March 12, 2008

Pioneers Travel to Rochester for AHA Final Five

March 12, 2008

Setting the Scene... The Pioneer men's ice hockey team travels to Rochester for the 2008 Atlantic Hockey Final Five at Blue Cross Arena. SHU will play in the Final Five Game against Mercyhurst Friday night. The winner of that game will meet Army in the first semifinal Saturday at 4:05 pm. RIT and Air Force will play the second semifinal at 7:35 pm. The winners of the semifinals will meet for the AHA Championship Sunday night at 7:05 pm at Blue Cross Arena. The top five seeds in the tournament all won their quarterfinal series last weekend to advance to the Final Five. The Pioneers beat UConn 2 games to 1 in the quarterfinals. Coverage of this weekend's game can be heard on SacredHeartPioneers.com, WICC 600 AM and the B2 Network.

The Series... Sacred Heart went 4-7-1 against the other teams in the AHA Final Five. The Pioneers won the season series from Mercyhurst, 2-1-1, splitting a series in Milford in February after playing two overtime games in Erie on Thanksgiving. Against Army the Pioneers were 1-3, splitting a series in November before Army swept a series from Sacred Heart in the final weekend of the regular season. Air Force and Sacred Heart split a series in Milford in January, two weeks before RIT swept Sacred Heart in two games in Rochester. The Pioneers lead the all-time series with Mercyhurst 16-11-5. RIT holds the series adavntage against 3-2. Air Force is 5-1-3 against Sacred Heart all-time, inlcuding a win over SHU in the semifinals of last year's tournament. The Pioneers hold an 18-13-2 advantage over the Black Knights of Army.

SHU Gets By UConn... The Pioneers won their quarterfinal series against UConn 2-1. Senior Alex Parent had five points in the three games, three goals and two assists. Parent was held scoreless in Saturday's game, snapping his point scoring streak at 17 straight games. Freshman Evan Mladenoff had a goal in each of the final two games of series, his first career tallies. Rookie Adam DeJong had two goals Sunday night. The Pioneers finished the season 11-4-2 on home ice, the best home record in the league.

Pioneers in the Playoffs... Sacred Heart is making its 12th straight postseason appearance. The Pioneers reached the inauguaral AHA championship game in 2004, but lost in the quarterfinal round the next two years. This is the fourth time in school history that the Pioneers have made it as far as the semifinal round of the league tournament. It's the second straight year the Pioneers have made it out of the first round. In their run to the championship round, SHU beat UConn, and Mercyhurst before falling to Holy Cross in the title game. In 2004-05, the Pioneers dropped a road decision to Holy Cross in the quarterfinal round.In 2006, SHU fell to UConn, 4-1, in the quarterfinals at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Last year, Sacred Heart posted a 4-0 shutout of AIC in the quarterfinals before losing a tough game to Air Force in overtime in the semifinals.

Leader of the Troops... The Pioneers are led by senior captain Alex Parent. Parent leads the team in goal scoring with 19 goals on the year along with 21 assists for 40 points on the year. He now has 87 career assists putting him second in SHU history. He also has 141 career points, good for third place in school history. Parent is fifth in the league in scoring and tied for fourth in goals. The captain had a 17 game point scoring streak snapped last weekend and has tallied nine straight multi-point weekends.

Balancing Act... Seventeen players have scored goals for SHU this year. Of those, six players are in double digit goal scoring. Junior Eric Giosa has 10 goals while and sophomores Dave Jarman and Erik Boisvert 11 goals, and Nick Johnson has 12. Jarman is second on the team in assists with 22 while Boisvert has 21 helpers and Johnson 16. Johnson leads the league with four game winning goals. Defensively, junior Paul Ferraro and Dave Grimson each have has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists).

Streaks and Trends... The Pioneers took 98 minutes worth of penalties in the Army series, allowing the Black Knights 24 power plays...Sacred Heart is ranked third in the country in penalty minutes per game with 9.5...SHU has the second ranked power play in the nation with a conversion rate of 23.5 pecent...The Pioneers have scored at least one power play goal in 16 of their last 20 games. The Pioneers are ranked first in the country in combined special teams at 58.4%.

Scouting the Lakers... The Lakers of Mercyhurst were 11-10-7 in league play, good for fifth place in the standings. The Lakers swept their quarerfinal series with Canisius last weekend. Senior Ben Cottreau is the Lakers' leader, posting 24 points on the year, including eight goals and 16 assists. Senior Ben Cottreau leads the attack with 12 goals and 22 assists, 34 points on the year. Junior Matt Pierce has 12 goals and 11 assists on the year. The Lakers have gotten hot since goaltender Matt Lundin returned from an early season injury. In 27 starts in goal, Lundin has a 2.87 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Mercyhurst is ranked 14th in the country in penalty minutes, averaging 16.8 per game.

Scouting the Black Knights... The Black Knights of Army won the AHA regular season championship with a 17-8-3 record. Army swept their quarterfinal series from AIC last week. Goaltender Josh Kassel had a stellar second half of the season Kassel leads Atlantic Hockey and is fourth in the country in goals against average with a 1.84 mark. He has backstopped the Black Knights to the best scoring defense in the league at less than two goals per game. Army has some firepower up front as well, boasting two of the top five scorers in the league. Sophomore Owen Meyer is second in the league in goals with 21 along with 18 assists for a team high 39 points, third in the league. Meanwhile, senior Luke Flicek has 38 points and is second in assists with 26 to go along with 12 goals.

Scouting the Tigers... RIT is seeded second in the tournament after posting a 15-8-5 record this year. RIT's high-powered offense boasts the league's leading scorer in Simon Lambert who has 21 goals and 30 assists, 51 points on the year. Lambert also leads the league in assists and is second in goals. Senior Matt Smith leads the league in goal scoring with 27. Sophomore Dan Ringwald has 30 assists, most in the league. Sophomore Louis Menard has posted a 2.67 goals against, third in the league. The Tigers powerplay is ranked 15th in the country at 18.3 percent. RIT is ranked 6th in country with 18.3 penalty minutes per game. The Tigers power play is ranked 4th in the country at 23.2 percent conversion rate.

Scouting the Falcons... The 2007 Atlantic Hockey tournament champion Air Force Falcons finished the season 14-9-5 league play, and are unbeaten in eight of their last nine games. The Falcons swept their series with Bentley last week. Without Hobey Baker finalist Eric Ehn, sophomore Jeff Hajner has led the Falcon attack with 15 goals and 20 assists, 35 points on the year. Junior Brent Olson in second on the team with 15 goals and 18 assists, 38 points. Goaltender Andrew Volkening is second in the league with a 2.10 goals against average.