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Posts tagged “NCAA

End of an Era for RIT


It’s hard to imagine road trips to RIT as anything but unfriendly.

Since joining Division I back in the mid-2000s, the RIT Tigers rank as one of Atlantic Hockey’s toughest road trips.  Ritter Arena has 2,100 seats, nearly all on top of the ice.  The ice surface is notoriously small, measuring 185-feet-x-85-feet instead of the usual 200-x-85.  The Corner Crew, its dedicated fan section, is loud.  I mean, they’re really loud.  And they’re loud from the start of the game, right about when warmups start, until the game ends.  There’s never been a team that actually enjoyed playing at RIT.

After this season, RIT will depart the Ritter and move into a glittery new home at the Gene Polisseni Center.  The Polisseni Center will feature twice the seating at the Ritter, increasing capacity from just over 2,000 to 4,500.  There will be improved sightlines, better concourses, a video board, and personal seat licenses.  In short, it’ll be everything the Ritter isn’t.

In that lies the problem.  Over the past few years, there’s been an influx of new arenas.  Penn State built the Pegula Ice Center, and Boston University built Agganis Arena.  Notre Dame opened the Compton Family Ice Center.  UConn will move to the XL Center while Freitas Forum is brought up to Hockey East standards.  Merrimack rebuilt the interior of Lawler Arena.  And Brown’s Meehan Auditorium was renovated in 2002, while Harvard began renovating Bright-Landry Hockey Center this past year.

There’s no question RIT needed a new arena in order to make the jump from AHA program to national power, and there’s no doubt the process probably began when they qualified for the Frozen Four in 2010.  But in the growth of the program, they’re going to run into a danger of making their hockey team antiseptic, and they risk watering down what makes RIT such a hostile place to play.  While a necessity in some areas, it’s going to end some of what makes playing at RIT so great.  And in creating a home ice advantage, the Tigers might actually take away some of it.

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No NCAAccountability


–Dan Rubin–

Last summer, Penn State mired itself in what is considered by most to be the worst scandal in the history of sports.  Jerry Sandusky was on his way to prison for molestation, and Joe Paterno was long passed away.  Officials in the school’s front office faced trial, as did its athletic administrators.  The statue of its longtime head coach was soon headed for a storage facility, and the only thing left to endure were the inevitable sanctions coming from college sports governing body, the NCAA.

Penn State served as a statement for the organization, embarrassed over the past several years by bungled scandal after bungled scandal.  They’d mishandled the Ohio State scandal with Terrelle Pryor trading autographs for tattoos, and they’d completely mishandled the investigation into Reggie Bush‘s improper benefits at USC.  They were completely mired in a months-long probe into the University of Miami and the benefits given to athletes by imprisoned Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro.  They’d been royally embarrassed by Cam Newton, who transferred to Auburn under the shadiest of circumstances.  And the concept of a student athlete was being called into question because of the amount of money college sports generated versus scholarship rules considered archaic by some.

Penn State was the moment where the NCAA announced it was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  It leveled the Nittany Lions with a litany of harsh sanctions potentially affecting the school for decades.  It didn’t give it the so-called “death penalty” that it once hit Southern Methodist University with, but the sanctions given were so severe, it was considered PSU might have wanted to shutter the program instead.  More importantly, it was the moment where the NCAA acted on its own, outside of the governing congress of departments, flexing muscles people long forgot it had.

And then they did nothing.

Penn State is turning into an aberration for the way the NCAA handles issues; the governing body of college sports has completely bungled almost every investigation, and its committee on enforcement of rules is dealing with scandals running rampant.  With over 200 Division I schools, it’s become nearly impossible to track who’s doing what, and the front office is being left behind by a fast-paced world where athletics are trumping school and turning the organization into a joke.

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BC$hambles


–Dan Rubin–

For the third time in the last four years, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide hoisted the crystal football above their heads as college football’s national champions.  For the sixth consecutive year, the crystal ball is heading back to the Southeastern Conference.  And for the 15th time, it’s happened in a national championship game designated by the Bowl Championship Series.

