No matter what Sacred Heart does over the
final two weekends of Atlantic Hockey play, a regular-season
title may be just out of reach for the Pioneers.
That’s disappointing, says coach Shaun
Hannah, but that’s not the banner the Pioneers want
to hang in the Milford Ice Pavilion. Sacred Heart has its
eyes on the Atlantic Hockey tournament championship and
the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it.
Alexandre Parent and Sacred Heart have their sights set on winning the Atlantic Hockey playoff championship.
"We’re not in the driver’s
seat as far as finishing first in the regular season,’’
Hannah said, “but we are in terms of being the top
seed in the playoffs. Our focus is on finishing the season
This was supposed to be the weekend that would
decide the Atlantic Hockey title, when the INCH preseason
favorite Pioneers locked horns with defending champion Holy
Cross in a home-and-home set. There is a lot at stake with
Holy Cross two points out of a home-ice playoff berth and
Sacred Heart on the verge of clinching the top playoff seed,
but it appears the regular-season title runs through Rochester.
The Rochester Institute of Technology –
a rookie member which is ineligible for the league playoffs
– owns a commanding five-point lead with four games
to play, with the Tigers set to play a pair of series against
eighth-place Mercyhurst and seventh-place Bentley. Hannah
is not ready to wave the white flag of surrender, but his
secretary is probably looking up the phone number for RIT
coach Wayne Wilson for a congratulatory phone call.
"I think (the regular-season title is)
something we were striving for, definitely," Hannah
said. "To miss out on that opportunity, yes, it is
disappointing, but you have to put that behind you at this
point and really focus on the situation we are in now …
where we can finish as the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs."
Sacred Heart is only 4-5 since the second
weekend of January, hardly the momentum Hannah would like
to carry into the post-season.
"We were inconsistent through January,
when we got away from doing the things our hockey team has
to do to be successful," Hannah said. “In the
RIT series, we didn’t play our game at all two nights
in a row. Then we got back at it against Canisius. Then
against Connecticut we got away from executing the way we
Hannah was thrilled with his team’s
sweep of Mercyhurst last weekend. The Pioneers opened with
a 5-2 win and followed with a 4-2 triumph, improving to
7-1 in two-goal decisions and 13-4-4 in games decided by
two goals or less. Capitalizing on scoring opportunities
was crucial in both games, Hannah said.
"I think we are at a point as a team
where we understand what we have to do, and you have to
do it every night," Hannah said.
SEEN AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
Pioneer depth: When you think
of the Sacred Heart offense, the names that immediately
come to mind are Pierre-Luc O’Brien, Bear Trapp, and
The Pioneers are proving they have additional
resources on offense to keep opponents honest. Sacred Heart
tallied nine goals against Mercyhurst, but O’Brien,
Trapp and Parent accounted for just one tally (plus six
assists). Defenseman Paul Ferraro scored twice on Friday,
and Eric Giosa had six points on the weekend, scoring the
game-winner on Friday and setting up the winner on Saturday.
Freshman Dave Jarman scored twice on Saturday.
"One of the things we’ve had throughout
the season is balance in scoring, and we have guys who stepped
up when we need them to," said Hannah.
Bragging rights: Just about
every hockey player will say the right thing and put team
pursuits ahead of individual glory, but we all know that
each locker room has its own scoring chase. Seven scoring
leaders have a bit of breathing room heading into the final
two weeks, but three races could go down to the wire.
Connecticut senior Matt Scherer (19 goals)
has a one-goal edge on sophomore Chris Myhro. Holy Cross
junior Dale Reinhardt (15) leads senior and fellow James
Sixsmith by two. Sacred Heart senior Pierre-Luc O’Brien
(15) has to hold off sophomore Bear Trapp (13) and junior
Alexandre Parent (12).
By the way, Scherer and O’Brien are
the only seniors leading their teams. Air Force junior Eric
Ehn has 21 goals to lead the league and owns a six-goal
margin over his teammates. You can practically etch the
names of Jereme Tender from American International (eight-goal
margin) and Bentley’s Jeff Gumaer (seven) on their
respective scoring trophies. Jason Weeks of Canisius (four)
will likely be the only freshman scoring leader. Three-goal
margins are held by Luke Flicek of Army, Ben Cottreau of
Mercyhurst and Matt Smith of RIT.
