8 Army or No. 9 American International vs. No. 1 Holy Cross
ARMY: 8-17-3 (6-15-3)
AIC: 4-24-4 (3-17-4)
HC: 19-9-4 (17-4-3)
Season Series: HC leads both Army and AIC, 3-0-0.
Army and AIC split 1-1-1.
Knight Fact: Army followed a promising January
– the Black Knights were 4-3-1 during the month –
by losing seven of its last eight games. Yellowjacket Fact: American International
has the fewest wins in Division I this season, and three
of the team’s four victories occurred during a four-week
stretch between Nov. 23-Dec.13. Crusader Fact: By losing to Quinnipiac
and Bentley on the last weekend of the regular season, Holy
Cross doubled its conference loss total for the season.
Don’t blame the defense, however – the Crusaders
managed just one goal last weekend and lost 2-1 and 1-0.
Army Wins: Defense, defense, defense. The Black
Knights are 6-1-3 when they hold their opponents to two
goals or less. Of course, coming up with more than two goals
has been a bit of a problem for Army, who’ve failed
to do so in nearly half (13 of 28) of its regular season
games. How AIC Wins: Hope for some divine intervention
– the Yellowjackets rank 56th nationally in scoring
offense (2.09 goals per game) and 54th in scoring defense
(4.06 goals per game). Maybe junior goalie Frank Novello
is related to Don Novello, the actor better known as Father
Guido Sarducci. How Holy Cross Wins: With two quick goals.
Both Army and American International own offensive attacks
that are among the country’s most stagnant. Putting
crooked numbers on the board against either team amounts
to a virtually insurmountable lead.
7 Bentley vs. No. 2 Mercyhurst
BC: 9-18-4 (7-13-4)
MCY: 19-13-2 (16-7-1)
Season Series: Mercyhurst leads, 3-0-0
Fact: Bentley is a respectable 7-9-0 over the second
half of the season. The Falcons opened the year 2-9-4. Laker Fact: Mercyhurst posted a 3-6-1 record
in non-conference play, but two of those three victories
came on the road against teams with 21 wins (Ohio State
and Rensselaer). The Lakers also beat Western Michigan in
Kalamazoo and tied Cornell at Lynah Rink.
Bentley Wins: Score an early goal or two to take
the pressure off goalie Simon St. Pierre. The Montreal native
is one of the league’s better goalies – he’s
got a 2.98 goals against average and a .908 save percentage
– but his teammates have scored one goal in four of
his last five starts. How Mercyhurst Wins: The goal-starved Falcons
are the perfect opening round opponent for the Lakers, who
scored a whopping 105 goals in 24 league games but also
allowed 71 goals to conference foes and 115 goals overall.
Three is their magic number – Mercyhurst generally
wins when it scores three or more, and usually loses when
it scores three or less.
6 Canisius at No. 3 Quinnipiac
CAN: 9-15-8 (9-11-4) QC: 15-13-6 (12-6-6) Season Series: Canisius leads, 2-1-0
Fact: Tight games are nothing new to Canisius.
The Griffins played a whopping 11 overtime contests during
the regular season, and were involved in eight games decided
by one goal. Canisius is 2-1-8 in OT and 2-6 in one-goal
affairs. Bobcat Fact: Quinnipiac is 4-0-2 in its
last six games. The only team in the nation entering the
playoffs with a longer unbeaten streak is Denver (7-0-2).
Canisius Wins: Adopt a defense-first philosophy
– both the Griffins and the Bobcats scored 67 goals
in conference play, but Canisius allowed 20 more than Quinnipiac.
Canisius would be wise to stay out of the penalty box, a
tall order for a team that has more PIMs than all but two
teams in the league. The Bobcats boast Atlantic Hockey's
second-best power play while the Griffs have the worst penalty
kill. How Quinnipiac Wins: They’ll go as
far as the Justin and Jamie Show will take them. Goalies
Jamie Holden and Justin Eddy rank 1-2 in the conference
in save percentage and are first and third, respectively,
in goals against average. Their play makes up for the Bobcats’
middling offense (sixth among AHA teams at 2.56 goals per
5 Connecticut vs. No. 4 Sacred Heart
UCONN: 12-15-7 (9-10-5)
SHU: 12-16-5 (12-8-4)
Season Series: Sacred Heart leads, 2-0-1
Fact: Talk about a reversal of fortune. UConn followed
an 0-6-1 January by posting a 7-1-2 mark in its final 10
games. All seven wins came against conference opponents;
the Huskies had two Atlantic Hockey wins during the first
four months of the regular season. Pioneer Fact: Another team that was red-hot
down the stretch, Sacred Heart was 8-2-2 over the season’s
last 12 games. That streak started the last weekend in January
with a series sweep of Connecticut.
Follow the lead of junior forward Tim Olsen, Atlantic Hockey’s
leading scorer. The Vadnais Heights, Minn., native has 41
points on the year, and an astounding 16 goals and 14 assists
in the Huskies’ last 11 games. How Sacred Heart Wins: Easy – score
goals. During its impressive 12-game run to close the regular
season, Sacred Heart was 8-0-2 when scoring three or more
goals and 0-2-0 in games in which they scored less than
three goals. Only one of the Pioneers’ 12 regular
season wins came in a contest in which they scored less
than three goals.
