It’s been a long time coming but it
looks like Dave Smith and his Canisius ice hockey team are
finally starting to see some success.
With most of Atlantic Hockey in freefall since
the start of December (more on that below), Canisius has
made a modest ascent to sixth place. The Golden Griffins
are unbeaten in their last five games and could vault into
the top half of the standings based on the results of their
weekend series in Amherst against last-place Connecticut.
sophomore forward Josh Heidinger has scored 53 points
in 53 career games, just the second player in the
school's Division I era to reach 50 career points
in his second season.
This is the longest unbeaten streak in Smith’s
three seasons at the helm and the longest for Canisius since
going 4-0-2 from Nov. 22, 2003 through Jan. 17, 2004 –
you have to go back to February and March of 2001 for a
streak which reached seven games (6-0-1).
Canisius hasn’t been beating up on the
lowly — the Griffins forged a pair of 3-3 draws with
league-leading Air Force in Colorado, posted a 4-3 win over
Niagara (snapping a two-game skid against the Purple Eagles),
and scratched out a 1-1 tie and 4-1 victory over Bentley,
a team currently holding on to a home playoff spot.
Sophomore goalie Andrew Loewen has shouldered
the entire load during the streak, making 178 stops —
an average of 35.6 per game — and lowering his goals
against to 2.96 which surely pleased his mother, who made
the trip from Winnipeg to watch the last two games. Loewen’s
efforts against Bentley earned him the league’s goalie
of the week award.
“Andrew always gives us a chance to
win the game,” Smith said. “He is seeing the
puck very well right now. He is a very mature and bright
man. He had a terrific weekend (against Bentley.)”
The offensive load has been a collaborative
effort — eleven players have produced goals in the
Rookie Cory Conacher, who just turned 18 last
month and the youngest player in Division I, netted his
first collegiate goal and added an assist on the power play
in Saturday’s win over Bentley, earning him the league’s
rookie of the week award. He is the first Canisius freshman
to post four points in his first three games since Michael
Cohen in 2003-04.
Sophomore Josh Heidinger was named the league’s
player of the month for December. He posted two goals and
three assists in four games, including two tallies in the
win over Niagara. With 53 points in 53 games, the Buffalo
native became only the second Canisius player in the school's
Division I era to reach 50 career points as a sophomore.
SEEN AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
Three’s company at the Point:
Army coach Brian Riley told Inside College Hockey that the
starting job in nets for his Black Knights is virtually
a wide-open competition among three candidates: incumbent
junior Josh Kassel, freshman Jay Clark and sophomore Joey
Kassel has not helped his cause of late, losing
a 4-1 contest to Connecticut at the Huskies’ tournament
Dec. 29, then giving up three goals on eight shots before
being pulled after barely 15 minutes in a 4-1 loss at Merrimack
Sunday. He was the surprise of Atlantic Hockey last season,
coming out of nowhere to replace all-star Brad Roberts,
win 17 games, and lead Army to the Atlantic Hockey playoff
Clark, a Baudette, Minn., native who played
for the North American Hockey League's North Iowa Outlaws,
has looked sharp in his four appearances, posting a 1.48
goals against and .948 save percentage. On Saturday, he
carried a 2-1 lead over Union into the third period but
gave up two tallies (on defensive zone breakdowns) in a
Spracklen, from Kennewick, Wash., is the newcomer.
He sat out all of last season and the first 10 games of
this season per NCAA rules on playing in the Canadian major
junior leagues — he appeared in a few exhibition games
with the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans. He
forged a 1-1 draw with Brown in the UConn consolation and
then gave up one goal in 44-plus minutes at Merrimack —
his goals against average currently stands at 0.55 and his
save percentage is .971.
Hi, sis: Holy Cross posted
a pair of ties at the Catamount Cup in Burlington, Vt.,
skating to 1-1 draws with both Vermont and Western Michigan
— the Crusaders lost both shootouts to finish fourth.
Even more unusual is the ties were the third and fourth
in a row for Holy Cross (a school record), having played
even with Connecticut and Merrimack on Dec. 1 and Dec. 4,
The Crusaders have an NCAA-high six draws,
which (fittingly) ties a school record in that category,
matching a mark first set in 2004-05. Five teams have five
ties this season — Alaska Anchorage, Boston College,
Canisius, Masschusetts, and Vemont. The Atlantic Hockey
record for ties is eight, set by Canisius in 2003-04; Connecticut
had seven that same season.
By the way, Holy Cross’s six-game unbeaten
streak, its longest in two seasons, was rubbed out following
two home losses to RIT last weekend. That coupled with Tuesday’s
3-2 setback at AIC, it the Crusaders' longest losing streak
since ending last season with five consecutive defeats.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Air Force (Fri.-Sat.)
Now that RIT and Air Force have beaten up on Minnesota,
the two clubs turn their attention toward one another
in one of the most anticipated series of the season.
The two clubs met in New York in November, each taking
a one-goal victory. Air Force won the opener, 2-1,
and RIT won the finale, 4-3. RIT’s Matt Smith
scored three times. Air Force’s Eric Ehn posted
three points in the loss. Louis Menard gained the
split in goal and RIT chased Andrew Volkening from
the nets in the series ender.
While you’re there: Ski.
