November 18, 2004
Rocco's Softer Side

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Sacred Heart's Rocco Molinaro

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Rocco Molinaro looks mean. Kind of like someone who would break a skateboard over your head to make a point.

But he’s a big softie. And you can say that to his face.

That’s why the Sacred Heart junior won the Pioneers’ institutional NCAA sportsmanship award last month. Of all Sacred Heart athletes, Molinaro was judged to best exhibit ethical behavior and good sportsmanship – two qualities that usually are more apparent when they’re lacking than when
they’re plentiful.

“I was shocked when I was recognized for it,” Molinaro said. “It’s kind of cool, I guess. People don’t usually get credit for this kind of thing.”

Being nice comes naturally to the Dearborn, Mich., native. He’s always been quiet, a little on the shy side, and (telemarketers, take note) he almost never says no to a request of a favor. He lets opposing players’ trash talk roll off his back and probably couldn’t be coaxed into a fight even if you started rippin’ on his mama.

“I’m not here to be against anyone,” he says. “I don’t hate anybody. Not many things bother me. I just try to stay away from things like that.”

One could surmise that such passiveness would be detrimental in a high-contact sport like hockey, but Molinaro gets along just fine. He had just four minor penalties for eight minutes last year. He already has four for eight this year (curse the crackdown!), but rarely will you see him whistled for roughing, slashing or any other hostile infractions. Offensively, he has three goals and an assist this season, after registering 12 goals and 14 assists last year.

“The guys always tease me about Lady Byng or whatever, but you don’t need everybody on the team to be a bruiser,” Molinaro said. “I finish checks if I have the opportunity. That doesn’t bother me. I’m just more of a set-up guy, making plays for my wingers. Whatever I can do to help the team.”

So far, Molinaro has helped his team stake a two-point lead over Mercyhurst and Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey standings. The Pioneers, who have held the top spot all season, trailed Canisius 2-0 with less than six minutes to go in the third period in their game Friday before a three-goal barrage gave them a 3-2 win in overtime. It was Sacred Heart’s first win after trailing in the third period since Feb. 18, 2000. And although Molinaro didn’t figure in any of the goals, you know that he didn’t hurt his team by taking an ill-advised penalty, either.


Reunion, Part Deux – Thanks to an interesting scheduling quirk, Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley will welcome his former boss and junior coach to Moon Township this week – one week after his former college coach visited.

Schooley, of course, played for Wayne State’s Bill Wilkinson at Western Michigan in the early 1990s. Wilkinson’s Warriors came in and grabbed three of a possible four points from RMU last weekend – although the point that the
Colonials did earn was the program’s first ever in CHA play.

But as unique as Wilkinson's visit was, things will get even stranger this weekend when Frank Serratore and his Air Force Falcons visit the Island Sports Center. Serratore coached Schooley on the Omaha Lancers and later hired him as an assistant at the Academy.

Schooley worked for five years (1998-2003) at Air Force before being hired by Robert Morris. He has recruited and coached almost every player who will suit up for the two respective teams this weekend, making for a special series.

But, Schooley says, please don’t put the spotlight on him.

“The minute that happens, it’s the wrong focus to take,” Schooley said. “The focus is on us getting better. On a personal note, it will be an exciting weekend because Frank has been my coach, my boss, my mentor and my friend.”

Not to mention that Serratore’s wife, Carol, is the godmother of Schooley’s 13-month-old daughter, Kaitlyn. Carol Serratore was in Pennsylvania last weekend for Kaitlyn’s baptism and even caught the second game of the Wayne State series.

The ties between the programs are many. So many, in fact, that Schooley won’t even bring them up to his players.

“It doesn’t need to be said,” Schooley maintains. “They know.”

He's Back – All-CHA goalie Jeff Van Nynatten will be back between the pipes at Niagara this weekend after sitting out the last two weeks’ worth of practices and games. Coach Dave Burkholder said Van Nynatten “needed some time away to evaluate where he fits on the team and what his aspirations are for hockey.”

Van Nynatten rejoined practice on Monday, and Burkholder said things are back to normal. Freshman Scott Mollison won his first two career starts during Van Nynatten’s absence, and the duo is scheduled to split games this weekend against Bemidji State.