As is customary, controversy is swirling in the aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game.  The controversy, once again, centers on the combatant teams who played for college football’s ultimate prize, and if the parties were, in fact deserving enough.  On one hand is a one-loss program with an undefeated team on the other.  Both are multi-time national champions, and the question begs on if one of the teams did enough to get into the game while the other is recognized as a team that could probably go toe-to-toe with the National Football League’s doormats.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered the national championship game as an undefeated, #1-ranked program, but within the first couple of hours of football, they’d been completely undressed to within a shred of their dignity.  They trailed Alabama, 28-0, at halftime, and head coach Brian Kelly, when asked what needed to happen for his team to win in the second half, looked right at an ESPN reporter and said, “Alabama doesn’t come out of the locker room.”

The Crimson Tide completely destroyed the Irish, and instead of a celebration of the accomplishments of Coach Saban’s dynasty, the media woke up this morning to discuss if ND actually belonged in the game.  It’s ironic that the argument settles on them as the undefeated program instead of Alabama, one of several one-loss teams with a resume that could’ve put them into the national championship game.  It’s all because of the BCS, a computerized system that’s been flawed from the beginning and has never, ever resolved the issue of who would be the true national champion.

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New Day’s Dawn


–Dan Rubin–

I hate comparing things to Batman because I feel like it’s extremely juvenile.  But I can’t help but think of Harvey Dent whenever someone mentions the announcement and introduction of Brad Bates as the new athletic director at Boston College.

I think of a line when Dent stood at a press conference and told everyone he was the Batman, even though he wasn’t.  He stood up there while being chastised by police officers, journalists, and onlookers.  He was being told to acquiesce to the madman terrorizing the streets of Gotham City, this man known as the Joker, a psychotic murderer hell-bent on just seeing the city burn.  Dent stood at the podium and said, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

I can’t help but think of that one line whenever I think of Boston College athletics.  The present day is dark, darker than it ever was during the brightest spectrum of day a few years ago.  The glimmer of sunlight brought on by the mid-afternoon of gorgeous brightness is dwindling into the horizon, and we’ve entered the darkest part of the night.  It’s never been a worse time to be a fan of the Boston College Eagles, but then again, the night is always darkest before the dawn of a new day breaks.

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The Bentley Bag: 8/30/12


If you’d like to ask a question or make a comment about Bentley hockey, tweet us at Excal_Sports or email us at excalibursportspage@gmail.com!

How can Bentley replicate last year’s success for this year?

It’s not going to be easy.  Last year, Bentley was a 16-win team thanks in part to a favorable schedule.  They didn’t have any particularly long road trips, and the teams they did travel to were beatable.  There was a definite benefit when the travel schedule took them to Canisius instead of Niagara.  They went to Air Force during a stretch where Air Force had to come east for all except for one weekend in January (Air Force also played four out of twelve games on the road during that stretch, with the other homestand being against RIT).

This year, it’s going to be different.  From October 27th until November 16th, the Falcons will play five consecutive road games.  Three of the games are relatively local, with Harvard and Holy Cross book-ending a trip to Robert Morris (and AIC coming a week after Holy Cross).  But at the same time, the trip to Pittsburgh is never an easy bus ride, and it’s coming sandwiched between a number of local games.  That can’t be discounted.

On the bright side, the Falcons receive favorable scheduling by sending them to Niagara in between eastern pod weekends, and the road trip to RIT this year will happen at the start of January.

 

Who’s most likely to join Brett Gensler atop the Bentley scoresheets?

There’s no question Gensler’s biggest challenge will be to replicate last year’s success.  Even though he’ll get his points, teams are going to key in on him.  That means someone else will need to make an impact.  In that regard, look towards his linemates to get increased opportunities.  Brett Switzer and Alex Grieve will need to start to make the jump to superstar territory this year as Gensler did a year ago, and they’ll get more opportunities since everyone will be looking at #26.