An unusual January thaw in the Northeast has not been
helpful on the slopes, but it’s awfully snowy
in Colorado. Most resorts are reporting at least 4-6
feet of base with some areas picking up two feet of
fresh powder this week.
has apparently become the punching bag for the elite
of Atlantic Hockey. First, Holy Cross upset the Gophers
in the 2006 NCAA tournament. Last season, Air Force
almost stunned Minny in the NCAA opener. And over
the holidays, it was RIT which knocked off the Gophers
in the opening round of the Dodge Classic —
Air Force added insult to injury by forging a tie
in the consolation. As long as the Atlantic Hockey
elite can keep the pressure on teams from the Big
Four conferences, the league will have a place in
the consciousness of hockey fans and recruits.
season was not kind to Atlantic Hockey. Since Christmas,
the league has posted a 1-13-4 record in non-conference
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• Um, did you put on some weight?: A
lot has happened in Atlantic Hockey since our last notebook
on Dec. 7, and most of it was not good. The league posted
a 1-13-4 record in non-conference games over the holiday
break. Both Holy Cross (0-3-4) and Bentley (0-5-2) are winless
in their last seven, while Army (0-4-1) is winless in its
last five. American International snapped a five-game losing
streak with a win over Holy Cross Tuesday. Connecticut has
dropped three in a row and Mercyhurst has dropped its last
The records of Atlantic Hockey members since
Pearl Harbor Day:
• Ouch, that hurts: Robert Morris spanked
American International, 10-2 and 6-3, in West Springfield,
Mass., last weekend. The 10 goals were the most allowed
by the Yellow Jackets since Oct. 28, 2000, when Quinnipiac
posted a 10-3 victory in a MAAC Hockey League game.
It marked only the fourth time in the five
seasons of Atlantic Hockey that a team has surrendered double-digit
goals, and the first time that has happened on the loser's
home ice. The others:
There was nearly a fifth
example Jan. 2 when Yale plastered visiting Connecticut,
9-1. The nine goals allowed by the Huskies matched the number
they gave up in a 9-2 setback to Bowling Green in the
finals of 2005 UConn holiday tournament, and was the most
since a 10-1 loss at Northeastern on Oct. 11, 2002.
• Union, yes: ECAC Hockey League member
Union escaped its Atlantic Hockey weekend with two wins,
beating Connecticut, 4-1, Friday and earning a 3-2 decision
over Army Saturday. Union needed a pair of third-period
goals to dispatch Army, which was seeking its first win
over the Dutchmen since 1992-93.
Union owns a 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2)
against Atlantic Hockey foes, with the last loss coming
to Holy Cross in the consolation game of the Dunkin' Donuts
Coffee Pot in Providence on Nov. 28, 2004. Air Force beat
Union in October 2005, but the Falcons were a member of
College Hockey America at the time.
• Can’t spell Rochester without
‘O’: RIT had its streak of 42 games without
being shut out snapped Dec. 30 as Boston College posted
a 6-0 win in the championship of the Dodge Holiday Classic
in Minneapolis. The last time the Tigers were blanked was
Nov. 3, 2006, when they lost 3-0 at Air Force.
The longest active streaks without being held
• Holy Cross, 18
• Bentley, 18
• Air Force, 17
• Army, 15
• Canisius, 8
• AIC and Mercyhurst, 5
• Sacred Heart, 3
• RIT and Connecticut, 2
Holy Cross is the only league member not to
get blanked this season, but the Crusaders ended last season
with a shutout playoff loss to Air Force.
• Getting thumbed: American International
stretched its losing streak to five games with the Robert
Morris debacle – it was AIC’s longest losing
skid since dropping the opening 12 games of the 2006-07
season. AIC snapped the streak with a 3-2 win over Holy
Cross Tuesday as Tom Mele, Mike McMillan and Frankie DeAngelis
scored after the Crusaders had taken a 2-0 lead.
• Falcons aren’t empty handed:
Air Force salvaged a split at Sacred Heart, losing the opener
2-1 and taking the finale 3-1. Air Force has split previous
East Coast trips with Bentley and RIT, and swept a pair
• Winter freeze-out: Army has struggled
offensively since the turn of December, scoring seven goals
in its last five games, a far cry from the back-to-back
seven-goal outings the Black Knights had in November against
AIC and Bentley.
• Please, no tourneys: Army has yet
to produce a victory in any regular-season tournament game
this decade (0-7-1).
• Lakers swamped: Mercyhurst was swept
at home by Michigan Tech, 3-2 and 5-1. It was the first
pair of home losses for the Lakers since Sacred Heart escaped
Erie with two wins on Feb. 9-10, 2007. Mercyhurst split
a pair at Michigan Tech to open the 2005-06 season.
• National leaders: Army sophomore Owen
Meyer ranks 10th in goals per game (0.67). … The Holy
Cross power play ranks fourth (23.2 percent). … Sacred
Heart’s combined special teams rank second in overall
effectiveness. RIT is eighth and Connecticut is 10th. .
… In penalty minutes per game, Mercyhurst ranks fifth
(18.1), Sacred Heart seventh (17.2) and Canisius eighth
• Looking ahead: Canisius and Connecticut
split two games in Storrs last season. This time they play
a set at the Pepsi Center in Amherst. … Bentley and
Holy Cross split two games last season at Bentley. They
play two at the Hart Center in Worcester. … Army has
taken the last three games and five of the last six from
Mercyhurst, including two last season in West Point. The
teams meet in Erie this weekend. … Sacred Heart swept
three games from AIC last season and is 6-0-1 in the last
seven over two campaigns. The teams meet in Milford.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Ken McMillan can be reached