Mass. College Hockey: No. 4 Harvard Claims 14th Beanpot Championship

By Matt Noonan 

Fourth ranked Harvard University rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the second period to defeat Boston College – number on in the latest NCAA NC Women’s Hockey RPI poll – by a score of 3-2 on Tuesday evening in the 2015 Boston Beanpot Championship.

With the win, Harvard claims its 14th Beanpot crown and improves to 16-8 all-time against the Eagles in tournament play.

Karly Heffernan and Miye D’Oench each lit the lamp at 9:39 and 11:54, respectively, during the second period, which helped the Crimson claim their only lead of the contest.

The Eagles and Crimson swapped goals throughout the opening period before Boston College pushed ahead with a Haley Skarupa goal – her 25th of the season – at 8:18 in the second period. Harvard countered with Heffernan – her sixth goal of the season – before D’Oench deposited her 14th marker of the season.

Harvard’s goalie, Emerance Maschmeyer, turned away 30 of 32 shots and was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Katie Burt – the Eagles’ netminder – deflected 14 of 17 shots in a span of 59:33.

The Crimson’s last Beanpot victory occurred during the 2010 campaign when Harvard edged Northeastern University, 1-0.

Boston University defeated Northeastern in the consolation match, 3-1. BU’s Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice, while Hayley Masters netted the Huskies’ lone goal in the second period.

Stonehill College’s Chris Tasiopoulos recorded a career-high 48 saves against Saint Anselm as the Skyhawks and Hawks skated to a 1-1 tie. Garrett White netted his 10th goal of the season, which was set up by Kevin Aufiero and Scott Rolph.

Saint Anselm tied the game with a Sean Jenkins goal at 18:10 in the third period, but neither team was able to locate the back of the net during the extra stanza.

Jay Dalton recorded one goal and one assist as the Westfield State Owls defeated Worcester State, 3-2. Dalton netted the go-ahead goal at 17:27 in the third, which secured the win for the visitors.

Alex Dewitz and Andrew Bates each netted one goal for the Lancers, while goaltender Tyler Fallica turned away 21 of 24 shots.

Perry McCarthy and Eliza Noyes each scored one goal in Williams’ 2-2 tie with Sacred Heart. Charlie Billadeau stopped 17 of 19 shots in 65 minutes for the Ephs.

Emma Griese recorded two goals and one helper as the seventh-ranked Amherst College women’s hockey team cruised past Salve Regina, 6-0.

Rubin: Can the Falcons Fly this Post-Season?

By Dan Rubin

Charles Dickens never picked up a hockey stick, laced up skates, or even knew that a Bentley University would ever exist in Waltham, MA.  He surely never set foot in the John A. Ryan Skating Arena.  And he never intended any of his writings to come back to a college sports event.

But this season has been the best of times and worst of times for the Bentley Falcons.  They opened up the year with wins over Northeastern, Holy Cross, and Canisius.  They had a record [5-6-1], including [4-3-1] in conference play.  Then they went two months without a win.  They tied and lost games they should’ve won, including an overtime defeat to Air Force, a tie with Robert Morris, and a tie with RIT.  They bottomed out on January 21st, when they were embarrassed on home ice with an 8-2 loss to Mercyhurst.

Although they’ve leveled off from the season’s high and low, they remain an enigma.  There’s the weekend battle with Army, where they took three points in a goalie matchup for the ages featuring freshman Brandon Komm.  And there’s the gritty 4-2 win over Connecticut.  But there’s also the Sacred Heart game they led 3-1 and lost 6-3.  And there’s there loss to AIC by a 5-1 tally.  They haven’t swept a weekend since the first full weekend of AHA games.  But they haven’t been swept since New Year’s Eve, when they lost two games they could’ve (and in one case, should’ve) won.

