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October 21, 2009 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Atlantic Hockey Preview 2009-10

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer

Air Force

Head Coach: Frank Serratore
2008-09 record: 28-11-2 (20-6-1, 1st AH)
Key Returnees: Derrick Burnett F So., Matt Fairchild F Sr., Josh Hajner F Sr., Jacques Lamoureux F Sr., Tim Kirby D So., Andrew Volkening Sr.
Key Losses: Greg Flynn, Josh Frider, Brent Olson, Michael Mayra, Mike Phillipich

Still watching the puck fly through the net?

Did it rip its way through or just somewhere stretch the netting perfectly?

Honestly, who knows. We might never actually know how that puck found its way through the back of the net and ended Air Force’s amazing NCAA tournament run one game shy of the Frozen Four.

But what we do know is that Air Force will once again be knocking on the door come NCAA tournament time.

Despite losing three of their top five goal scorers — and their first four games — the Falcons start the season with a trio that should continue to put fear into opponents.

Goalie Andrew Volkening, forward Jacques Lamoureux and forward Matt Fairchild all return for another shot at the NCAA tournament and the Frozen Four.

Lamoureux, who was a Hobey Baker Finalist, led the nation with 33 goals last year.

But don’t expect Fairchild to allow Lamoureux to steal all the limelight. As the reigning Atlantic Hockey tournament MVP, Fairchild has crept up on everyone’s watch list and is set to contend for the league MVP crown.

Volkening, however, could be the biggest piece to the puzzle. Last season, he played in every minute of every game and posted a 1.97 goals against average. In the Falcon’s upset win over Michigan, he stole the show with 43-saves. If Volkening is on his game, there’s no reason to believe Air Force won’t be back in a familiar position come tournament time.

American International

Head Coach: Gary Smith
2008-09 record: 5-28-2 (5-22-1, 10th AH)
Key Returnees: Nielsson Arcibal F So., Chris Campanale F Sr., Steve McLeod F Jr., Mike McMillan F Sr., Tom Mele F Jr., Michael Penny F So., Dan Ramirez G Jr.
Key Losses: Tom Fenton, Chad Richardson, David Turco

At the start, AIC is just like every other program.

Forget that fact the Yellow Jackets finished last season with just five wins and stuck in last place in the conference. A new season brings new promise.

“We’re probably as full of hope as everyone is,” Smith said. “We’re optimistic. There’s always that sense of optimism and anticipation.”

The Yellow Jackets have earned the right to be optimistic. After a difficult season that saw AIC take a step back, a strong core of returning players is set to improve win-loss record.

Chris Campanale (7 goals, 11 assists) is at the center of the group that hopes to make last season’s 1.89 goals per game average a thing of the past. Campanale is set to provide the leadership after being lightly recruited by AIC.

“Goal scoring is an area we’re looking for a real boost,” Smith said. “We’re also hopefully our players from last year that weren’t as potent will make a real difference.”

Still, no matter how much offense the Yellow Jackets can find it will mean nothing if the goalie situation doesn’t find a fix after the departure of senior Tom Fenton.

Early on, junior Dan Ramirez figures to hold the top spot.

“Dan put a lot of emphasis on improving his game [this offseason],” Smith said. “[Ramirez] is very key. He has to be strong in goal and it is important for the program that he is challenged.”

Smith is hopeful that as a whole all returning players are prepared to make serious improvements.

“In our situation it is best to just make yourself better and really dedicate yourself that way,” Smith said. “That commitment is necessary.”

“You thinking your working as hard as you can but there is always a little more to give.”

Army

Head Coach: Brian Riley
2008-09 record: 11-19-6 (10-12-6, 6th AH)
Key Returnees: Jay Clark G Jr., Mike Hull F So., Owen Meyer F Sr., Cody Omilusik F Jr., Eric Sefchik F Sr.
Key Losses: Matt Hickey, Josh Kassel, Zach McKelvie

Army coach Brian Riley is prepared for what lies ahead.

