November 23, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Gensler, Falcons aim to gain ground

By Allen Lessels

Bentley and Mercyhurst will square off for a pair of games in Waltham, Mass., with both squads looking to move up a bit in the Atlantic Hockey Association standings. 

Brett Gensler already has 19 points thorugh nine games for Bentley. (Photo: SportsPix)

The Falcons feature junior Brett Gensler leading a high-powered offense. They took a pair of games from AIC and Connecticut last weekend. Gensler, who led the league in scoring last year, is right back at it and has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in nine games.

His 2.11 points per game are tops in the country and Bentley’s 4.33 goals a game are second-best.

Mercyhurst has played a road-heavy schedule and, at 3-1-0 in the league, sits just two points behind Bentley in the standings.

The Lakers have yet to play a home game. After the games at Bentley this weekend, they finish out an 11-game stretch of road games to open the season at Air Force on Nov. 30.

Starting with AIC on Dec. 7 and 8, Mercyhurst plays five straight home games.

And keep this in mind when handicapping the Atlantic Hockey field for the rest of the season: Counting that AIC series, 14 of Mercyhurst’s final 20 league games are in Erie.

For the moment, at least, Niagara and Holy Cross have opened up a little room at the top of the league standings, the Purple Eagles especially.

Holy Cross is within a point of Niagara, but also has played two more league games.

Niagara, behind the gaudy goaltending statistics of junior Carsen Chubak, has a bit of a cushion that a 7-0-0 start in the league ought to bring.

The Purple Eagles, though, are well aware that there’s a long, long way to go.

“It’s still real early in the season,” Chubak said this week. “We’re playing with confidence and couldn’t be any happier with where we’re at. We’ve been able to win some games early and separate ourselves a little bit and that’s comforting. But you lose a couple of games and people get right back in it. You can’t get too comfortable.”

There’s no reason to believe that this season will be any different than recent seasons, said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.

“It’s going to go down to the last weekend, just like it did last year,” Burkholder said.

Bentley and Holy Cross and Air Force and Mercyhurst and a whole host of others will try to make sure of that.

To do so, some of them will have to start beating Chubak and the Purple Eagles.

All he’s done is put up an 8-1-3 record with a save percentage (.970) and goals against average (0.99) that lead the nation.

Player of the Week

Brett Gensler, jr., F, Bentley

Gensler had three goals and two assists in weekend wins over AIC and UConn, maintaining his two-points-a-game pace. The leading scorer in the league last year, Gensler has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in the first nine games for the Falcons.

Games of the week

Air Force at UConn, Friday and Saturday

The Falcons come east for their first Atlantic Hockey games since splitting a pair at home against Holy Cross, losing 3-2 and winning 7-0, on Nov. 2 and 3. UConn lost its only game last weekend at Bentley, 3-1. The Huskies took Air Force to three games in their league quarterfinal series last March in Colorado. 

Power Rankings

1. Niagara (8-2-3, 7-0-0) . . . Junior goalie Carsen Chubak keeps piling up the saves and the Purple Eagles keep piling up the wins. Niagara stayed perfect in Atlantic Hockey with a 2-1 win at Canisius and 3-0 win at home against Robert Morris. Chubak stopped 74 of 75 shots for the weekend. The Purple Eagles are off until Sacred Heart comes in for games on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

2. Holy Cross (7-2-1, 6-2-1) . . . The Crusaders took care of one goal with a 7-3 home win over RIT on Saturday: They had not beaten the Tigers in a regular season game since RIT joined Atlantic Hockey for the 2006-07 season. Junior Adam Schmidt had a hat trick in the win. Holy scored late for a 3-3 tie on Sunday.

3. Bentley (5-4-0, 4-2-0) . . . The Falcons collected four points in the standings with a 7-3 win at AIC and 3-1 win at home against Connecticut. Freshman defenseman Matt Blomquist had a goal and three assists for the weekend and had a hand in each goal against UConn. His power play goal tied the game, 1-1, in the third period.

4. Air Force (3-4-3, 2-1-1) . . . The Falcons split a pair of 5-1 games against Penn State in their last games two weeks ago and are at UConn this weekend. Air Force needed three games to knock the Huskies out of the league playoffs in the quarterfinals at home last March. The Falcons are 20-4-4 against UConn overall.

5. Mercyhurst (3-4-1, 3-1-0) . . . The Lakers dropped a couple of games to Rensselaer over the weekend and will try to get back on track with Atlantic Hockey contests at Bentley on Friday and Saturday.  The Lakers were unbeaten in four games going into the RPI series.

6. Army (3-6-1, 3-2-1) . . . The Black Knights picked up a couple of league points with a 3-2 win at home over Sacred Heart on Friday. Thane Heller had a goal and an assist and Andy Starczewski a couple of assists. Army’s next game is at Bentley on Nov. 29 and the Black Knights have AIC at home on Dec. 1.

7. Robert Morris (4-4-0, 3-3-0) . . . The Colonials put 43 shots on goal against Niagara on Saturday, but could not score in a 3-0 loss. It marked the second time Robert Morris has been shut out this year. The Colonials are off until they travel to Worcester Mass., for a pair with Holy Cross on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

8. Canisius (2-6-3, 1-2-1) . . . The Griffs and Niagara took the league’s two stingiest defenses into a game on Friday night and Niagara triumphed, 2-1. Junior Tony Capobianco had 21 saves for the Griffs, including his second stop of a penalty shot this year. Canisius is on an 11-0-1 run against AIC, which comes to town for games on Saturday and Sunday.

9. RIT (2-7-2, 1-4-2) . . .The Tigers managed a single point in a series at Holy Cross, losing the opener 7-3 and tying the next day, 3-3. RIT rallied from 2-0 down on Sunday to take a 3-2 lead, but then could not hold off the Crusaders. The Tigers have allowed 48 goals in their first 11 games (4.45 per game).  

10. UConn (2-5-1, 1-4-0) . . . The Huskies, who picked up their first two wins the weekend before, fell at Bentley, 3-1, on Saturday. Senior forward Sean Ambrosie scored the UConn goal. He is tied for 10th in Division 1 scoring at UConn with 27-51-78 totals. Air Force plays at UConn play at 4:05 on Friday and Saturday. 

11. AIC (3-5-2, 0-3-2) . . . After losing a 7-3 game to Bentley on Friday night at home, the Yellow Jackets went to Sacred Heart and rallied for a 2-2 tie on Saturday. Sophomore forward Alexander MacMillan and senior forward Steve Mele had the third period goals that brought AIC back from a 2-0 deficit. AIC is at Canisius on Saturday and Sunday.

12. Sacred Heart (0-9-2), 0-7-2) . . . . The Pioneers made a couple of runs at their first win of the season, but had to settle for a point with a 2-2 tie against AIC on Saturday. The Pioneers fell 3-2 at Army on Friday night and had a 2-0 lead in the third period on Saturday on goals by Ben Lake and Brian Sheehan, but AIC came back.

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