March 2, 2005
Half-Full at Holy Cross

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Pierre Napert-Frenette leads Holy Cross and is tied for second among all Atlantic Hockey players with 33 points.

National TV Schedule

Pardon Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl if he doesn’t feel like he’s guiding a fifth-place team.

Just two weeks ago, after all, he was in first. But with the Atlantic Hockey standings packed more tightly than the neutral zone at a New Jersey Devils game, things can – and did – change quickly. The Crusaders have lost three straight contests – one to Sacred Heart, two to Mercyhurst – slowing them down enough to get passed by the Pioneers, the Lakers, Quinnipiac and Canisius heading into the AHA’s white-flag lap.

So, if the season ended today, Holy Cross, the defending league champions who seemed poised to defend their regular-season title just a fortnight ago, would have to hit the road for the first round of the conference tournament.

But Pearl’s not worried.

“We try to stay at an even keel as much as possible,” he said. “We didn’t want the guys to get too up when we were winning, and we don’t want them to get too down now. To have one weekend make or break your season is asinine. And if you’re doing mathematics trying to figure out how you can win the league or get home ice, you’re just taking away from your focus. That’s not what we want.”

The best news for the Crusaders is that they still control their own destiny heading into this weekend’s home-and-home against seventh-place Bentley. Holy Cross is just one point behind the three-way tie for second between Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst and Canisius, and the Pioneers and Lakers play each other this weekend. So if the Crusaders sweep the Falcons, they know they’ll lock up one of four home-ice spots.

Pearl likes his team’s chances of doing that – and being a factor in the AHA tournament – as long as it can score. The Crusaders have posted shot totals of 31, 48 and 50 during their three-game skid, but netted just one, three and two goals.

“We’re playing hard,” Pearl said. “There are no issues with that. I think we have a good team, we just have to go at it and score some goals.”

The only personnel issue that seems to be hovering over Holy Cross is in its crease, where Tony Quesada and Ben Conway have shared time this season. Pearl said he’s inclined to keep splitting them through the playoffs unless one suddenly emerges as a clear-cut better option.


Safe and Sound – When Canisius athletic director Tim Dillon, a member of the Division I ice hockey committee, resigned last month, there was plenty of uneasiness about the future of the Golden Griffins’ hockey program. No coach, no athletic director, no on-campus rink. The sport could have been dropped with relative ease after 25 years at the Buffalo school.

But that option never was discussed, interim athletic director John Maddock maintains. In fact, a new head coach, replacing fired Brian Cavanaugh, is scheduled to be hired in early April.

“The state of our hockey program is as strong as ever,” Maddock said. “It’s something we cherish, and we will continue with hockey.”

Maddock, a 24-year veteran at Canisius who will make himself a candidate for the full-time athletic director job, said that the new coach will be hired before the new AD. The university announced a 10-member coaching search committee, which includes four former college hockey players (Yale’s John Walsh, Princeton’s James Wadsworth, Michigan’s Frank Downing Jr. and North Dakota’s James Patrick, a Sabres defenseman), on Wednesday. The committee has pared its list of candidates to “a working number.” The next step will be contacting candidates to gauge their interest as their current teams finish up. Then, it’s time for interviews.

Come on Over. Pretty Please? – Last week, we had Wayne State athletic
director Rob Fournier dismissing the notion that the Warriors’ hockey program is in fiscal peril. But, he admits, things could be better. So here’s how Fournier would solve the plight of WSU and other new Division I hockey programs:

“Designate one big school to come play teams like us every year,” Fournier said. “If I could get Michigan or Michigan State to come here, I could market my whole ticket plan around those games. I could have a Green package and a Gold package, where people could guarantee themselves tickets to those games if they buy season packages. And that will get them down to Compuware. And then they’ll watch us play, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, you know, I thought Wayne State was just going to get killed by Michigan, but they played pretty well. They lost 4-2, but that’s a pretty good hockey team. It was fun to watch. I think I’m going to go to more of their games.’ That’s how it starts.

“I’ve got to believe that AIC would benefit greatly if, say, Boston College went to their place. Sure, those schools would be giving up a weekend of gate receipts, but if you help people when they’re young, they could really be something someday. I was walking around Red’s (Berenson) office when we were in the tournament down there, and I saw photos of some of their teams from 80 years ago, and I’m thinking, ‘Somebody had to have helped them along the way.’ Now look at what they have all those years later. Why not extend the same benefit to Wayne State to grow hockey? The more programs that add hockey, you get a wider fan base, expanded TV coverage, all that good stuff. I’ve been doing this a long time. I remember when the college basketball tournament was just 32 teams. But they marketed and grew it into what it is today. I think college hockey can be the same way. But we’ve got to keep the teams we have and add new ones with some sort of shared initiative with the established programs.”