He knows his group is rather young and he knows the league has gotten even better.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t any less excited to get the season going.

“All your goals are still attainable, everyone still has a chance,” Riley said.

Riley’s group certainly has a chance this season. It won’t be easy. Yet, opportunity is there.

For Army, the talk will start with goalie Jay Clark and end with offensive star Owen Meyer.

“One thing about our league is that every team has at least one great goalie,” Riley said. “Jay Clark has the ability to steal games. I haven’t seen a more focused student athlete. Players love playing for him.”

Clark ended the season with a .914 save percentage.

As for Meyer, Riley and the rest of the league knows what they’re going to get from the dynamic forward.

“Owen Meyer has the ability to take over a game,” Riley said. “Every team knows him and people are going to shut him down. He’ll be ready.”

Meyer is 20 goals away from becoming the league leader in goals scored.

With Meyer and Clark playing at the top of their game, Riley is hopefully that the team’s defense can continue improve.

“We’re in the middle of the pack where we belong,” Riley said. “We’re a much better team defensively. We just got to kept the puck out of net and find a way to win on the road. All good teams find a way to win on the road.”

The Black Knights will get to test themselves early with five of their first seven games on the road. From there, Riley will get a good idea of just how attainable all those early season goals are.

Bentley

Head Coach: Ryan Soderquist
2008-09 record: 19-17-2 (15-11-2, 4th AH)
Key Returnees: Dustin Cloutier F So., Marc Menzione F Sr., Erik Peterson F Jr., Bobby Preece D Sr., Kyle Rank G F
Key Losses: Anthony Canzoneri, Jeff Gumaer Dain Prewitt

After posting their best record in school history and earning a trip to the conference semifinals, Bentley is faced with the difficult task of replacing its to line.

The Falcons saw 114 points graduate along with Dain Prewitt, Jeff Gumaer and Anthony Canzoneri this spring.

With so many points just gone from equation, its safe to say Bentley could be a work in progress. But the Falcons will look to Erik Perterson, Marc Menzione and Dustin Cloutier to right the ship as they face off with Northeastern and Quinnipiac in their first weekend of hockey.

Canisius

Head Coach: Dave Smith
2008-09 record: 15-16-6 (12-12-4, 5th AH)
Key Returnees: Cory Conacher F Jr., Josh Heidinger F Sr., Carl Hudson D Sr., Ryan Klusendorf F Sr., Dave Kostuch F So., Andrew Loewen G Sr., Jason Weeks F Sr., Matt Zuke D Sr.
Key Losses: Spencer Churchill, John Patera

For Canisius, the message is simple – don’t take anything for granted.

After losing five of their final six games last season, the Golden Griffins are hungry to prove their worth this season.

“It was a very disappointing end, we didn’t finish strong and we didn’t put together enough consistency,” Smith said.

“We felt like we could’ve done a lot better. Everyone is ready to get on with it. Let’s show everyone we can be a top team.”

Canisius returns nearly all of its offense and all but one defenseman.

On paper, the pieces look to be in place. Sophomore and Rookie-of-the-Year Dave Kostuch (21 goals) is a back, along with Jason Weeks (39 points), Cory Conacher (35 points) and Josh Heidinger (33 points).

On defense, Carl Hudson returns after recording eight power-play goals last season.

“He’s a power play specialist and a hammer from the point,” Smith said. “He’s a senior that really came back in great shape.”

Connecticut

Head Coach: Bruce Marshall
2008-09 record: 9-26-2 (8-18-2, 9th AH)
Key Returnees: Jason Krispel F Jr., Andrew Olson F Jr., Matt Pedemonti F Jr. Marcello Ranallo F So.
Key Losses: Sean Erickson

After 22 seasons, UConn coach Bruce Marshall has heard his fair share of hockey talk.

Still, when it comes to this year’s edition of the Huskies he can’t help but dip into the well one more time.

