March 8, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Crusaders, Huskies move on

By Allen Lessels

Holy Cross took out Army in two games and Connecticut did the same to Canisius in Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend. 

Goaltender Garrett Bartus stopped all 26 shots he faced in the Huskies' 4-0 win over Canisius on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of UConn Athletics)

The Crusaders and Huskies move on to this weekend’s quarterfinals, hoping to earn themselves trips to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., for the semifinals.

Bentley knocked out Sacred Heart and Robert Morris ousted AIC and advanced to the semis as well, but those two had to work extra time to do it.

Before closing the 2011-12 books on the Sacred Heart and AIC seasons, a note on their final weekend is in order.

’Tis the time for desperation and urgency with hockey seasons and college careers on the line, and the Pioneers and Yellow Jackets clearly took that to heart.

Sacred Heart, the No. 11 seed for the tournament, played its best hockey at the end of the season and lost the series opener at Bentley, 5-3, on Friday night. The Pioneers got a hat trick from senior forward Matt Gingera on Saturday for a 4-2 win to even the series, but then fell, 5-0, on Saturday.

No. 10 AIC and senior forward Nielsson Arcibal provided even more playoff drama.

The Yellow Jackets lost to Robert Morris in the first game, 5-3, and won the second, 7-5. They trailed in the deciding game 3-0 in the third period when Arcibal scored three straight goals, the last with 10.3 seconds left and goalie Ben Meisner on the bench and an extra attacker on the ice.

Robert Morris, though, handled the threat well and Brandon Blandina, another senior who had no interest in seeing his season end, scored the winner 2:13 into the extra session.

Now it’s on to the semis.

The match-ups have No. 8 UConn at No. 1 Air Force, No. 7 Robert Morris at No. 2 Niagara -- in a pairing of former College Hockey America rivals -- No. 6 Bentley at No. 3 RIT and No. 5 Holy Cross at No. 4 Mercyhurst.

Holy Cross ended the regular season tied with Merychurst and RIT for third place and, because of tiebreakers, dropped back to the No. 5 seed.

Crusader coach Paul Pearl (Winthrop, Mass.) hopes the fact his team did not receive a bye last weekend as one of the top four seeds pays off in the long run.

“Now that we won, I am kind of glad we played this weekend,” Pearl said after Saturday’s game. “The bye would have been nice because of the home ice, but it also felt good to play this weekend. Plus, we have been a pretty good road team — especially after Christmas.”

The Crusaders ran their overall unbeaten streak to 10 games -- they are 9-0-1 since their last loss -- with the sweep of Army. Since New Year’s, Holy Cross is 5-2-2 on the road.

A couple of Crusaders picked up national recognition from the Hockey Commissioners’ Association for their work in February.

Freshman Matt Ginn was named National Rookie of the Month and sophomore Adam Schmidt was National Player of the Month.

Ginn was 7-0-1 in February with a .937 save percentage and Schmidt had seven goals and nine assists for 16 points.

No reason to expect anything but close games in Erie, Pa. The last three games between Holy Cross and Mercyhurst have gone to overtime. On Jan. 20 at Holy Cross, Mercyhurst sophomore forward Daniel O’Donoghue scored 19 seconds into OT for a 3-2 win. The next night the teams tied, 5-5.

Last season, the teams met in Erie and Mercyhurst won the first game, 3-1 with an empty net goal, and the next night triumphed 3-2 in overtime.

Games of the Week

No. 8 UConn at No. 1 Air Force, Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday

The Huskies make their second trip of the season to Colorado Springs. On Thanksgiving weekend, Air Force swept UConn, 3-1 and 4-3. The Huskies went 1-for-10 on the power play for the weekend. They are just over 25 percent with the man advantage for the season, which is third-best in the country, and average exactly one power play goal a game.

Nine of the 17 goals sophomore Brant Harris has scored have been on the power play. Six different Huskies have at least three power-play goals apiece.

Atlantic Hockey power rankings

1. Air Force (17-9-7, 15-6-6 AHA). . . . Falcons went 4-for-12 on the power play in 3-1, 4-3 sweep of UConn in late November.

2. Niagara (15-10-9, 14-6-7). . . . Senior Chris Noonan takes a .941 save percentage and 1.70 GAA into series against Robert Morris.

3. RIT (17-11-6, 14-7-6). . . . Senior Shane Madolora stopped 62 of 63 shots in 2-0, 2-1 wins over Bentley in January.

4. Holy Cross (19-13-4, 15-8-4). . . . Crusaders unbeaten streak up to 9-0-1; at fourth-seeded Mercyhurst next. 

5. Mercyhurst (18-14-4, 15-8-4). . . . Lakers beat Holy Cross, 4-3 in overtime, on Jan. 20 and the teams tied, 5-5, the next night.

6. Bentley (15-14-8, 13-7-7). . . . Branden Komm’s 24-save shutout wins Game 3 over Sacred Heart. 

7. Robert Morris (17-15-5, 13-9-5). . . . Senior Brandon Blandina scores 2:13 into overtime to eliminate AIC. 

8. UConn (15-17-4, 12-12-3). . . . Huskies beat Canisius, 4-3 in OT, in first game and Garrett Bartus takes care of second with 26-save shutout, 4-0.  

9. Canisius (10-22-4, 10-14-3). . . . Top four scorers this season were sophomores, led by Kyle Gibbons and Taylor Law, each at 11-15-26.

10. AIC (8-26-3, 6-18-3). . . . Yellow Jackets refuse to go quietly: Beat Robert Morris 7-5 in Game 2 and rally to take Game 3 to OT before losing, 4-3.

11. Sacred Heart (6-28-3, 4-20-3). . . . Senior Matt Gingera’s hat trick lifts Pioneers to 4-2 win over Bentley in Game 2 and forces third game.

12. Army (4-23-7, 3-19-5). . . . Black Knights won consecutive games on the road against Bentley and UConn in late January and then lost their last eight games.


Allen Lessels can be reached at