Though still a junior at West Point, Army
goaltender Josh Kassel may want to apply for the job as
Secretary of Defense.
Kassel is enjoying the best streak of his
hockey career. He is unbeaten in his last seven games and
is sporting a goals against of 0.71 and save percentage
of .973 during the span – that makes Kassel the hottest
goaltender in NCAA Division I.
Kassel has taken over as Army's starting goalie and
the Cadets are playing their best hockey of the season.
"That's a pretty good stat to carry around,"
Kassel said of his super-hot numbers.
The Black Knights have not lost since Jan.
18, when Canisius posted a 3-0 setback against Kassel. That
night, Kassel asked coach Brian Riley – who was rotating
his three goalies to find a hot hand – to give him
another opportunity to keep his starting job. Riley thought
it over, gave Kassel the nod and hasn't regretted it since.
Kassel followed with three 2-1 wins over Canisius
and Air Force (twice) and a 3-1 triumph over Connecticut.
He posted consecutive shutouts over UConn (6-0) and Holy
Cross (2-0). His scoreless streak of 160 minutes, 49 seconds
came to an end on Saturday but Army rallied for the 1-1
tie with the Crusaders.
"I was probably looking at the scoreboard
every 10 seconds," Kassel admits. "I hate thinking
about the word 'shutout.' It's so hard not to (think about
the streak) and keep your mind off of that."
During this stretch, Army has surged from
seventh place in Atlantic Hockey to one point out of first
place. Army has a home-and-home with seventh-place American
International and could grab sole possession of first with
Rochester Institute of Technology playing only a non-league
"With the six wins and tie, we're right
back where we need to be," Kassel said.
Kassel has lowered his goals against to 2.07, tops in the
league and No. 10 nationally. His save percentage of .918
is second in the league and 22nd nationally. "It's
definitely a pretty good honor to see some of the other
names on (those stats) list, guys at big-time schools."
Riley said every team and every goalie goes
through some adversity during a season but he was confident
his incumbent Kassel would play himself back into starting
"I knew competition would bring out the
best in everybody," Riley said. "I knew when he
got his next opportunity he would be hungry and ready to
Kassel said he's done a better job controlling
his rebounds – thus limiting second-chance opportunities
– and not dwelling on the goals that he allows. He
also said his defense is doing a great job letting him see
the shots. Riley said his goalie got out of a stretch where
he was allowing some soft goals.
Standing 6-foot-2, Kassel takes up a lot of
space in net – that, coupled with his sound positioning,
allows the native of Greensburg, Pa., make his job look
"His style is such where he is not real
flashy," Riley said. "He is a big kid and he just
finds a way to make sure the puck hits him."
Kassel is already etching his name in the
Army record books, which is ironic since Riley used him
only once during his freshman season since he had all-star
Brad Roberts. Kassel is on pace to break Ron Chisholm's
goals against mark of 2.18 set in 1961-62, and ranks third
in save percentage behind only Jack Shepard (.920, 1962-63)
and Chisholm (.919, 1961-62). Among career marks, Kassel's
goals against of 2.22 and save percentage of .915 trails
only Shepard (2.20 and .920). His six career shutouts ranks
fifth and his 29 wins is only five away from making the
Academy's top-10 career list.
Can Kassel keep up his streak?
"You're asking an awful lot of him to
do that," Riley said, "but if you were to ask
him, I think he feels very confident that he can keep that
up. We just have to do a good job in putting him in a position
where he can keep these numbers where they are at."
SEEN AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
Can't We Just Get Along:
Rochester Institute of Technology and visiting Canisius
engaged in a wild brawl late in the third period of Saturday's
4-1 RIT win, an incident which is making the rounds on video
websites such as YouTube. The referees assessed 225 penalty
minutes and six game disqualifications for the fight, including
For Canisius, goalie Taylor Anderson, Josh
Heidinger and Carl Hudson received the 10-minute game disqualifications
(Hudson had two). For RIT, goalie Louis Menard and Ricky
Walton were DQed.
