October 22, 2003
Flying High

By James Jahnke

 Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Hockey East Notebook
WCHA Notebook

You could comb the entire country and not find a team happier than Air Force to have a 2-2 record.

It's been nearly a week since the Falcons beat Miami 2-0 in the consolation game of the Nye Frontier Classic, but they're still riding the tidal wave of positive feelings generated by the win. It was the Academy's first win over one of the Big Four conferences since beating Yale in 1999. It was their first against a CCHA squad since victimizing Alaska-Fairbanks in 1995. It was senior goaltender Mike Polidor's first career shutout.

And ... "It was the best win I've ever had at the Air Force," senior captain Shane Saum affirmed. "What makes it even better is that we weren't supposed to do good at all this year."

Ain't that the truth? Few, if any, pundits expected the Falcons to escape the basement of College Hockey America. Even coach Frank Serratore had major reservations.

"We all thought this was going to be a rebuilding year," Serratore said. "We lost 14 games by one goal last year – when we had a much better team. So going into this year we were like, 'Oh, wow.' In some ways, I was regretting this year. I thought there would be games where, frankly, we wouldn't have a chance."

But that outlook has changed just two weeks into the season. Aside from Miami, the Falcons have also beaten Bentley and they were one goal shy of topping Alaska-Anchorage and Quinnipiac (in overtime).

There are three reasons for the turnaround, Serratore says. One is the leadership of the senior class, particularly Saum, Polidor and Spanky Leonard. Saum, INCH's 2003-04 CHA Unsung Player, already has four goals and two assists – well ahead of his 5-10—15 pace of last season. He has also been instrumental on the Academy's penalty kill, which has skated off 14 straight power plays.

Against his hometown Seawolves on Friday, the Palmer, Alaska, native posted a goal and two assists, good enough to earn him his second CHA Offensive Player of the Week honor in as many weeks. Still, Saum was more concerned about the 5-4 loss.

"I really wanted to beat UAA, just to put it in their faces," Saum said. "They never really showed any interest in me. I played three years of junior hockey, and the Academy started recruiting me in my third year. I would've taken just about any (scholarship) offer at that point, but I'm grateful it worked out the way it did. The Academy's a good fit for me."

Serratore's second explanation for the turnaround is the emergence of his freshman class, including forward Andrew Ramsey (2-0—2) and Billy Devoney (0-2—2).

Third was the removal of some "bad apples" from last year's squad.

"You can feel the difference in the locker room," said Serratore, who wouldn't name the ousted players. "This group gets along so well together and it's the best group we've ever had in the weight room. I'm pulling for these guys."

He doesn't know whether the good vibes in Colorado Springs will last, but he's a lot more confident now than he was a month ago.

"I don't know if we'll win another game, but I'm looking forward to every one now," Serratore said. "Our goal as a program is to be the most difficult team to play against. We haven't always been that, but you can ask Quinnipiac, Anchorage or Miami about us this year."

Saum is aiming even higher than his coach.

"Our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament," he said. "At the beginning of the year, I didn't believe (we could), but everything seems more achievable now."


Father Time – Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh is a father. For the first time. At the ripe age of 50. And he loves it.

Cavanaugh and his wife, Joanie, are the proud parents of a happy, healthy 6-month-old daughter named Erin Marilyn Cavanaugh.

"I dedicated a lot of my life to hockey, didn't I?" Cavanaugh said, explaining his late start on parenthood. "I was fortunate enough to fall in love and get married at the age of 38 and now I've been blessed by God with a wonderful daughter.

"She lights up my life every day."

Cavanaugh is in his 24th season behind the Golden Griffins' bench, and has compiled a 323-286-50 overall record. He's seen the team evolve from a club squad into a Division III program into a Division II program into a MAAC member and now into Atlantic Hockey's charter season. But overseeing the maturation of a college hockey program pales in comparison to watching his
daughter grow.

"It's extremely exciting," Cavanaugh said. "You get a whole new perspective on what's important in life."

At this time, Cavanaugh, the youngest of eight kids, and Joanie, the second youngest of nine, have no plans to try for a sibling (defensive partner?) for young Erin.

Patience in Springfield – Plenty of teams are still seeking their first win of the year, but American International is one of just two schools (Miami's the other) to have four losses already. The Yellow Jackets' record fell to 0-4 with a loss 6-3 to Union on Sunday.

Still, AIC coach Gary Wright isn't overly worried about when the first victory will come.

"It's not necessarily critical, but it's important" to get in the W column, Wright said. "You always have a little bit of concern – are we a little bit more fragile mentally because we haven't had a lot of winning success over the last couple of years? I think our kids understand what's against us, and certainly we're competing hard out there. We've just got to convert it into some success."

Aside from Union, AIC has also lost to Atlantic Hockey counterparts Quinnipiac, Army and Bentley. Oddly, though, none of those three contests were technically league games.

The Yellow Jackets don't get their first home date until Nov. 14.

Crossing Over – It's not quite the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but there will be two Atlantic Hockey/CHA crossover series this weekend.

UConn heads to Alabama-Huntsville coming off an encouraging tie against Rennselaer. The Huskies, who have only gotten goals from freshmen this season, actually led the Engineers 4-1 before collapsing late. Meanwhile, Huntsville will finally be getting its season underway. The Chargers won the CHA regular-season crown last year, but coach Doug Ross must replace nine seniors. Huntsville plays just 30 games this season, fewest in the CHA. The UConn series accounts for two of their six scheduled contests before December.