“Not to be cliche, but we’re going to worry about how we’re doing today and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Marshall said.

The sentiment can be heard from every coach from high school to the pros but it just might be the best idea for UConn.

The Huskies enter the season coming off a disappointing nine-win campaign from last year and are hungry to get back to the semifinals, With every weekend series pivotal to that goal, the last thing the Huskies need is to get ahead of themselves.

“We’re going to try and slow it down and make sure we know our responsibilities,” Marshall said. “Let’s make sure we’re prepared everyday and we can go from there.”

Marshall for one is hoping to use last year’s struggles and late season revival (UConn was 3-2-1 to end the year) as springboard for this year.

“There’s nothing wrong with a bad experience to help you realize what you need to do,” Marshall said. “Our big class is our juniors and they have to take more ownership.”

Andrew Olson (12 goals) and former backup goalie Brad McInnis will be two of those juniors that will need to take hold of the Huskies from the start.

“It’s early and everyone is excited now but its not just going to happen when the puck drops,” Marshall said. “No, there is going to be adversity. This is a six month process.”

“It’s going to be a long year [for everyone in the league].”

Holy Cross

Head Coach: Paul Pearl
2008-09 record: 13-20-5 (10-15-3, 7th AH)
Key Returnees: Jordan Cyr F Jr., Ian Dams Sr. G, Rob Forshner F Jr., Brodie Sheahan F Sr., Everett Sheen F Jr., Jay Silvia F So., Adam Roy Jr. G
Key Losses: Marty Dams

Saying goodbye is never easy.

Thankfully for Holy Cross it didn’t have to give too many farewell speeches last season.

Gone are just two members from the group that finished in seventh place in Atlantic Hockey.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the guys that came back and what kind of steps they’ve taken,” Pearl said. “We’re a team worth watching because there are some many variables and if all those variables come together...”

“Hopefully we grew up as a team.”

Holy Cross returns five seniors, including goalie Ian Dams and forward Brodie Sheahan (12 goals, 19 assists). Better yet, the Crusaders’ top 13 point leaders are all back.

“We really came a long last year as a team,” Pearl said. “We were very pleased with the improvement from the first day to the last.”

Along with Sheahan, leading scorer Jordan Cyr figures to see an even bigger bump in production after a 19-goal campaign in 2008-2009.

In net, Dams and Adam Roy should again split time. But don’t count out newcomer Thomas Tysowsky, who could compete for minutes.

Overall, Pearl feels the program is headed back on the right track after a brief one-year stumble that saw the offense drop (2.61 goals per game).

The key could be the start. Last season, Holy Cross started out 2-7. This time, Pearl and company are hoping to avoid any problems out of the gate.

Mercyhurst

Head Coach: Rick Gotkin
2008-09 record: 22-15-3 (17-8-3, 3rd AH)
Key Returnees: Steve Cameron F Jr., Matt Fennell D Jr., Phil Ganand F So., Mike Gurtler F Jr., Scott Pitt F Jr., Ryan Zapolski G Jr.
Key Losses: Matt Lundin, Matt Pierce, Brett Robinson

To hear Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin talk about the upcoming season, you’d expect the Lakers to be coming off a conference championship season.

Nope. Gotkin is simply pumped about what lies ahead and the promise of another special season.

“Everyone is excited — this is a new beginning, a new challenge,” Gotkin said. “I’m confident. We’re bonding and doing great.”

Gotkin has reason to be optimistic. Not only do the Lakers return their top scorers (Sophomores Steve Cameron and Scott) but they enter the season with the top special team units and a goalie in Ryan Zapolski that is tested and ready.

“You can’t ever put a premium on experience,” Gotkin said. “We have a good chunk of players that played in the championship games the last two years.”

Those players will also be accustomed to Mercyhurst’s road-weary schedule. The Lakers play nine of its first 10 games on the road.

“We’re looking squarely on our seniors guys to have good years,” Gotkin said. “We’re going to do it by committee.”