In all, Canisius received 29 penalties for
139 minutes and RIT were penalized 25 times for 112 minutes.
Outside of the brawl, Canisius had six penalties and RIT
The fallout continued on Valentine's Day as
Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio extended penalties
on four players from each side. Hudson and Walton have been
suspended for the rest of the regular season. Along with
sitting out the Sunday series' finale, additional one-game
suspensions were levied against Phil Rauch, Jason Weeks
and Anderson from Canisius, and Tyler Mazzei, Stephen Burns
and Menard for RIT.
"Atlantic Hockey, the NCAA and the culture
of collegiate hockey will now allow or condone fighting,"
DeGregorio said. "This was not representative of the
student-athlete experience that Atlantic Hockey and its
members are striving to achieve."
The athletic directors from both schools support
DeGregorio's additional suspensions.
"We fully support the decisions made
by the commissioner and his staff," said Bill Maher
of Canisius. "We have high expectations and standards
for our student-athletes and in this case we failed to meet
those standards. We regret that this incident occurred,
however, now that the punishments have been distributed,
we are ready to move forward with the remainder of the season."
"It is with great regret that RIT and
our proud hockey program played a role in this incident,"
said Lou Spiotti of RIT. "It does not reflect well
upon our student-athletes and staff, the Atlantic Hockey
Association, and the game of college ice hockey. We are
in support of the measures taken by the league office and
will do everything in our power to prevent this from ever
happening again. It is our intent to use this as a learning
experience and move on with the remainder of the season
as a strong partner in Atlantic Hockey."
RIT coach Wayne Wilson said it was an unfortunate
"When tempers boil over, it's a frustrating
situation," Wilson said. "For us, the game was
in hand … there was seven minutes left. You just want
to get the game over with. But when you are in a competitive
sport and you are competing, things can boil over.
"It's not something we're proud of at
RIT. We've never had this situation. I've been here nine
years and I've never been in that situation ever, or close
to it. I am disappointed in myself, for our players and
for our school that it wasn't handled differently. It's
a black mark on hockey. You have to show restraint. We've
obviously got a lot of educated people on campus. You have
to know right from wrong. That's what college hockey is
all about, competing as hard as you possibly can within
the rules of the game."
In the series finale on Sunday, RIT received
11 minor penalties and Canisius had 14 – each team
scored three power play goals as Canisius escaped with a
5-4 win utilizing five different goal scorers.
Heidinger's subsequent suspension snapped
his string of appearing in all 63 games of his career.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart is looking to move into
first place and Mercyhurst could do the same with
Air Force and RIT idle and a bit of help. Sacred Heart
is coming off its second weekend sweep of the season,
and has scored 19 goals in the last four games. Despite
a shutout loss to Air Force on Saturday, the Lakers
have received a more consistent offensive effort during
the new year, scoring at least three goals seven times.
Bear Trapp, Alex Parent and Eric Giosa lead SHU with
10 goals apiece. Ben Cottreau, Brandon Coccimiglio
and Steve Cameron lead Mercyhurst with eight apiece.
The teams played a pair of overtime games in Erie
in November: Giosa had the game-winner for Sacred
Heart in the opener and the teams deadlocked 2-2 in
the second meeting.
for Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio for
taking a bold stand and assessing additional penalties
for eight players involved in the ugly RIT-Canisius
brawl last week. The NCAA rules already call for one-game
suspensions but the extra step taken by DeGregorio
should send a clear message to the league –
and the rest of college hockey, for that matter –
that full-scale melees should never be tolerated and
excused as "just part of the game."
no place in organized hockey for full-scale brawls,
such as the one between RIT and Canisius last Saturday.
Leave that for the beer leagues.
• Houston, we have separation –
The home-ice playoff spots are headed for clinchings with
a five-point separation between the top half and bottom
half of the league members, although the race for playoff
positioning is tight in both halves.