The best part of the playoffs is that it’s a fresh slate.  Sure the Falcons are in the first round without a bye, but they were in bye contention until the final weekend of the regular season.  And they’re at home, taking on a team they beat twice.  Despite a bad loss to the Pioneers, Bentley crushed them in the beginning of the year, and they beat the Pioneers on the road.  So all that remains is to try to determine which Bentley team shows up.  The Road To Rochester starts here…

#11 Sacred Heart Pioneers at #10 Bentley Falcons

Goaltending Matchup: Sacred Heart will send either Steven Legatto or Olivier St. Onge into netminding duties.  They’ve split time because neither man had a very good year.  Legatto is averaging a shade under five goals per game.  St. Onge is averaging a shade under four.  Neither man stopped 90% of the shots this year, and neither won more than three games.  Bentley will counter with either Komm, Kyle Rank, or senior Joe Calvi.  Komm battled injury woes before playing out of his mind against Army.  After that weekend, though, he’s slipped, finishing the year with a [1-5-1] record.  Calvi saw the most time and was the most consistent, but he was the backstop of games in both games Bentley gave up eight goals.  Rank worked his way back into the starting role by process of elimination.  He stopped 37 and 31 in wins over AIC and Connecticut late in the year.  All three goalies allow an average of three goals per game.  Let’s face it – this isn’t exactly a pitcher’s duel-type matchup.  But, nevertheless, if Bentley’s goalies are hot, they can shut teams down.  Advantage: Bentley

Forwards: Playoff hockey is about being able to skate your top lines better than the other team’s top lines.  Having a great top and second line can win games.  Evan Mladenoff, Patrick Knowlton, Matt Gingera, and Eric Delong all skate on the top two lines for Sacred Heart. Gingera has 16 goals on the season, and Delong and Mladenoff have nine apiece.  Knowlton has 17 assists, while Delong has 18.  Bentley counters with a top line of Erik Peterson-Dustin Cloutier-Brett Gensler.  Peterson and Gensler have ten goals apiece, and Cloutier has a team high 14 assists.  Cloutier also has six points in the last seven games.  Aaron Stonacek also saw time with the first line, but he primarily skates with Joe Campanelli on the second line.

Normally, at this point, I’d say how the third line will be a gamebreaker for Bentley, since Jamie Nudy, Dan Koudys, and Brett Hartung will spot the top two lines a breather.  They’ll soften up Sacred Heart’s top two just enough to let their own top lines do some damage.  But David Berube, Chad Filteau, and Kyle Verbeek can do the same for the Pioneers.  Advantage: Push

Defensemen: Bentley’s defensemen do a wonderful job of playing instigator roles.  Mike Switzer amassed 34 PIM on his own on December 3 against Robert Morris.  He has 114 on the season, along with 3-7-10 totals.  Ryan Kayfes had 30 PIM during that same RMU game, amassing 80-plus this season.  They’re a devastating pair to have on the ice, and they headline a Bentley defensive unit that is top to bottom solid.  Zach Marginsky stands 6-6, and Trent Bonnett has been a stalwart.  Zach Ledford pairs with Micah Williams for a third solid unit.  Sacred Heart counters with Mitchell Stretch, Neil Fachini, and a pupu platter of decent but not overpowering defensemen.   Advantage: Bentley

Special Teams: During their first game, I used the term “the extremely movable force meets the extremely stoppable object” to describe the Pioneers PK against the Bentley PP.  The Pioneers killed at a D1-worst 69.3%, while Bentley ended at a conference-worst 8.8% powerplay unit.  But the Bentley powerplay has looked very good at times, especially when one considers they were under 6% as late as February 1st.  Bentley’s penalty kill is a better than average 85%, slotting them in third in the conference.  The Sacred Heart powerplay is 11th, ahead of only that Bentley man-up.  Advantage: Bentley

I won’t get into coaching comparisons because, well, quite franky, I don’t like them.  Coaching styles are so different that the comparisons don’t do any justice, and it really depends on the right players in the right system.  There’s no telling what might happen if you plop Bentley’s players into the RIT system and vice-versa.  All I know is that this Bentley team has been waiting patiently for the right time to break out.  It seems like they just never got over the hump.  Sacred Heart, meanwhile, is a team that was truly snakebitten by the bad karma bus when it came to winning games.  They’re a good team with a lot of positives, but, at this stage of the game, I’m going with Bentley, 5-3.  Make sure to check this one out, since Atlantic Hockey games are typically fast paced and truly exciting.  Be there at 7:05 PM from the old barn on Paramount Place when these teams lock up.  It’s sure to be a good one.