On the other side of the country, Air Force plays host to AIC this weekend. The teams were rated 57th and 58th, respectively, out of the 58 Division I programs in INCH's preseason power rankings. So far, the Yellow Jackets are living up to their end of the bargain, but Air Force is making us look dumb.


Great Weekend Getaways
120x60 - Brand Red

Xerox Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase:
Sure, we sent you to Buffalo last weekend. We just forgot to tell you to make it a 10-day trip. Both Atlantic Hockey and the CHA will be on display at the Xerox Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase on Friday and Saturday at HSBC Arena. Oh yeah, and the (depleted) No. 1 team in the country will be there, too. Co-hosts Canisius and Niagara will take turns playing top-ranked New Hampshire and UMass Lowell, with the Golden Griffins getting the Wildcats first. The Purple Eagles "warm up" with Lowell, which is coming off a second-place tournament finish in Anchorage. The Hockey East teams switch opponents Saturday.

While you're there: Had enough of Chippewa Street? Sample the chicken wings at The Anchor Bar, where the gifts from God were created. Also, if you've never been to the Falls, the autumn is a nice time to go. Dress warm and don't fall in.

Stick Salute

Kudos to Niagara for donating all of its gate receipts from Saturday's exhibition game to charity. The Purple Eagles raised about $500 for the Skating Association for the Blind & Handicapped (SABAH) by granting free admission to the game and encouraging donations at the door. At a time when every athletic department in the country is scrounging for more money, Niagara deserves to be commended for its good deed. The charitable fans were rewarded with a 1-0 win over Brock, to boot.

Bench Minor

What's going on at Sacred Heart? The Pioneers were considered an upper-echelon team in Atlantic Hockey – one that might be poised to challenge Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac for the league title. But they haven't lived up to that billing so far this season. Coach Shaun Hannah's club is 0-3 and has also lost to the Under-18 U.S. National Development Team. The Pioneers are averaging just two goals a game, while giving up five. They have this weekend off to regroup and then head out to Clarkson and Quinnipiac.

Bemidji State retired Joel Otto's No. 24 prior to its 1-1 tie with Clarkson on Saturday night. The number retirement – the first ever at Bemidji – was part of a ceremony honoring the Beavers' undefeated, untied 1983-84 Division II national championship team. Otto won the Division II Hobey Baker Award as a senior that season, leading Bemidji in scoring and finishing with 204 career points. Otto went on to play 14 seasons for Calgary and Philadelphia in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989.

• By making the No. 24 off-limits, Bemidji left sophomore forward Ryan Huddy out in the cold. Huddy, who had been wearing the number, switched to No. 26.

• Also at Bemidji on Saturday, Beavers coach Tom Serratore played both of his goaltenders – Dannie Morgan and Layne
Sedevie – for half the game. But the shared time wasn't performance-related. Serratore made the switch because it was Family Weekend at Bemidji. Gotta keep those hockey moms happy.

Bemidji hosts Minnesota State, Mankato, for two this weekend. The teams' coaches – Serratore and Troy Jutting – were roommates for two years while playing at Mankato. Not only is Mankato the second major-conference team to travel to Bemidji in two weeks, these are the only two back-to-back weeks Bemidji is at home all season.

Quinnipiac senior goaltender Justin Eddy is the Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week after making 51 saves – including 21 in the first period – in a 3-2 loss at Michigan on Saturday. Eddy wasn't helped by the Bobcats' 13 penalties, resulting in 10 U-M power plays. The Wolverines converted just once, however. Bobcats junior goaltender Jamie Holden played pretty well in the series-opener Friday, stopping 36 Wolverine shots in a 5-4 loss. The downside was that Michigan's two-goal third-period rally
snapped Quinnipiac's 32-game unbeaten streak (31-0-1) when leading after two periods.

• In the that's-got-to-hurt category, Holy Cross was outshot 24-1 in the second period of its loss to Maine in the Black Bear Classic championship game. Maine won the shot battle 53-19 overall en route to a 7-0 win.

Wayne State set a school record when forwards Jason Baclig and Derek MacKay scored within 10 seconds of each other in the first period of a 3-2 nonconference win over Findlay on Thursday. It was the first collegiate goal for freshman Baclig, INCH's 2003-04 pick as the CHA Best Newcomer.

Canisius junior co-captain Mark Persick was back in the Golden Griffins' lineup against Lake Superior State on Friday after missing the second game of the season-opening Holy Cross series when a shot struck him in the chest about the same time he was blind-sided with a check. Persick had played in 73 straight contests for Canisius before sitting out the Holy Cross matchup. However, his subsequent consecutive-games streak ended at one, as he was a healthy scratch against the Lakers on Saturday.

Canisius has confirmed it will be part of next year's Nye Frontier Classic, along with Minnesota, Massachusetts and host Alaska-Anchorage.

• Before they start thinking about knocking off the Gophers, however, the Golden Griffins must learn how to neutralize the extra attacker. Lake Superior State scored with its goalie pulled in the final minute of both games at Canisius last weekend. Canisius held on for a tie the first time, but the Lakers went on to win game two in overtime.

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

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