But someone will need to make a meaningful impact that isn’t expected.  In that regard, Andrew Gladiuk should be the guy.  Maybe he looks a little overrated on the scoresheet, but he has the goal-scoring ability of a Gensler.  He could help establish a true “top six” atmosphere in the conference for Bentley.  If the first line gets put on lockdown, the second line will need to show some goal-scoring capabilities.  If the second line can match the first line, then Bentley’s in some seriously rarefied air.

 

Is there any interest in hiring Ryan Soderquist away from Bentley, and could he leave with another couple good years?

There’s no doubting that Ryan Soderquist has done the most with the least in the AHA.  He’s been named coach of the year in the conference twice, and he’s been able to gut and build the program a couple of times.  He’s taken Bentley to within a game of the conference championship and within one goal of return trips to the conference semifinals.  He’s the all-time winningest coach in program history, and nobody is associated with the name “Bentley hockey” like the current head man.

Soderquist has been able to recruit winning teams while operating in a bare-bones situation.  He clearly does not have the same bulging wallet that other schools have.  To compare Bentley hockey to Boston College in terms of money, facilities, and support would be so far wrong, it wouldn’t be close to comparing.  Yet Bentley’s still a Division I program, and so is BC.  Soderquist stresses this aspect, and everybody who comes to play for him buys into what he’s selling.  He’s built a little, down-home tradition that doesn’t compare to the video boards and spotlights but at the same time is something he can call his own.

Soderquist is a Bentley guy, which is why most believe he won’t go anywhere.  But if he continues to succeed, there’s a chance other programs come calling.  And while we can’t say he would definitely leave or definitely stay, he has a good thing going and wouldn’t just leave for the sake of leaving.  It would have to be the perfectly right move, so we can’t say with any certainty one way or the other.

 

Any plans to replace the JAR?

It’s the million-dollar question everyone wants answered at some point.  The pressure is on from the Bentley faithful to build an on-campus rink.  The message boards light up with speculation at least two to three times per season, and the fans on the boards have called for it for years.  There’s no question an on campus facility would work wonders for recruiting, for practice, and for gameday operations.  The off-campus John A. Ryan Arena is substandard in a sense that it’s tough to get to for most students, and it’s much more antiquated than what a modern facility could offer.

At the same time, the JAR also costs $0 to build; it’s an existing structure and for all its lack of comfort, it has a certain charm to it.  It has character, and it’s something of a home-ice advantage for Bentley simply because they’ve embraced it as their own.  It’s kind of like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.  Eagle fans loved the Vet, but it was a dump; they couldn’t wait to press the button and blow it up.

If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen soon.  But at the same time, there’s no guarantee or word or inclination that it will happen.

 

What gives with the new Bentley logo?

In case you missed it this week, Bentley students moved back into their dorms with an awaiting surprise – school administration rebranded the school’s seal and athletics logo.  The new athletics logo, which can be found here, looks a little bit like Sonic the Hedgehog, replacing a logo one message board poster said was essentially an Air Force rip-off.

Does this mean new uniforms?  Hopefully not.  Those yellow home sweaters were stylish.  If anything, hopefully it means new roadies.  The road black uniforms were awesome, but they were a journalist and broadcaster’s worst nightmare.  Navy blue on black is truly a good look, and the white names on the backs of the jersey?  Phenomenal.  But trying to see them mid-broadcast?  Problematic.  If this were a hashtag, you’d see it as #broadcasterproblems.

 

How many games are going to be broadcast?

Honestly, we won’t know until the season actually gets started up.  Our plan, as a website, is to do what we did at the end of last year in the playoffs.  Bentley will carry integrated video through the America One networks for a charge.  We can offer audio-only for no cost, so we will try to do that as much as possible.  On the road, where there might not be any video, we’re going to offer up broadcasts as much as possible.  That means, yes, we will be going on the road.