Rubin: Atlantic Hockey Playoff Picture

By Dan Rubin

The last weekend of the season didn’t disappoint for Atlantic Hockey. With seeding and playoff positioning hanging in the balance, teams came through in a big way while others slid down the playoff standings.

Bentley lost to Holy Cross on Friday, and then trailed for 50 minutes of Saturday’s game at home.  But Bentley battled back to tie, with senior Jeremy Robert, who played only sparingly during the regular season to this point, scoring with his net empty.  They gained a point, but they needed a win to get the nine-seed.  So, despite the comeback, Bentley slid to the 10-spot.  The tie cost the Crusaders a chance at the #2-seed, since a win would’ve potentially moved them ahead of Air Force.  The one-point weekend for Bentley cost them a) a first-round bye, b) a chance at a quarterfinals series at home depending on how the first round decisions fared, and c) the top seed of first round eastern division teams.

Meanwhile, Robert Morris entered the weekend entrenched as that two-seed, needing one win over Air Force to sew up that slot.  Instead, they got swept by Air Force, falling not only out of the two but into the lowest seeded home slot in the western division, going from two to five, where they now host seventh-seeded Mercyhurst.  By virtue of the four point weekend, Air Force managed to a) get a first round bye, b) sew up the second seed, and c) guarantee a quarterfinals series against a low-seeded team that won’t want to make a 2,000 mile journey west.

Sacred Heart, meanwhile, took a surprise game from Army on the season’s last day to vault one point over AIC.  That sets up a rematch in the first round of an 8-2, Sacred Heart shellacking victory over Bentley from earlier this year, where both teams could have finished easily nowhere near each other in the standings.  AIC was swept by Connecticut, giving the Huskies the bye and the Yellow Jackets the basement.

And with that, we’ll take a look at some of the rest of the final weekend games, as we preview the AHA Playoffs.

Teams with Byes and Final Seeds

RIT wins the regular season crown and #1 seed in the playoffs.  Air Force garners the #2 seed and first round bye in the west.  Meanwhile, Holy Cross gains the #3 seed and a first round bye, while Connecticut finishes second in the east, earning a bye as the #6 seed.  Despite their bye, the Huskies are on the road in the second round when the final ten reseed, unless either Robert Morris or Niagara loses their first round game.

#8 Canisius Golden Griffins at #4 Niagara Purple Eagles

Head to Head: 11/2/2010 at Canisius – Niagara 6-5 (OT); 2/17/2011 at Canisius – Niagara 3-0; 2/18/2011 at Niagara –  Canisius 6-3

Tale of the Tape: The road team won every meeting between the two teams this year, with the Purple Eagles getting the head-to-head advantage.  Niagara also enters this game with the top two leading scorers in the league.  Paul Zanette and Brian Haczyk scored 29 and 27 goals respectively.  Zanette also finished second in Division I with just over 1.5 points per game.  So Dan Morrison is going to have his work cut out for him in net for the Golden Griffins.  Morrison ranks 11th in the conference in save percentage, but he also averages over three goals per game allowed.  That differs greatly from the platoon of Chris Noonan and Cody Campbell.  Noonan ranks 6th among netminders in the league, but he only appeared in 13 games.

X-Factor of the Weekend: For Canisius, it’s Cory Conacher. This is Conacher’s swan song after playoff disappointments in each of the last three seasons.  He scored 18 goals this season to lead Canisius, where nobody else scored 10.  He has 61 career strikes and 141 career points.  In a one-game series, he’ll need to match Zanette and Haczyk almost single-handedly.

