With all due
respect to College Hockey America and its Robert Morris-for-Findlay
transaction earlier this winter, perhaps no conference's future
is as cloudy as Atlantic Hockey's. Question marks hang over everything
from scholarship limits to league enrollment to the new conference
tournament format to its very existence.
So, with the
college hockey offseason in the not-too-distant future, INCH asked
AHA commissioner Bob DeGregorio, Jr., to clear up as many of these
uncertainties as possible. And away we go...
1. The league's
self-imposed limit of 11 scholarships – seven short of the
NCAA max – will be up for debate at the league meetings
and Mercyhurst have been among the schools calling for an increase
in grant money, while others, such as Holy Cross, don't award
athletic scholarships and, thus, might be hampered by an increase
for its competitors. DeGregorio said it will ultimately be up
to the nine athletics directors to make a decision on the scholarship
issue, and the earliest something could change would be for the
budget for '04-'05 will be set by the time we meet, so we can't
fool with that," DeGregorio said. "At the end of the
day, we just want to make sure we make the league better for the
2. As for
conference enrollment, DeGregorio is confident the same nine teams
will comprise Atlantic Hockey next year. Almost half the league
has been rumored to be jumping to one conference or another, but
DeGregorio doesn't see anything happening for a little while.
the people I've met with or talked to are hiding something, I
don't think we'll see anyone leave for a couple of years,"
he said. "Of course, it's institutional preference. If, say,
Holy Cross wants to go to the ECAC, and they're accepted, that's
their right to make that decision."
speculation about conference realignment has predicted that schools
will leave Atlantic Hockey for greener pastures, like the Holy
Cross example. But during his conversation with INCH, DeGregorio
brought up the possibility of league expansion several times.
He even said the new league member(s) would most likely already
have a varsity hockey program (meaning a school already playing
in the CHA, ECAC or Hockey East), as opposed to the conventional
wisdom that an Atlantic Hockey expansion team would be a start-up
like Robert Morris.
lose one, we'll find one," DeGregorio said. "Hopefully,
we won't lose one and we'll find one. I'd love to get to the number
3. This year's
Atlantic Hockey tournament will include every team and be played
at a single site – Army's 2,746-seat Tate Rink. Officials
believe the event will draw a significant audience, given strong
fan base in West Point and the fact that friends and family of
players from all nine schools will descend on one arena. And despite
the fact that this is the league's inaugural postseason, DeGregorio
doesn't foresee any snafus.
hope that we send forward our best team to the NCAA tournament,"
Hockey has six core Division I schools – everyone except
Mercyhurst, Bentley and American International. Six is the minimum
number for a conference to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament
(the WCHA and CHA, which don't satisfy the criteria, were grandfathered
in when this rule passed. But because Atlantic Hockey/MAAC was
in compliance at the time, it wasn't). So, what if Holy Cross
were to leave after this season? Or Quinnipiac? Or Connecticut?
Would Atlantic Hockey lose its automatic bid?
proposed legislation to amend the NCAA rule passes. The Hockey
Commissioners Association unanimously put forth such legislation
earlier this year, and the organization believes the NCAA will
accept it. The minimum of six DI schools – with the added
mandate that they must have played together for at least two years
– was devised primarily for multi-sport conferences, not
single-sport leagues like in hockey.
legislation is something that's needed to protect the integrity
of college hockey," DeGregorio said. "If Atlantic Hockey
were to lose one of our six DI teams to another conference, we
would still have eight teams here that have played together two
years. Why should they be punished because somebody left? They've
invested thousands of dollars in facilities, scholarships and
travel to make hockey work.
we've gotten favorable response to everything."
AND HEARD IN THE LEAGUES
Kealey and Holy Cross could wrap up the Atlantic Hockey title
Championship! – Holy
Cross is close enough to taste the Atlantic Hockey regular-season
championship, but coach Paul Pearl won't give a review of the
meal until he's had time to digest it.
a bit of coach-speak, but it's true," said Pearl, whose squad
can clinch the outright title with a tie against Mercyhurst on
Friday. "It would be a big mistake if we looked beyond the
next game we're playing."
Do his players
feel the same way?
been told and told and told," Pearl chuckled. "Hopefully,
it's getting through."
to believe the nonchalance toward the league title being displayed
in Worcester, especially considering where the Holy Cross program
has come from. The Crusaders went 16-46-5 from 1999-2001 and finished
a game under .500 last year. But Pearl has maintained all along
that the Crusaders aren't getting swept up in the conference chase
if they don't win the subsequent league tournament and the automatic
NCAA bid it entails, the regular-season title won't mean much.
been very consistent all year, without a lot of peaks or valleys,"
Pearl said. "I think that's a direct reflection of the eight
seniors on our team. But all along, I've never thought we're an
outstanding juggernaut or that the other teams in the league are
bad. It's very even. We've just been consistently able to get
our share of points."
is the Happiest Number – Bemidji State is clinging
to a one-point lead over Niagara in the CHA standings, but the
Beavers could have just as easily fallen into a tie last weekend.
They needed a dramatic empty-net goal by defenseman John Haider
with 57 seconds remaining to eke out a 3-3 tie against visiting
Alabama-Huntsville on Friday.
put themselves in the precarious position by surrendering three
straight goals to the Chargers in the third period. You could
say they were a bit lucky to come back and grab the all-important
point. Coach Tom Serratore did.
effort wasn't there," Serratore said. "We were fortunate.
To give up a 2-0 lead in your own house, it's just disappointing.
Give full credit to Huntsville. They dictated and played the style
they wanted to play."