The plan as it is right now will carry the home games plus selected road games.  We’re planning on going to RIT and Niagara this year, but that’s all open and subject to change.  And there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be going to places like AIC and UConn if they have the capabilities for us to broadcast.

Bottom line – you’re going to be getting more Bentley hockey this year.  The demand at the end of last year was overwhelming, and we’re going to try and accommodate it as much as possible.  The Bentley sports information team has been great about working towards a common goal, and we’re going to do what we can to help them get the Bentley name out there.


Why BC Needs Defensive Returns to Glory


The 2010 Boston College Eagles football team went 7-5 and qualified for a bowl game because of one reason and one reason only – defense.  A top-10 defense, they paced a team featuring the 110th-ranked offense to five consecutive wins at the end of the year, including one over Clemson.  Hanging around against ranked opponents, nobody ever discounted a BC team that, at one point, was 2-5 with all losses coming consecutively.  They simply weren’t blown out by other teams.

That changed last year.  There was the marquee loss of Mark Herzlich, but BC lost more than just one player.  They graduated key players, then compounded it by losing starters who would otherwise be entering their collegiate prime.  The end result meant the secondary would start freshmen, the defensive line would start inexperienced players, and the linebacking corps would be a number of young guys with junior superstar Luke Kuechly.

The best case scenario saw Kuechly spearhead an attack that matured the young guys quickly.  Most players would, in that regard, play over their talent, and the defense, which historically was solid when Frank Spaziani was their coordinator, would continue to play at a nationally-ranked high level.  The worst case was that the young guys gave up yards and ground, Kuechly couldn’t stop everyone by himself, and after getting torched for 12 games, he’d leave early as the only bright spot in the unit.

The team went 4-8.  You do the math of what happened.

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DeFillippo Retiring


Boston College athletic director Gene DeFillippo announced on Friday that he would retire, effective on September 30, 2012.  Ending a tenure spanning 12 years and two conferences, he will be replaced on an interim basis bycurrent senior associate athletics director John Kane until a successor is named.

DeFillippo took over at The Heights in 1997 and would go onto make a mark on the program that included academic success in addition to on-the-field excellence.  21 of Boston college’s programs received a perfect Graduation Success Rate, the most teams of any team that competes in football at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.  He combined that with a number of successes in different programs, with nearly every “major” sport qualifying for the NCAA national tournament in their respective fields.  Most notably, BC is one of three programs to have never been convicted of a major NCAA violation in any sport in the past 12 years (with Stanford and Northwestern).

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The Penn State File


With record-setting legislation handed down by the NCAA today, our staff has taken a look within the sanctions placed on the Penn State Nittany Lions, what they mean, and what it means for their future.  Whether you agree or disagree with the rulings, we try to give an objective purpose and reason to why this is happening.  Your opinion is, of course, for you to decide and voice.   A look within each section of NCAA ruling, its impact, and what it means to the Nittany Lion community:

Part 1: Loss of Revenue

Part 2: Scholarship Sanctions

Part 3: Vacated Wins

Part 4: Postseason Ban and Probation

Part 5: Transfers


Scholarships


NCAA Sanction:

Penn State needs to cut the equivalent of 10 initial scholarships, then reduce the recruiting amount by 20 for the next four years.  That means the current roster will need to be shrunk by the number of 10, while the 20 starts for the next four years of recruits.  They will only be able to bring in 15 scholarship players over the next four years.  The freshman class that starts in 2014 will be the last class hit by this, and by then, the Nittany Lions will only have a maximum total 65 scholarship players on their roster.

Impact:

Penn State has been relgated to the equivalent of a football-championship subdivision school in numbers (formerly Division I-AA).  The bowl subdivision (or I-A) schools are allowed 85 scholarships on their roster.  They will have, at the height of the sanctions in four years, 20 less than that.  For other schools, when injuries conspire against part of their roster, they have roughly 25 scholarship athletes ready to go that are redshirting or otherwise not in uniform.  For Penn State, they’ll have less than 10.