Prediction: Conacher’s a great talent and rightfully deserving of Hobey Baker mention, even if he shouldn’t win the award.  But it’s a case of Niagara and the old CHA being too strong.  4-1 Niagara.

#7 Mercyhurst Lakers at #5 Robert Morris Colonials

Head To Head: 11/19/2010 at RMU – Mercyhurst, 3-1; 1/11/11 at RMU – RMU 3-2 ; 1/12/11 at Mercyhurst – T 4-4

Tale of the Tape: Most evenly matched game of the weekend.  RMU averaged 3.3 goals per game and allowed an average of 2.67.  Mercyhurst averaged 3.63 and allowed 2.96.  In their three meetings, only once did a team outshoot its opponent by more than three.  And in that game, RMU outshot Mercyhurst 51-23…and lost.  Both teams have goal scorers – Scott Pitt and Paul Chiasson for Mercyhurst and Nathan Longpre and Adam Brace for Robert Morris.  Both teams have goaltenders – Senior Ryan Zapolski has 100 career starts and 106 career appearances for Mercyhurst, while junior Brooks Ostergard has 74 career games and 63 career starts for RMU.  Both goalies have save percentages this season well over 90%

X-Factor: At this point, it’s coaching.  Derek Schooley is the only head coach Robert Morris has ever known in its short history.  This is the first over-.500 season for the team in their first year in AHA.  Rick Gotkin has been here before, piloting Mercyhurst since the program’s 2nd season of Division III hockey in 1988.  He’s also taken the team to three NCAA Division I tournaments, most recently in 2005.  In 2009, Mercyhurst upset RIT in the conference final four, only to lose to Air Force.  Plus, he’s a really nice guy.

Prediction: Hockey’s a funny sport.  Some teams just know how to win in the playoffs.  Mercyhurst is one of those teams.  3-2 Lakers

#12 American International Yellow Jackets at #9 Army Black Knights

Head-to-Head: 11/19/10 at Army – Army 9-3; 1/18/11 at Army – Army 6-4; 1/19/11 at AIC – Army 4-1

Tale of the Tape: AIC is a bad program that plays everyone tough.  They beat Air Force, swept a weekend at Mercyhurst, beat RIT at home, and crushed Bentley on the road.  But they were swept by the Knights (allowing 19 goals in the process), and they followed up their win at Air Force with a whopping 12-0 loss.  They give up a lot of goals.  Army beat UMass, Niagara, Air Force, and RMU.  With a win, they go to Air Force.  They’re probably the only team salivating at the chance to make that trip since intra-service bragging rights are involved, and there’s no Navy in D1 hockey.  An AIC win sends them to RIT.

X-Factor: Which AIC team shows up?  I have no idea how they went [7-22-1] and [7-19-1] in conference.  I still can’t figure out how they beat RIT, Air Force, and Mercyhurst.  But I watched them beat Bentley into submission.  They deserve better than the 12-seed.

Prediction: If AIC were playing Bentley, I’d actually consider teasing them for a win.  I’ve made stranger picks.  But Army has the Jackets’ number.  My heart wants AIC to win, but my logic says 5-0 Army.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Bentley-Sacred Heart breakdown as we get you set for the local team’s march towards the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

 

Down The Stretch They Come: Atlantic Hockey Edition

By Dan Rubin

Since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference reorganized into the Atlantic Hockey Association in 2003, it has long been considered the doormat of Division I collegiate hockey.  All that changed in the 2010 NCAA tournament, when the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers shocked the institutional landscape with a run to the Frozen Four. This year, RIT is back, leading the charge of a conference still vying for respect amongst its peers.