Great Weekend Getaway
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Sacred Heart at Mercyhurst (Fri.-Sat.)
Though both of these teams would have home ice if the season ended today, whichever one falters this weekend very easily could be passed by Holy Cross. Sacred Heart needs just two points to sew up home ice, while Mercyhurst needs three to clinch it. A sticking point for the Lakers is that they are 0-4-1 in their last five contests against the Pioneers. Special teams will probably be important this weekend, as Sacred Heart’s dangerous power play goes up against a Mercyhurst penalty-killing scheme that has succeeded 33 straight times.

While you’re there: Take in as much hockey as you want, what with the Mercyhurst women’s team hosting Wayne State on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and the OHL’s Erie Otters playing London on Sunday night. On Friday night, if, for some reason, you’d rather attend country singer Brad Paisley’s concert at the Erie Civic Center than the series opener, may Gotkin have mercy on your soul.

Stick Salute

A few notable performances in Atlantic Hockey were turned in Friday. Bentley freshman Paul Scalici registered his first career hat trick, including the tying and winning goals, in a 4-3 upset of Canisius. Teammate Paul Markarian assisted on all three of Scalici’s goals, plus one more for a four-point night. At Quinnipiac, Bobcats senior Chris White notched his 100th career point with a second-period goal Friday. He added an assist Saturday to raise his total to 101.

Bench Minor

I have to give this one to myself for recalling a certain diner scene in Tommy Boy whenever I see the name of Bemidji State freshman defenseman Dave Deterding. But don’t worry about me while I’m in the box. I’ll be fine. I’ve got that meat-lovers pizza hidden under the scorer’s table.

• The College Hockey America picture isn’t nearly as muddled as Atlantic Hockey’s, but there still are races for first, third and fifth place. At the top, Bemidji State leads Alabama-Huntsville by one point with both teams going on the road this weekend. The Beavers head to Air Force for the Serratore Bowl, in which BSU’s Tom Serratore has a 12-0-1 advantage over brother Frank. UAH travels to Wayne State for a Saturday-Sunday series, which means the Chargers will know whether they still have a chance for first before the faceoff of the finale. Further down the standings, Niagara, which hosts Robert Morris this weekend, leads fourth-place WSU by two points. Fifth-place Air Force is three points ahead of sixth-place Robert Morris.

Air Force coach Frank Serratore was none too happy with the play of senior defenseman Steve Mead during the Falcons’ come-from-ahead tie at Wayne State on Sunday. Afterward, he intimated that Mead, the team’s captain, might be scratched for Friday’s game against BSU. Even if that happens, Mead likely will be back for Senior Night on Saturday.

• When Alabama-Huntsville goalie Scott Munroe posted 4-0 and 3-0 shutouts of Robert Morris last weekend, he became the first CHA goalie to blank the same league opponent two times in the same weekend since Niagara’s Greg Gardner stymied Findlay, 4-0 and 8-0, on Feb. 11-12, 2000. RMU, which went 0-for-11 on the power play Friday, has been shut out in three straight games and has just one goal in its last four.

• Minnesota Duluth’s sweep of Bemidji State last weekend provided for some strange box scores. For instance, the two-time losing Beavers outshot the Bulldogs both nights (by a total of 65-35). Even odder, UMD scored two short-handed goals on the same penalty to take a 4-1 lead en route to a 5-2 win on Saturday. Weirdest of all, UMD took only two shots on goal in the third period Friday – and scored on both (one was an empty netter) to ice a 4-1 victory.

• Slick Canisius forward Andrew Dawe, who is tied for the team lead with 21 points, must sit out Friday’s game against Army after receiving a game disqualification for spearing during an incident at the final buzzer of last Saturday’s win over Bentley.

• Booooo, Ben Nelson. Despite a goal and three helpers in three games last week, the guy couldn’t even win an Atlantic Hockey Something of the Week award on Monday. That broke the Quinnipiac freshman's string of four straight league honors (Player of the Week on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7; Rookie of the Week on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21). Better get it going, Ben.

Mercyhurst might have a new starting goalie. Sophomore Mike Ella has started and won three straight games, including a pair at Holy Cross last weekend, even though regular No. 1 Andy Franck was available all three nights. This season, Ella is 4-3-1 with a 3.49 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. Franck, a junior, is 9-12-3 with 2.89 and .906 numbers.

• The mysterious reason for Niagara goalie Jeff Van Nynatten’s four-game suspension this fall isn’t so mysterious anymore. A story in the Tonawanda News this week has Van Nynatten acknowledging that he destroyed a bathroom stall at Clarkson after a loss to the Golden Knights on Oct. 30. The junior was suspended for the next four games for an unspecified violation of team rules.

• The Heroes Hat traveling trophy will go to the winner of Thursday’s game between Quinnipiac and Connecticut in Storrs. The Bobcats have won the award all three years of its existence. Meanwhile, QU’s Saturday home game against American International has been moved up two hours to 5 p.m.

• Count Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin among the coaches who wouldn’t be concerned if his team is the odd one out when it comes to home ice in the Atlantic Hockey tournament. “Those one-game scenarios are scary games, but we’re not afraid of anybody,” he said. “It would not worry me at all to go on the road.”

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

Other Notebooks: Hockey East Notebook

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