O’Brien, Scherer and Tendler are gunning
for their third scoring titles (Tendler shared as a freshman),
while Ehn and Gumaer are vying for their second crowns.
Gumaer’s 33 career tallies is a Bentley Division I
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at RIT (Fri.-Sat.)
Hats off to RIT for a highly successful first season
in Atlantic Hockey. With this being the final weekend
of home action for RIT, it would only be fitting to
have the Tigers clinch the regular-season title in
front of a rabid home crowd at Frank Ritter Ice Arena.
All it will take is four points either gained by RIT
or lost by Sacred Heart to get the party started.
RIT has already swept Mercyhurst this season.
While You're There: The Ritz Sports
Zone in the Student Alumni Union will host an open-mic
night on Friday – let’s just call it Rochester
Idol! The basketball teams host Elmira in a Saturday
afternoon doubleheader, but if you’d rather
get slammed, gather a team of five for a charity dodgeball
tournament at the Hale-Andrews Student Life Center.
For a buck, you can attend a sketch comedy show in
the SAU’s 1829 room, but I think things will
be a bit more festive at the Ritz Sports Zone with
a possible title celebration.
Menard would be a pitching coach’s
dream. The RIT freshman earned one win in relief and
another with a start over Air Force. Menard, INCH’s
mid-season goalie of the year, is 11-0 in Atlantic
A scheduling error by the Royal Military College
of Canada put a stop to the longest international
college hockey rivalry with Army, leaving West Point’s
Tate Rink dark last Saturday. Let’s hope the
military leaders from both proud schools can revive
the series and the pomp and circumstance that goes
with the international exchange.
• If the playoffs began now (season
series): Play-in game – American International at
Canisius (tied 1-1); Quarterfinals – AIC/Canisius
winner at Sacred Heart (SH over AIC 2-0; SH over Canisius
3-1); Mercyhurst at Army (Army 2-0); Bentley at Connecticut
(U.Conn 3-1); Holy Cross at Air Force (two ties).
• Magic numbers: RIT can clinch its
first Atlantic Hockey title as early as Friday night. Army
will be eliminated with RIT’s next point, and Sacred
Heart’s magic number is four.
Sacred Heart has already clinched a home-ice
playoff berth. Army’s magic number to clinch its quarterfinal
home-berth is three, Connecticut’s magic number is
five and Air Force’s number is seven (all over sixth-place
A loss of three points will earmark AIC for
a road game in the play-in playoff on March 3.
• National leaders: Air Force junior
Eric Ehn is second in points per game (50 pts., 1.56 ppg),
just one behind Avalanche draft pick T.J. Hensick of Michigan,
and Holy Cross senior James Sixsmith is seventh (41, 1.37
ppg). Ehn ranks 10th in goals per game (21 goals, 0.66 gpg),
ahead of Connecticut teammates Matt Scherer (11th, 19 G,
0.66 gpg) and Chris Myhro (12th, 18 G, 0.64 gpg). Sixsmith
ranks fourth in assists per game (28 A, 0.93 apg), Ehn is
fifth (29 A, 0.91 apg) and RIT sophomore Steve Pinizzotto
is sixth (27 A, 0.90 apg). RIT junior Matt Smith is fourth
in power play goals (10). Holy Cross senior Jon Landry ranks
second in points for defensemen (27 pts., 1.00 ppg) and
RIT freshman Al Mazur ranks fourth (24 pts, 0.96 ppg).
• Milestones: Canisius senior Michael
Cohen reached 100 career points (42 goals) with a power
play goal in Friday’s 5-2 win over Holy Cross. It
was his 130th game. … Air Force senior Andrew Ramsey
has 99 points (41 goals) in 130 career games. … Connecticut
senior Cole Koidahl has 102 points (39 goals) in 125 games.
His 100th point came on a short-handed goal against Sacred
Heart on Feb. 3. Classmate Matt Scherer has 98 points (59
goals) in 132 games.