There will be a new playoff format for the 2011 season with the additions of Niagara University and Robert Morris University to the fold.  Following the collapse of College Hockey America’s men’s conference, the AHA expanded to 12 teams and, as such, adapted its postseason schedule.  The league split into two “scheduling pods,” with the Purple Eagles and Colonials joining RIT, Canisius, Mercyhurst, and Air Force in the western division. Connecticut, Army, and Sacred Heart joined Massachusetts schools Holy Cross, American International, and Bentley to form the eastern division.  Under new scheduling formats, teams played opponents in their own pod three times and opponents in the other pod twice.

When the dust settles on the season, the top two teams in each pod garner first round byes.  The remaining four teams then play off in single-elimination formats at campus sites.  The winners all advance to a reseeded second round, best-of-three series with all games held at higher-seeded campus sites.  The final four then converges on the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY for single-elimination semifinal and finals games, with the conference tournament winner earning an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

Under this format and under the current standings, RIT clinched the top spot in the conference, first place in the west, a first round bye, and a second round series with the lowest remaining seeded team.  That’s all that’s been settled, and we’ll take a look at the local teams and their playoff outlook as the league heads into its final weekend.

Holy Cross: [14-14-4, 13-8-4 in AHA] has the easiest road of the Massachusetts schools, having clinched the top seed in the east and currently sitting tied for 3rd place with 30 points.  The Crusaders are also one point back of second-place Robert Morris and will host a second round series when the playoffs reseed.  This weekend, they’ll take on eastern-division rival Bentley with the chance to overtake both the Colonials and Air Force.  In order to clinch that second seed, the Crusaders will need to win both against the Falcons.  RMU plays Air Force in Pittsburgh, so the ideal situation is a weekend split in that series.  Holy Cross would still need to sweep the weekend, since they do not hold tie breakers over either Robert Morris or Air Force.  My prediction is that Holy Cross finishes the season in 4th place, still earning a first round bye and 2nd round series at the Hart Center in Worcester, MA.

Holy Cross’s opponent mentioned above is the enigmatic Bentley University squad.  The Falcons have been very much an up-and-down team, and they’ve split games in each of the last three weekends.  But Bentley [10-16-5, 9-12-4 AHA] enters the final weekend of the season with a chance at a first round bye thanks to the scheduling format.  Although they’re ensured of a second round series on the road, they ninth-place Falcons have at least clinched a first round series at home while being able to finish no worse than tenth.  Bentley will have a close eye on the UConn-AIC series, sitting two points behind the Huskies for the eastern division bye.  Bentley won the season series against UConn, so they’ll need at least one win over Holy Cross to have a chance at the bye.  With a weekend split of the home-and-home, (Bentley’s home on Saturday), the Falcons would require the 11th-place AIC Yellow Jackets to sweep the Huskies in their own home-and-home.  A UConn win requires Bentley to sweep the weekend, and a UConn win coupled with a Bentley loss eliminates the Falcons from bye contention.  I’m predicting a weekend split against Holy Cross, a team Bentley beat earlier this year on the road.  Bentley will not, however, gain a first round bye and will be home for the single-elimination round.

As a secondary standings hunt, Bentley also sits one point behind 8th place Canisius in the overall standings.  The Golden Griffins play rival Mercyhurst, and the Falcons can pass them with at least a win and a Laker sweep.  I think this is more plausible, and Bentley will finish 8th overall in the standings.

American International: [7-20-1, 7-17-1 AHA] has the least confusing road to the playoffs.  AIC is on the road for the first round, since they’re at least five points back of everybody not named Sacred Heart.  The Yellow Jackets have a one point lead for 11th place over the bottom-dweller Pioneers.  A tie in one of their games against UConn clinches 11th place and a date with whoever finishes third in the east.  The only scenario where AIC doesn’t finish 12th is if they get swept by UConn and Sacred Heart wins one against Army.  I don’t know how those are going to play out, but in the interest of realism, AIC finishes 11th.

Now that my head hurts from crunching all these numbers, we’ll do it again tomorrow with a look at the local flavor of ECAC Hockey.  We’ll also be back at the end of the week with predictions and a look at the games themselves, which should explain the methods behind this madness.