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Bemidji State at Niagara (Fri.-Sat.)
Alabama-Huntsville might be playing the best hockey in the CHA right now, but everybody knows that the league championship goes through Bemidji and Niagara. These teams meet again in Minnesota in less than a month, then don’t play each other for the rest of the season. So think of this series as a day of pole qualifying in auto racing. You want to get the inside track for later on. The great thing about hockey, though, is that we won’t erase everybody’s record and bunch up the standings with 10 games remaining like our friends at NASCAR would.

While you’re there: In hindsight, we should have told you just to stay in Buffalo all week after the Quinnipiac series. Oh well. Saturday’s game begins at 3 p.m. because the Niagara men’s basketball home opener against American tips off at 7 p.m. that night. The Purple Eagles' cagers, you’ll recall, nearly upset Providence on ESPN2 on Tuesday. Am I the only one who wishes that Providence would make the Skating Friar their center-court logo? That one they had was frightening.

Stick Salute

After highlighting Mark Nebus last week, it seems only fair to give props to Robert Morris freshman (is that redundant?) David Boguslawski this week. I can almost picture David’s great great grandfather getting busted for cursing in front of a woman or training a bear for professional wrestling purposes or something of that ilk.

Bench Minor

The NHL lockout. Not only is it horrible for all the obvious reasons, but it has forced Quinnipiac and Connecticut to move their annual Heroes Hat game away from Madison Square Garden. In an e-mail, Quinnipiac athletics director Jack McDonald said that because of the lockout, “there is no guarantee that the ice will be available” at MSG on Feb. 27. Instead, the game will be played March 3 in Storrs with the winner of the season series taking home the hat. No, NHL, I’m not saying “Boooo-urns.”

American International’s 2-0 victory over Army last Friday leaves Yale as the lone winless team in the nation. AIC earned its first win this year about a week earlier than it did last year, when the Yellow Jackets beat, you guessed it, Army on Nov. 23. Frank Novello was the star Friday, stopping all 34 shots he saw for his third career shutout (one shy of the school record). AIC validated its Army win by tying defending league champ Holy Cross, 1-1, on Tuesday night. Novello made 45 more saves.

• As you probably know by now, WSU’s Wilkinson last weekend became the 23rd coach to record 400 wins. His former pupil Schooley thinks he could have reached the milestone sooner. “Maybe if we would have worked a little harder when I was there (at Western Michigan), he might have gotten 400 before playing us,” Schooley said. “I guess I have to look in the mirror for 10 years ago for that one.”

Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist had this to say before his team visited Bemidji State last weekend: “I’ve never been up there. I hear it’s a trip everybody should make once in their lifetime – but only once.” He was probably half-kidding, but you can bet that his memories of north-central Minnesota won’t be as enjoyable as they could have been. The Falcons lost 9-2 and 5-0.

• Included in that Bemidji State blitz were several notable individual performances. Ryan Huddy had six points (including four assists Friday), Luke Erickson had five points (2-3), defenseman John Haider had four (1-3) and goalie Matt Climie recorded a shutout in his first career start last weekend. Those stats will help erase the memories of back-to-back shutouts earlier this month – the first time that had happened in the program’s 49-year history.

• Speaking of the Beavers, they’re about to play four games in five days (Friday and Saturday at Niagara; Monday and Tuesday at Wayne State).

Canisius senior goalie Bryan Worosz passed Derek Slater to become the school’s all-time saves leader during his 34-stop effort in Friday’s overtime loss to Sacred Heart. Worosz made 17 more stops the following night, giving him 2,118 in his career. His backup, Max Buetow, also has a claim to fame. At 6-feet-6, he’s the tallest goalie in Division I this season.

Connecticut's No. 1 goalie, Scott Tomes, will be back on the dress list Friday at Canisius but won't start. Tomes has been out since injuring his knee Oct. 10 against Rensselaer. Freshman Brad Smith has a 4.06 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in his absence.

• The Alabama-Huntsville line of Jared Ross, Craig Bushey and Bruce Mulherin had another fine weekend, combining for six goals and eight assists in a sweep at Air Force. For Ross and Bushey, their athletic talent extends to the golf course. But Mulherin? Not really. “He has a really bad handicap,” Bushey said. “He uses my clubs sometimes, but...” Readers should note that Bushey was laughing too hard to finish the thought.

• The CHA and AHA combined to go 0-3-0 against “Big Four” competition last week – the second straight disappointing weekend. This week, Wayne State has a home-and-home against Bowling Green, UAH plays a pair at Minnesota State, Mankato, and Holy Cross plays one at Boston College on Monday.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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