RIT holds a one-point lead on Army and Sacred
Heart, but the Tigers have played two more games. Air Force
is one point out of second and a point ahead of Mercyhurst,
but again the Falcons have played two more games.
The magic number for assuring road trips in
the first round: Connecticut five points; AIC, Bentley and
Holy Cross six points; Canisius eight points.
• Wins record intact – When Army
tied Holy Cross, 1-1, on Saturday, it snapped the Black
Knights' win streak at six. Mercyhurst (2004-05) and Holy
Cross (2005-06) hold the league record with eight wins in
a row. Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart won seven in a row during
the league's first season in 2003-04. In league history,
there have been five streaks of six wins, four streaks of
five wins and 14 streaks of four wins.
• Two for the record – Army's
draw with Holy Cross extended the Black Knights' unbeaten
string to seven games. The league record is eight, shared
by Mercyhurst (8 wins, 2004-05), Holy Cross (8 wins, 2005-06)
and Mercyhurst (7 wins, 1 tie, 2003-04). Army plays last-place
American International, hosting the Yellow Jackets on Friday
and playing at West Springfield, Mass., on Saturday afternoon.
• Join the club – RIT senior forward
Matt Smith of Toronto became the 45th player in school history
to record 100 career points. A goal in Saturday's 4-1 win
over Canisius gave him 99 points. He had two goals and an
assist in Sunday's 5-4 loss in Buffalo. Smith's slap shot
from the slot at 4:08 of the first period was the milestone
marker. His second goal gave him a league-leading 19 for
"Any time you can get a player to score
20 goals in Division I, that is special kind of a player,"
said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. "He (Smith) has been feeling
it of late, as he has all year. As he sees the season coming
closer to an end as a senior, he is putting in extra stock
in what he is doing. He is doing a real good job."
• Everyone gets a bagel – With
Army's 2-0 victory on Friday, Holy Cross was the last Atlantic
Hockey team to be shut out this season. Current game-scoring
streaks: Air Force 27, Bentley 26, Sacred Heart 13, AIC
13, Army 7, RIT 5, Canisius 4, Holy Cross 1, Connecticut
and Mercyhurst 0.
• What's a shutout? – Holy Cross
has not posted a defensive shutout since late in the 2005-06
season. The streak has reached 69 games. Tony Quesada was
the last Crusader to pitch a shutout, stopping 26 saves
in a 1-0 win at Bentley on March 3, 2006. Since then, Holy
Cross netminders have allowed just one goal on 11 occasions,
including six games this season. Current games without a
shutout: Holy Cross 69, AIC 37, Bentley 23, RIT 14, Mercyhurst
9, Canisius 6, Connecticut 5, Army 1, Air Force and Sacred
• Skidmarks – Connecticut has
dropped four in a row. Army, AIC, Connecticut and Mercyhurst
own the season-long streaks of five losses. The league
record will not be broken this season since Connecticut
(2005-06) and AIC (2006-07) share the league record with
12 consecutive setbacks.
There have been 40 streaks of at least four
consecutive losses in the five seasons of Atlantic hockey
play, and 12 which have reached at least a half-dozen.
• Nutmeg kings – Sacred Heart
wrapped up a four-game sweep of Connecticut with a 6-4
road win and 4-0 home shutout. In fact, both of Stefan
Drew's shutouts this season have come at the hands of
the Huskies (Nov. 3 was the first) – his other two
came against Army in his freshman season and against Canisius
in his sophomore year. Bear Trapp had two goals and four
Pioneers had two points in the opener. The two weekend
sweeps are the only ones for Sacred Heart this season.
• A handful of nothing – Connecticut
has been shut out five times this season, tying the league
record set by Army three times and AIC twice.
• Western New York pride – RIT
and Niagara resume their non-league series this weekend.