In what could
be best described as a new conference – sort of –
Atlantic Hockey found a new power this season – sort of.
broke the recent stranglehold that Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac had
on the erstwhile Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, as the Crusaders
clinched the regular-season title with a week to play. Long-time
MAAC followers know that Holy Cross had won the league’s
first playoff title in 1999, of course, but the Worcester school
was a new name to many national fans accustomed to seeing the
Lakers and Bobcats atop the standings.
That led to
speculation, naturally, that the surging Crusaders would jump
to the ECAC to fill Vermont’s absence when it moves to Hockey
East in 2005-06. Meanwhile, others in the conference – led
by Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac – continued to measure up quite
well to the big four. The Lakers won at Ohio State and Western
Michigan; Quinnipiac lost close games at Michigan, Wisconsin and
Ohio State; Canisius tied UMass Lowell; and UConn tied Rensselaer
Now each team gathers
at West Point for one more chance to play the big boys. On the
best attribute is also what makes the Crusaders most imposing
in a one-game playoff format: their balance. Shut down Greg Kealey?
Jeff Dams will pick up some slack. Or Andrew McKay. Or Pierre
don’t think we have any one kid who has to produce or we’ll
lose,” head coach Paul Pearl said. “We need to wear
do that with six players who have double-digits in goals, five
of whom have 25-plus points. Defensively, R.J. Irving and J.R.
Walker lead the way, while Tony Quesada has been solid in goal.
And Pearl doesn’t shy away from favorite status.
“We worked really hard and are proud to have come out on
top over 24 games,” he said. “If that makes us the
favorites, we’ll take it.”
knows that a host of hungry pursuers are have chased the Crusaders
all year, led by the two familiar names – Mercyhurst and
Quinnipiac. The two had combined to win all five regular-season
MAAC titles and all three of the conference’s NCAA Tournament
They’ll be poised to keep the latter streak going in Atlantic
Hockey. Both come to West Point playing well: Quinnipiac is unbeaten
in six (4-0-2), while Mercyhurst has won three in a row by a 15-3
total score. If they meet in a rematch of the last three MAAC
championship games, it’s likely to happen in the semifinals
this Sunday, unless Holy Cross is upset in the quarterfinals.
– Tim Olsen, Connecticut They could have renamed the Player of the Week honor
after Olsen, who captured it four times since the start of February.
– David Wrigley, Mercyhurst
Wrigley and centerman Rich Hansen could be the conference’s
best offensive duo.
– Guillaume Caron, American International Caron didn’t have the gaudiest offensive numbers,
but he didn’t have as much help, either.
– T.J. Kemp, Mercyhurst
The conference’s top-scoring blueliner (along with teammate
Jamie Hunt), Kemp quarterbacks the Laker power play.
– Reid Cashman, Quinnipiac
He arrived on campus this fall with a name that just sounds like
a hockey player, doesn’t it? He plays like one, too.
– Tony Quesada, Holy Cross
No sophomore slump here, as Quesada turned in the conference’s
finest record, along with a .924 save percentage and a 2.15 GAA.
OF THE YEAR
To Paul Pearl,
his senior class at Holy Cross was poised for a big year. That’s
one reason he stayed with the school after briefly accepting a
prep school coaching job last summer.
Few were projecting a conference title for the Crusaders, and
when it comes to their performance, Pearl deserves credit for
more than his foresight. He guides a team that lacks superstars
and doesn’t overpower anyone, but does a lot of things well
– they won the league, but didn’t have its best offense
or its best defense. Pearl also showed a steady hand in guiding
his team throughout the year, as his club didn’t lose back-to-back
Atlantic Hockey games until the title was clinched.
OF THE YEAR
With 15 new
faces in the Connecticut lineup, head coach Bruce Marshall knew
he’d need some strong contributions from his upperclassmen
this season. Junior Tim Olsen has delivered, and he’s playing
his best hockey down the stretch.
The one-time Division III player at Augsburg College won the Atlantic
Hockey scoring title by nine points (19-18—37 in 23 games),
with a remarkable 16-12—28 in the last 11 games. The Huskies
were 7-2-2 in that span, all conference games, to surge into a
fifth-place finish. The freshmen have certainly matured, but it’s
been Olsen who has led them.
OF THE YEAR
established high standards for himself when the rookie scored
two goals in his very first game – Sacred Heart’s
only two goals in its 4-2 loss to Merrimack back in October.
His production continued throughout the season, as he stands third
on the team with 12-13—25, but he has been at his best in
the second half. He posted 6-6—12 in a six-game stretch
beginning Jan. 31, a run that coincided with the Pioneers’
seven-game winning streak. That helped them surge over .500 in
the league and into the fourth seed for the tournament, where
they will face another red-hot team, Connecticut, in Saturday’s
most appealing matchup.
Brendan McCartin is enrolled in his third college, so you can’t
say he’s appearing out of nowhere – it’s closer
to the truth that he’s appearing from everywhere.
After skating in 11 games as a Miami RedHawk in 2001-02, he transferred
to Fairfield, which dropped its program at the end of last year.
Continuing East to Bentley, he’s being rewarded for his
perseverance. McCartin shares the team lead on the Falcons in
scoring with 11-11—22 and is skating on the top line. The
Falcons ride back-to-back wins into the postseason, including
a 1-0 overtime win over Holy Cross.