Despite the loss of goalie Matt Lundin and forward Matt Pierce, Mercyhurst has eight of its top of points leaders back. The Blue line, which allowed 2.61 goals last season, should also be in decent shape. Just two defenseman (Kirk Medernach and Bobby Phillips) graduated.

RIT

Head Coach: Wayne Wilson
2008-09 record: 23-13-2 (20-6-2, 1st AH)
Key Returnees: Tyler Brenner F So., Cameron Burt F So., Jared Demichiel Sr. G, Andrew Favot F Jr., Stevan Matic F Sr., Dan Ringwald D Sr.
Key Losses: Brennan Sarazin, Matt Crowell, Bobby Raumond

One game in and RIT is already breaking records.

On Oct. 10th, RIT and Colgate opened the season before a record 7,421 fans at Blue Cross Arena. The crowd beat out the previous RIT record of 5,124 and set the record for a home game involving an Atlantic Hockey team.

Think fans in Rochester are ready for the season?

Don’t worry, so are the Tigers.

After finishing last year with a program best 23 wins, RIT enters the fall eager to stay a top the league standings.

RIT was second in team offense and team defense, and had the second best power play in the conference.

“If we can play with the same intensity and excitement, that’s what we’re looking for,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “I like to see us excited to play.”

Despite the memorable regular season, Wilson’s group finished last season in a familiar spot — with a loss in the conference semifinals.

“We feel like we left something on the table,” Wilson said. “For us, there was some emptiness.”

So the Tigers will be leaning on the trio of forward Tyler Brenner (35 points), defenseman captain Dan Ringwald and goalie Jared DeMichiel to get them in a position to challenge for the league crown.

“We have more talent than last year but there’s a lot more to it than talent,” Wilson said. “The seniors last year did an outstanding job from a chemistry and character standpoint.”

Wilson said the team will look to Dan Ringwald for leadership and its his hope that the rest of the seniors will be able to provide the type of atmosphere needed for league play.

Still, none of that changes the RIT mission.

“We want to be that team everyone is gunning for,” Wilson said.

Sacred Heart

Head Coach: C.J. Marottolo
2008-09 record: 11-23-4 (9-16-3, 8th AH)
Key Returnees: Erik Boisvert F Sr., Matt Gingera F So., Dave Jarman F Sr., Nick Johnson F Jr., Olivier St. Onge G So.
Key Losses: Stefan Drew, Eric Giosa, David Grimson, Bear Trapp

The Bear has left the building.

Well, offensive star Bear Trapp to be specific.

But Trapp (156 career points) isn’t the only one gone. Nor is he the biggest departure from the Pioneers this offseason.

In September, longtime coach Shaun Hannah stepped down and left a huge leadership void with just a few weeks left before the start of the season.

After a hurried search for a new coach, Sacred Heart found their man in Yale assistant C.J. Marottolo.

“It is an honor and privilege to be named the next head hockey coach at Sacred Heart University,” Marottolo said when hired.

Marottolo arrives at Sacred Heart after 13 seasons with Yale and two as an assistant coach at D-III Trinity college in Hartford. Marottolo played college hockey at Northeastern.

Luckily enough for Sacred Heart, the season doesn’t start till Oct. 23 with a pair of road games at RPI and Union.

The extra time will be barely enough to get Marottolo settled in.

He takes the reins of a program that has seen its win totals drop every season since it claimed the top spot in the 2007 playoffs.

The main issue early on for Sacred Heart will be the offense. With the departure of Trapp and Eric Giosa, the Pioneers will need to find help from underclassmen and those in secondary roles last season. Even with seniors Dave Jarman (29 points) and Erik Boisvert (29 points) back, others will be looked to make the big jump from role players to top line scorers.

And then there is the whole goalie issue. Junior Olivier St. Onge takes over the starting job from departed Stefan Drew, who played the majority of minutes last year.

Needless to say, Marottolo has his hands full in the first couple of months.
 

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