Niagara has taken both previous meetings, 3-2 at Niagara
in Nov. 2005 and 5-3 at RIT in Jan. 2007. Niagara coach
Dave Burkholder played goalie for RIT's national championship
team so there is extra incentive on the line.
"The game itself has a lot of fan interest,"
said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. "We've had tremendous
crowds both here and there. For teams in Western New York,
it's nice to know you don't have to travel far for a non-conference
game. They have done well in (College Hockey America)
so it's a great series."
• Big Griffin – Canisius, behind
sophomore netminder Andrew Loewen, leads the league with
three shutouts, one ahead of Army (Josh Kassel) and Sacred
Heart (Stefan Drew). The league record is five, set by
Army in 2005-06 (all by Brad Roberts) and tied by Air
Force in 2006-07 (three goalies).
• Working overtime – There have
been 10 instances of Atlantic Hockey teams playing in
three consecutive overtime contests, and five of them
have occurred this season. Holy Cross established a league
record with four such contests and another league mark
for four consecutive ties. Bentley is the only other team
to post three consecutive draws, also this season. RIT,
Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart also played in three overtime
games in a row this season.
• Makes you think twice – The
Sunday afternoon game between RIT and Canisius in Buffalo
was delayed 50 minutes. White-out snow conditions caused
a 36-car pile-up on Interstate 390 on the outskirts of
Rochester, killing one and injuring 25. Rescue officials
commandeered some buses that were supposed to pick up
the RIT team and used them as warming shelters for drivers
as temperatures dipped to 18 degrees.
• Twice the buzz – American
International swept a series from Bentley, winning 5-2
at home and 6-5 in Waltham. The Yellow Jackets used five
goal scorers on Friday, with Mark Pavli earning three
points. AIC squandered a 5-2 third-period lead but Greg
Genovese stemmed Bentley's three-goal rush with his game-winner
with 7:51 to play. Jereme Tendler had a pair for AIC.
Gone wasted for Bentley was two goals from Blake Hamilton
and four points from Tom Dickhudt. AIC's Dan Ramirez collected
46 saves. It is AIC's second sweep of the season, having
taken a home pair from Canisius in November. AIC won the
season series, 2-1-1.
• Lakers, Falcons split – Mercyhurst
posted a 3-1 victory over Air Force in their series opener,
but the Falcons answered with a 7-0 shutout, their first
of the season. Six Falcons scored, with Josh Frider netting
a pair. The seven goals was the most since Air Force dropped
the same total on Alabama Huntsville in the Lightning
College Hockey Classic in Tampa, Fla., in Oct. 2006. The
seven goals allowed was the worst effort for Mercyhurst
since Ferris State posted a 7-1 win on Oct. 13, 2006,
and the largest margin since Holy Cross pinned a 10-3
setback on the Lakers on Nov. 11, 2005.
• Looking ahead – AIC and Army
play a home-and-home. The Friday game at West Point caps
Army's nine-game home stand (7-1 thus far). Army swept
a pair from AIC in November, winning 4-3 in West Springfield
and 7-1 at home. … Connecticut and Bentley play
a home-and-home, starting at Waltham and finishing in
Storrs. The team traded road wins in November, Bentley
winning 4-2 and U.Conn prevailing 3-2. Connecticut took
three of four last season, including both at home. …
Sacred Heart hosts Mercyhurst for a set. The Pioneers
escaped Erie with three of four points in a pair of overtime
contests. Sacred Heart swept all four games last season.
… Holy Cross travels to Canisius for a Saturday-Sunday
set. The teams split a pair in Worcester in November:
the Crusaders won the opener 3-2 and the Golden Griffins
bounced back with a 4-2 victory. … Rochester Institute
of Technology hosts Niagara in a non-conference game on
Saturday. Niagara won 5-3 at RIT last season. The Tigers
are 2-3 in non-league affairs, beating Cornell and Minnesota
and losing to Colgate, Bowling Green and Boston College.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Ken McMillan can be reached