At its height in four years, that means the Nittany Lions will be forced to play walk-ons as backups or potentially starters at some key positions.  In a conference such as the Big Ten, where schools such as Ohio State and Wisconsin challenge for the national championship, that’s a disaster.  Ohio State will be off NCAA sanctions by the time the height of the recruiting sanctions hit Penn State, and it virtually ensures the Nittany Lions will start getting creamed by them, among others.

What It Means To Penn State:

Penn State will bring in abbreviated recruiting classes for the next few years.  On the surface, if all the current starters and players remained at the schools, that means the Nittany Lions would steadily decline until roughly 2016 or 2017 when the current graduates would be replaced by players being brought in under the sanctions.  It would mean a 10-win team with All-Americans and scholarship players at every position would weather a storm under the bowl ban, get murdered for a couple of years, and then slowly, the recruiting classes would get stronger until Penn State gradually came back.  That’s a utopian, Happy Valley way of thinking.

In reality, this, coupled with the ability of players to transfer altogether without penalty, will kill this program for the next decade.  Faced with the spectre that they won’t play in the postseason for the next four years, players with no desire to go to a bowl game or who have nowhere else to go will come to Penn State; All-Americans looking to prove themselves on the biggest stages won’t.  The starters on this year’s team can transfer without penalty; they’ll most likely do that, especially if they have more than one year left of eligibility.  Staying at Penn State all but assures they’ll face declining success, mounting pressure, and fail.

If they leave, they can still play in those big money bowl games in front of national television audiences, key and paramount to playing on Sunday, which is why kids go to Penn State in the first place.  It’ll also rip the band-aid off the perception that the players are at Penn State to get a degree when they all leave in search of football glory.

Bottom line – Penn State is going to lose a good chunk of its current players, forcing them in the immediate interim to play with backups and walk-ons.  The recruits are already decommitting, which means they’re not going to get the best freshmen.  Instead, they’ll be forced to bring in a smaller number of less-than-desirable recruits who aren’t ready for the Big Ten’s level of competition, and once they start getting smashed, it’ll be tougher to recruit than ever before.

Even when Penn State gets a full complement of scholarships back, in 2016, it’ll take four seasons to bring them along with a greater complement of full scholarship players.  They won’t have a full complement until 2018, which by then might feature six seasons or more of massive defeats.  Losing breeds losing, which breeds anger from fans.  And it’s a lot to ask of the die-hard fans to stick around for almost a full decade while a program makes an attempt to get on its feet.  Look at what happened to Southern Methodist.

At the earliest, the Nittany Lions are looking at a decade until they might be able to get relevant recruits in.  Taking into account the caliber of recruit they’re looking at for the next four years, it’s going to be a very long road before this football team is ever the same, if it ever is.


“We Have Unfinished Business”


For Brett Gensler, 2011-2012 was great. But 2012-2013 awaits, and this team has unfinished business.

For the Bentley University Falcons hockey team, the 2011-2012 season put the program on the map.  It was the advent of the new era, the year that future teams can hopefully point to as the catalyst for seasons of unparalleled, unprecedented success.  It was Year One of the multiyear project hell-bent on legitimizing the school as a Division I hockey program.

Year One is over.  And as the 2012-2013 academic school year sits just one month away from its move-in date, the Falcons can begin focusing on the next step, the all-important Year Two.

Year Two will begin on October 13, 2012 at Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA, against a team that was one game away from the Frozen Four.  For the Falcons, they will take the ice no longer as scrappy little underdogs from the Atlantic Hockey Association, no more a team with the approach of “just happy to be here.”  For their own expectations and now for the expectations of others, they will need to compete, potentially win, and come away from a measure of respect from their opponents.