• And then there were two: When Michigan
played to a 3-3 tie with Michigan State on Saturday, that
left American International College and Wayne State of College
Hockey American as the only Division I teams not to post
a draw this season. AIC’s tie-less streak is 31 games,
28 this season. Wayne State’s streak is 36 games,
28 this season. In 2003-04, Yale and Ohio State were the
last teams to go an entire season without one draw.
• Close quarters: Last week’s
action featured five one-goal games: RIT downed Air Force,
5-4 and 2-1; Connecticut beat Bentley, 4-3 and 2-1; and,
Holy Cross edged Canisius, 2-1. The last time RIT won consecutive
games by one goal was Jan. 3-4, 1998, as the Tigers beat
Bowdoin (2-1) and Concordia (3-2). Connecticut performed
the feat earlier this season: 4-3 over Canisius and 4-3
• Grounded pilots: Air Force has dropped
four games in a row, its longest losing streak since dropping
five in a row – all in College Hockey America play
– from Jan. 14-Feb. 4, 2006. The Falcons have dropped
their last three games by one goal, the first time that
has happened since Jan. 2003 when Air Force lost to Niagara
(3-2) and Army (2-1, 2-1). Air Force is 2-6 in one-goal
• Broom facts: Sacred Heart posted a
weekend sweep of Mercyhurst, its fifth of the season (Mercyhurst
again, Holy Cross, Bentley, Canisius). Mercyhurst was swept
for the sixth time (Ferris State, Sacred Heart again, RIT,
Air Force, Army). RIT’s sweep of Air Force was its
sixth of the season (AIC twice, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst,
Sacred Heart). Air Force was swept for the third time (Alaska,
Mercyhurst). Connecticut has posted back-to-back sweeps
of Sacred Heart and Bentley. Bentley was swept for the fourth
time (Nebraska-Omaha, Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst).
• Five is fine: Sacred Heart improved
to 7-1 when it scores five goals in a game. … RIT
is 5-4 in one-goal decisions. … Holy Cross improves
to 5-7 in one-goal decisions.
• Goal drought: Connecticut has held
foes to three goals or fewer in its last six games. The
Huskies are 4-1-1 during the stretch. … Bentley was
held to one goal-or-fewer for the ninth time (0-9, one shutout).
The Falcons are following last season’s trend when
they were 1-8-2.
• Eight is not great: AIC surrendered
eight goals for the fourth time this season in an 8-1 non-conference
loss at Quinnipiac. Air Force and Connecticut have each
given up eight goals once this season. Canisius gave up
a nine-spot to Colgate (9-0 on Oct. 24). AIC was held to
one goal-or-less for the ninth time (0-9 record, four shutouts).
• Non-cons are no good: AIC’s
loss to Quinnipiac on Tuesday was its 16th straight non-conference
setback. The last non-conference win for AIC was a playoff
victory over Army in March 2004. The last non-conference
win in the regular season came Dec. 12, 2003, against Wayne
• Expatriate success: ECAC Hockey League
member Quinnipiac has posted a 6-1 record against Atlantic
Hockey foes in the two seasons since departing the league.
The Bobcats also beat RIT three times in 2005-06 before
the Tigers joined Atlantic Hockey.
• Looking ahead: RIT hosts Mercyhurst
for a pair after sweeping the Lakers 5-2 and 6-4 in December.
… Army brings a 6-1-4 home record into the weekend
set with Bentley. The teams split a pair at Bentley in November.
Bentley is winless in its last four games at Tate Rink (two
ties last season, two losses the season previous). …
Canisius heads to Air Force for a set. The teams split a
pair in Buffalo in November. … Sacred Heart and Holy
Cross conduct a home-and-home. Sacred Heart swept the last
home-and-home in November, 4-2 in Milford and 5-4 in Worcester.
The Pioneers won the last four meetings in Milford, and
won last season’s series, 3-1. … Connecticut
has a pair of one-goal wins over AIC, at home and on the
road. The teams went 1-1 in each building last season.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Ken McMillan can be reached