October 18, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: AIC's Meisner makes history

By Allen Lessels

AIC made a bit of history in its opener at Penn State on Friday night when senior goalie Ben Meisner stopped a school and Atlantic Hockey record 61 shots in a 3-2 overtime triumph. 

Ben Meisner's historic performance propelled AIC to an opening-night win over Penn State. (Photo: AIC Athletics)

The victory was AIC’s first on opening night since 2002.

It also put a serious damper on Penn State’s historic night.

The Nittany Lions made their Division I hockey debut in the jam-packed Greenberg Ice Pavilion, which next season gives way to a new arena as Penn State begins play in the new Big Ten conference.

For this season, the Nittany Lions are playing as a Division I independent and they were intent on kicking off their first season in style.

“They came at us pretty good,” said AIC coach Gary Wright. “They really came hard with their rushes and their forechecks. That was what we expected. We spent an inordinate amount of time in our own zone.”

Meisner held things together.

“There’s no question he kept us in that game,” Wright said. “You could see with the way he was playing out there, with his comportment, his confidence was outstanding. We could all feed off it. You felt really good that he was going to make the save.  He gave us a chance to win and we had some timely goals.”

Junior Jon Puskar had the game-winner, tipping in a shot by sophomore defenseman Jake Williams with just 21 seconds left in overtime.

Then it was on to a press conference.

“There were some 30 members of the press there,” Wright said. “I’ve been coaching for 30 years or more and have never spoken to that many people. It’s that it’s a new program, that it’s Penn State and the Big Ten and that sort of thing. To be part of that was a pretty neat experience.”

The next night was interesting, too, as the teams moved on to play in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, home of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. There, they played in front of a crowd of 5,389.

Penn State got its revenge in that one with a 4-3 win, also in OT.

“I actually thought we played a little better the second night and territorially it was closer,” Wright said.

The Yellow Jackets returned home and opened the Atlantic Hockey part of the schedule with a 6-2 loss to Holy Cross on Tuesday night.

Puskar put his team in front 2-1 with a pair of goals early in the second period. It was all Holy Cross after that.

Puskar now has three goals through three games. He had seven in 30 games total last year and missed seven games with an injury. That’s after putting up 12 goals as a freshman.

“He’s one of those guys that we’re counting on to score goals,” Wright said. “That he has three already bodes well, I think.”

The Yellow Jackets are off this weekend. The Holy Cross game started a five-game home-stand that continues with games against Union on Oct. 26 and Alabama-Huntsville on Oct. 27 and concludes with a pair against RIT on Nov. 2 and 3. 

Player of the Week

Ben Meisner, sr., goalie, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sacred Heart

Meisner got the season off to a good start with a school and Atlantic Hockey record 61 saves in AIC’s 3-2 overtime win at Penn State on Friday night. He stopped 40 shots the next night in a 4-3 loss, also in overtime, and 41 on Tuesday night in a 6-2 loss to Holy Cross in AIC’s league opener. 

Game of the Week

Sacred Heart at Army, Friday; Army at Sacred Heart, Saturday

The Pioneers and Black Knights shared last place in the league’s final standing last year and both are looking to leave the cellar far, far behind. How they fare in their opening series in league play may have a say in that. The teams are done with each other early in the season: Sacred Heart is at Army on Nov. 16 for their third, and final, meeting in the regular season. 

Power Rankings

1. Air Force (0-0-2, 0-0-0) . . .  The Falcons played seven tie games last year and have played two in their first two games.    

2. Bentley (1-0-0, 1-0-0) . . . Junior Brett Gensler, the leading scorer in the league last season, had a goal and three assists in 7-1 win over Sacred Heart. 

3. Niagara (1-0-0, 1-0-0) . . . Purple Eagles drew first blood and led league standings alone until Tuesday’s results came in. 

4. RIT (1-1-0, 0-0-0) . . . Tigers rallied from 3-0 and 4-2 deficits and Adam Hartley scored 14 seconds into OT to stun No. 3 Michigan in opener. 

5. Mercyhurst (0-1-1, 0-1-1) . . . After opening with 2-1 loss at Niagara, Lakers play two at NCAA runnerup Ferris State on Friday and Saturday.  

6. Holy Cross (1-0-0, 1-0-0) . . . Sophomore goalie Matt Ginn stopped 39 AIC shots in 6-2 opener Tuesday night.

7. UConn (0-1-0, 0-0-0) . . .  Huskies lost opener 4-1 at Massachusetts and must wait until Oct. 26 for next game, at Holy Cross.  

8. Canisius (1-1-0, 0-0-0) . . . Golden Griffins earned split at Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage; at Western Michigan Friday and Saturday.

9. Robert Morris (1-1-0, 0-0-0) . . . . Colonials lost 4-0, then won 4-0 behind senior Eric Levine’s 48 saves against Quinnipiac. 

10. AIC (0-1-0, 0-1-0) . . . Junior Jon Puskar’s two goals put AIC up 2-1 halfway through Tuesday’s game, but Holy Cross roared back for 6-2 win. 

11. Sacred Heart (0-1-0, 0-2-0) . . . Pioneers scored on power play in 7-1 loss to Bentley, but also gave up four power play and three short-handed goals.   

12. Army (0-2-0, 0-0-0) . . . Black Knights dropped a pair to Nebraska-Omaha, 5-1 and Maine, 4-3, in Ice Breaker tournament. 

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