December 3, 2009

Army gathering steam

by Allen Lessels

Army has climbed out of the Atlantic Hockey cellar and will look to do a little more damage this weekend at home against Sacred Heart before it takes a break for the holidays.

Last weekend’s home-standing sweep -- by scores of 4-1 and 7-2 -- of what had been a streaking Canisius lifted the Black Knights a couple of spots in the standings.

After picking up a single point for a tie in its first four league games, Army has won four of its last six Atlantic Hockey games.

The Black Knights on Friday night against Sacred Heart will try to pull off something they never managed last season: win a third consecutive game.

Junior goalie Jay Clark has been one of the keys to the resurgence. He stopped 60 of the 63 shots he faced last weekend.

“Clark is just so focused,” Army coach Brian Riley said, after the goalie opened the Canisius series with 29 saves in a 4-1 win. “You can see it in his preparation and how hard he works during the week. We felt confident with Jay in net tonight.”

The feeling carries over to other nights as well.

Junior Cody Omilusik had two goals and two assists against Canisius and leads the Black Knights with 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points in 15 games. He’s closing in the career-high numbers, 13-14-27, he put up in 34 games last season.

NEHJ Player of the Week

Ryan Zapolski, jr., Mercyhurst


A 36-save performance on Saturday night earned the hometown kid -- he’s from Erie, Pa. -- his first shutout of the year and fifth of his career in a 2-0 decision over American International. Zapolski has a goals-against average of 2.82 and save percentage of .913 and has given up 0, 2, 1 and 1 goals in Mercyhurst’s last four games, all wins.

Looking Ahead

Bentley at Canisius, Friday and Saturday

The Falcons will try to tighten the Atlantic Hockey standings a bit more. Canisius is tied for third with Mercyhurst at 13 points. Bentley and Holy Cross are deadlocked in fifth with 10. Canisius will be out to get back on track after having its six-game unbeaten streak snapped when it was swept by Army.

Around Atlantic Hockey

AIC


The Yellow Jackets outshot Mercyhurst in both games last weekend, but had nothing to show for it in 8-2 and 2-0 losses. … The going gets no easier as they head west for a pair with Air Force this weekend. The last time the Yellows Jackets were in Colorado Springs, the last weekend of February in 2008, they earned a 2-2 tie on Friday night and fell 5-0 on Saturday.

Air Force

The Falcons, off since a 3-1 win at Connecticut on Nov. 21, take a seven-game unbeaten streak -- they are 4-0-3 -- into games with AIC this weekend. Air Force has four home games before the break. Mercyhurst follows AIC into Colorado Springs next weekend.

Army


Junior Cody Omilusik was one of three Black Knights with four points against Canisius. Senior forward Eric Sefchik and freshman Andy Starczewski each had two goals and two assists. Sophomore forward Mike Hull had three assists on Saturday night. … Hull is at 4-9-13 on the season, second to Omilusik. Senior Owen Meyer and Sefchik each have 12 points.

Bentley


Sophomore goalie Kyle Rank helped the Falcons to a third-place finish in the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament. He had 49 saves in a 2-2 consolation game tie with Lake Superior State and then added a couple more stops in a 2-0 shootout win. … Bentley is at Canisius this weekend. The Falcons won six of seven games against the Golden Griffins last season.

Canisius


Junior forward Cory Conacher had a goal in each of two losses to Army. Conacher is at 12-7-19 for the season in 14 games, matching his career high in goals. He put up 12-23-35 numbers in 37 games last season. … Bentley, this week’s opponent, knocked Canisius out of the Atlantic Hockey tournament, two games to one, last March.

UConn

The Huskies have scored only four goals in their last five games. They are 0-for-23 on the power play and have a record of 0-4-1 during that stretch. … Freshman defenseman Alex Gerke and freshman forward SeanAmbrosie lead UConn in points at 3-5-8 each. … The Huskies are at Mercyhurst this weekend.

Holy Cross


Sophomore defensemen Mike Daly and Matt Clune contributed offensively in a 5-0 win over UConn and 7-3 loss to No. 11 Yale. Daly, out of Burlington, Vt., and St. Paul’s School, had four assists between the two games. Clune, who prepped at the Salisbury School, had three. . . . League-leading RIT brings its eight-game winning streak to Worcester this weekend.

Mercyhurst

Freshman forward Grant Blakey had a goal and an assist in Mercyhurst’s sweep of AIC last weekend. He is fifth on the team in scoring, and the top freshman, at 3-7-10. … Junior Brandon Coccimigilo leads the Lakers, who have won four straight, at 8-8-16 going into this weekend’s home series against UConn.

RIT

Sophomore forward Tyler Brenner, out with an injury for seven games, returned to score a goal in each of RIT’s wins over Sacred Heart on Nov. 20 and 21. They were the first two goals of the season for Brenner, who has played in six games. Last year, he was second on the team in points at 14-21-35 in 38 games and led the Tigers with six game-winning goals.

Sacred Heart

Nick Johnson, the senior out of Windsor, Conn., had one of Sacred Heart’s goals in an 8-2 loss to Yale on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. He leads the Pioneers with eight, which is double the team’s next highest goal scorer. … The Pioneers are 0-5-1 in their last half dozen against Army, this weekend’s opponent.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.