January 25, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: RIT, Mercyhurst set for big clash

By Allen Lessels

Merycyhurst and RIT have not exactly separated themselves from the Atlantic Hockey pack.

Far from it, actually.

RIT goalie Shane Madolora (photo: RIT Athletics)

But they are No. 1 and No. 2 in the league heading into the last weekend of January and are bound for a showdown at Ritter Arena in Rochester, N.Y.

The Lakers hold a one-point lead in the standings over the Tigers. Robert Morris, Air Force and Niagara will all likely be doing a little scoreboard watching this weekend. They are third, fourth and fifth in the standings and they follow the trend from above: Each of the top five teams in the league, in fact, is separated by only a point.

RIT, playing at home for the first time since Dec. 10, has swept series against Sacred Heart and Bentley the last two weekends led by Shane Madolora’s remarkable run of goaltending.

Madolora stopped 103 of the104 shots he faced over the last four games and in the process has improved his goaltending statistics to a .935 save percentage, which is third-best in the nation, and a 1.82 goals-against average, which is fourth-best.

The junior goalie put up three straight shutouts -- with a school-record shutout streak of 211 minutes and one second -- until Bentley got a goal past him last Saturday. He has six shutouts for the season and a dozen for his career.

Bentley gave the Tigers a tussle.

Madolora made 26 saves for the third shutout in the streak and RIT won Friday night’s game 2-0, including an empty-net goal.

“I thought we had a real strong effort against a good Bentley team,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We were strong defensively and Shane made big saves when we needed them. We are playing some of our best hockey right now and hope to continue improving as the season moves on.”

The next night, Bentley outshot RIT 37-28, but Madolora’s 36 stops saved the day for a 2-1 win.

Mercyhurst counters with senior Max Strang in goal. Strang had 49 saves in a 2-1 win over RIT at Mercyhurst on Oct. 28 and has a .922 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average for the season.

The RIT-Mercyhurst series features the league’s top offense against the top defense.

The Lakers average 3.18 goals a game overall and the number bumps to 3.47 in conference games.

Thanks to Madolora, RIT allows 1.99 goals a game overall and slices that number to 1.57 in league contests.

A potent freshman class leads the Lakers; scoring leaders Nardo Nagtzaam (9-14-23) and Daniel Bahntge (8-15-23) are freshmen, and so is Chris Bodo at 8-11-19. Junior Paul Chiasson (10-9-19) sticks up for the old guys and is the only Laker in double figures in goals.

Sophomore forward Michael Colavecchia at 10-10-20 and senior Cameron Burt at 5-14-19 lead the Tigers.

Games of the Week

Holy Cross vs. UConn, Friday and Saturday

The Crusaders and Huskies share sixth place in Atlantic Hockey with Bentley. All three are two points behind fifth-place Niagara and three behind fourth-place Air Force.

Likewise, the top three spots in the league are well within reach. UConn stopped Holy Cross, 4-2, in the first meeting of the teams this season on Oct. 27 in Worcester, Mass.

Atlantic Hockey power rankings

1. Mercyhurst (14-9-3, 11-3-3 AHA). . . . Sophomore forward Daniel O’Donoghue scores     two in 3-2 OT win over Holy Cross.  

2. RIT (14-8-2, 11-4-2). . . . Shane Madolora’s shutout streak ends at three games with 2-1 win at Bentley. 

3. Robert Morris (12-9-3, 10-4-3). . . . Two Trevor Lewis goals in last seven minutes help Colonials finish sweep of UConn.

4. Air Force (11-7-5, 9-4-4). . . . After a couple of one-point weekends, Falcons get three points at Army.

5. Niagara (9-8-7, 8-4-5). . . . Purple Eagles climb from ninth to fifth with sweeps of Army and AIC. 

6. Holy Cross (10-11-3, 8-6-3). . . . Six different Crusaders score in 6-6 tie at Bentley. 

7. UConn (10-12-2, 9-8-1). . . . Five league losses have come by a goal, and three others have come by two.

8. Bentley (7-11-6, 7-5-5). . . . Sophomore Brett Gensler scores three in a 6-6 tie with Holy Cross.

9. Canisius (8-13-3, 8-7-2). . . . Sophomore Taylor Law nets pair in 4-3 win over Sacred Heart.

10. AIC (4-18-2, 3-12-2) . . . Junior Adam Pleskach and senior Nielsson Arcibal are each at 69 career points.

11. Army (2-14-7, 1-12-5). . . Late Mark Dube short-handed goal earns 3-3 tie with Air Force.

12. Sacred Heart (1-22-1, 0-16-1). . . . Pioneers lead 3-1 in third, but can’t hold off Canisius.

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