Great Weekend Getaway
at Holy Cross (Fri.), Holy Cross at Quinnipiac (Sat.) Holy Cross can wrap up the Atlantic Hockey regular-season
championship with a single tie this weekend. But, perhaps
fittingly, the Cross will have to do it against the two
perennial league powerhouses. The Crusaders swept Mercyhurst
on the road in the fall, but they lost their only previous
contest against Quinnipiac this year. The second-place Lakers
and fourth-place Bobcats are in the unfamiliar roles of
chasing instead of being chased this season. Should they
combine to sweep Holy Cross, and if the Lakers defeat Bentley
on Saturday, Mercyhurst would still be alive heading into
the final weekend of the season. But just barely.
you're there: We couldn't think of any place better than
a medieval armor repository to spend an afternoon before
a late-season college hockey game. So, while you're in Worcester
on Friday, swing by the Higgins Armory Museum. Look, but
had been struggling of late, but the Bobcats mustered a
tie against Connecticut on Saturday to retain undisputed
possession of the Heroes Hat traveling trophy. Quinnipiac
won the season series against the Huskies by a count of
1-0-2. The Bobcats have claimed the Heroes Hat, which honors
those lost on Sept. 11, all three years of its existence.
A nice feather in the cap and a worthy tribute, to be sure.
you've gotta feel bad for American International coach Gary
Wright. The Yellow Jackets showed tremendous
discipline in taking just one penalty against Quinnipiac
on Friday, but the AIC penalty-killers still allowed a goal
on that lone disadvantage. Now, that's really freakin' annoying.
Overall, the Yellow Jackets have killed just 78.7 percent
of opponents' power plays this year.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
you see UConn jump to Hockey East any time soon?
Maybe, but don't hold your breath. "It's been kicked around
a little bit (in the media)," Huskies head coach Bruce Marshall
said. "We mirror some schools in that league, in that we're
a land-grant university. But we're really just trying to work
our way up in Atlantic Hockey. Nothing is imminent."
streaks ended, while two continued, in Atlantic Hockey action
last weekend. After an impressive win (and season sweep) by Sacred
Heart at Mercyhurst on Friday, the red-hot
Pioneers saw their winning streak end at seven games with a surprising
loss at Canisius the next night. Those same Golden
Griffins won both of their dates last weekend, halting their dubious
eight-game winless streak in the process.
UConn kept on rolling. With a win and a tie during
the weekend and a draw with Sacred Heart on Tuesday, the Huskies
are unbeaten in their last seven (5-0-2). Finally,
UConn leading scorer Tim Olsen kept alive a personal streak: He
has won three straight Atlantic Hockey Offensive Player of the
Week awards. He might make it four, after tallying the game-tying
goal with six seconds left in the third period Tuesday night.
Olsen has 11 goals in his last eight games.
prominent goalies were on the mend instead of in the crease last
weekend. Grady Hunt missed Bemidji's series because
of a stomach virus, while Bentley's Simon St.
Pierre sat for the third straight weekend with a sore knee. School
officials said St. Pierre is day-to-day, but the solid play of
backup Geordan Murphy means he won't be rushed back. In St. Pierre's
absence, Bentley senior Bill Bridge got some rare time Friday.
The Billerica, Mass., product played the third period of a 4-1
loss to Canisius, marking his first game action
in two seasons. He played nine games as a freshman and four as
a sophomore, but hadn't appeared since then. He stopped all three
shots he saw Friday.
blueliner Bryce Methven became the all-time leader for games played
by a defenseman at Bemidji when he suited up
for No. 133 on Friday. His school record is now 134 and growing.
moved its Saturday contest forward an hour – to
3:05 p.m. central time – to accommodate a postgame third-jersey
promotion this weekend. The Chargers will wear special third jerseys
for the game, and the sweaters will be sold to fans for $750 a
pop afterward. The extra postgame time is needed for on-ice photo
ops with the buying boosters. A silent auction for the remaining
jerseys is also scheduled.
the good the bad and the ugly (in that order, in case you couldn't
tell) from Wayne State: 1. The woeful Warriors
are 3-0-3 in overtime games this year. 2. They failed to register
a shot on goal in the first period of Saturday's 5-0 loss to Findlay.
3. Wayne State took its first lead since Jan. 10 (a.k.a. 586 minutes
or 11 games) with the first goal of Sunday's 1-1 tie against the
sophomore Andrew Radzak scored in his first game this season –
an upset of Michigan State in October. But he didn't tally again
until going on a scoring bonanza last weekend. The Elmhurst, Ill.,
native netted a hat trick plus an assist Saturday, then assisted
on Findlay's only marker Sunday. His three goals and five points
on the weekend raised his season totals to 4-8—12. But Radzak
is still way off the 15-9—24 pace he managed as a rookie
embarks on its final road trip of the regular season when it travels
to Niagara this week. Let's hope the commute
goes better than the Oilers' adventure to Bemidji
last month. The team's original flight on the Thursday before
the series was canceled because of a snowstorm. So half the team
got on a different plane and flew to Minneapolis, where they spent
the night. The other half spent Thursday night in Findlay before
bussing to Detroit on Friday morning. They then flew from Detroit
to Minneapolis to join the rest of their party.
the Oilers bussed five hours north to Bemidji, where they were
smoked 4-0 and 5-3 by the Beavers.
Ford was "really mad" at the outcomes and his team's
effort until his mother talked some sense into him. "'How
the heck can you be mad at them with what they went through?'"
Ford remembers his mom asking. "And she was right. She really
calmed me down."
Daneyko called his first game as a color analyst on YES when Holy
Cross beat Army on Sunday. I didn't
see it, but, by all accounts, the three-time Stanley Cup-winning
defenseman did a fine job at the mic.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.