. Paced all defensemen nationally with 42 points.
Though hurt for most of December and January, this senior
still finished second to Cashman in points (23) and goals
(seven) by league defensemen. Also one of the best 1-on-1
defenders in the AHA.
Pierre Napert-Frenette, Holy Cross The
junior from Bathurst, New Brunswick, quietly finished second
in the league in points (13-23-36) and can boast of three
O’Brien, Sacred Heart Slithery
sophomore sensation was dominant on the power play, netting
a league-best 13 man-advantage markers. His 18 goals overall
were second most in the AHA.
David Wrigley, Mercyhurst One
of the most gifted players in the league, the senior was
a dual threat in notching 16 goals and 17 assists for the
Lakers. His 1.03 points per game tied for fourth in the
OF THE YEAR
Quinnipiac was floundering at 6-10-3 (3-4-2 in Atlantic
Hockey), owners of an impressive upset over Dartmouth and
a whole lot of frustration. But the second half of the season
has resembled that shining moment in Hanover much more than
the struggles that followed it. Credit head coach Rand Pecknold
and his staff, who skillfully integrated nine freshmen into
the lineup – at least seven of whom have seen time
on the club’s power play – and kept the Bobcats
believing despite their early struggles.
OF THE YEAR
risk of offending the hockey gods, it seems that the best
way to describe Reid Cashman’s season is Orr-like.
(Wait … wait … ok, I think we’re clear.
The hockey gods must have bigger concerns right now.)
Not only did Cashman’s remarkable scoring totals lead
Atlantic Hockey, but he contributed at crucial times, like
his end-to-end rush last week that erased a 1-0 Connecticut
lead. He directed the Bobcats’ power play, was their
best breakout option, and boasts a good shot from the point.
Don’t expect the jump to the ECACHL to be any trouble
for Bobby – er, Reid – Cashman.
OF THE YEAR
a banner year for Bens among Atlantic Hockey freshmen, with
Ben Cottreau turning heads at Mercyhurst and Ben Nelson
making a splash at Quinnipiac. For our benjamins, the best
of the Bens was Nelson, whose emergence as an offensive
force in the second half of the year coincided with the
Bobcats’ rise in the standings. He’s a center
who plays in the mold of a power-forward wing – muscling
his way in front of the net and unleashing quick, accurate
knew he was a goal scorer, and we felt he could contribute
right away,” said head coach Rand Pecknold. “But
he’s even better than what we had ever hoped.”
splitting time with Chad Davis during his first three seasons
in American International, Frank Novello became “the
man” for the Yellow Jackets this year. He was on the
ice for all but 24 seconds of the season and, while facing
upward of 200 more shots than any goalie in the nation,
kept an otherwise overmatched AIC squad competitive in most
games. His numbers (3.54 GAA, .915 percentage, 4-22-4 record)
won’t bowl you over, but when you consider what he
had to work with, they’re almost spectacular. He led
the nation in saves with 1,152. The next most was Northeastern’s
Keni Gibson with 956.