For Brett Gensler, Year One was the breakout season.  As a sophomore, he shattered the Bentley single-season record for goals and points at the Division I level.  His 23 goals broke a three-year old record, but his 50 points broke a mark held by his coach, Ryan Soderquist, dating back to 1999-2000, the team’s first at the top collegiate level.  Those 50 points were only the second time in school history the mark was reached, with Soderquist scoring 59 in 1997-1998, the school’s last before beginning a two-year process to reclassify to Division I.

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Free Fallin’


It was just a few short weeks ago that the Boston College Eagles baseball had figured out their season, rebounded from a multi-game losing streak slide, climbed out of the basement of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and sneak into contention for one of the eight berths in the postseason tournament.  They had an outside chance at finishing as high as fifth or sixth if the bounces went their way, aided by 2-1 weekend victories over both Georgia Tech and Maryland.

But in a tale of two weeks, it went from the best of times to the worst of times for the Eagles.  Highlighted (or low-lighted) by two losses to a weak Harvard team, BC was swept by Virginia Tech and lost seven in a row into the last game of a weekend series with the #1-ranked Florida State Seminoles.  And not even a decisive rout of the best of the best, a 17-6 mugging on Shea Field, could stop the bleeding as BC got steamrolled by the Rhode Island Rams.

The 7-out-of-8-games losing streak for Boston College has, effectively, derailed their season.  In the 12-team ACC, they’re now two games back of Wake Forest and Maryland in order to climb out of the basement in the Atlantic Division, and their overall record is a paltry 14-23.  BC is now 5-13 in conference play with the clock ticking on their ability to get into postseason play.

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SCALPED!


Coming to a courtroom near you. (Photo Credit: Belgiumstuds.blogspot.com)

The NCAA hammer lowered on the University of North Dakota’s athletic department this week, administering sanctions against the Fighting Sioux for failing to adhere to a ruling regarding an “offensive” Native American team name.  The move is the first of its kind against a team and intensifies the debate as to whether or not the university should or should not be allowed to retain its namesake.

In a letter to university provost Paul LeBel, NCAA executive vice president Bernard Franklin indicated the university must “forfeit competition” if it “has not adhered to this requirement,” which states that the Fighting Sioux must retire its name and American Indian head logo on any of its uniforms, including athletes, cheerleaders, or band.  The school already risks forfeiture of home postseason contests because the logo has not been removed from facility displays.

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Blowin’ Bubbles: Big East Style


–Rory Duyon–

Selection Sunday is about seven weeks away but it’s never too early to start looking at the bubble.  In a season with as many surprises as this, separating the contenders and pretenders is no easy task, but for starters we’ll take a look at the Big East.

Last season, a record 11 teams from the Big East made the NCAA tournament with just five getting left out.  A repeat of that seems highly unlikely and with still 10-12 games left before the Big East tournament, almost everybody still has work to do.

 

Most Pleasant Surprise:  Seton Hall

This has taken a bit of a hit in the past week with road losses to South Florida and Villanova, but the Pirates matched their win total from last season with a January 3rd win over UConn.  Add a blowout over West Virginia and wins against Dayton and VCU and Seton Hall has the beginnings of a legitimate tournament resume.  With Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and another date with Connecticut coming up in their next four games, they will be put to the test.

 

The Pirates haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 2006, and Herb Pope has a chance to end the drought, averaging just over 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.  Perhaps nobody has elevated their game like senior Jordan Theodore, scoring 16.4 points per game, but the biggest difference between his junior and senior seasons has been ball protection.  Theodore has upped his assist average from 4.4 to 7.4 while increasing his minutes per game and decreasing his turnovers per game (albeit by a miniscule margin of 0.1 per game).  Throw in Fuquan Edney’s sharp shooting and you have a recipe for success.

 

Biggest Disappointment:  Pittsburgh (and their student body)

This is a no brainer.  The Pitt Panthers opened the year ranked 10th in the AP top 25.  Things started out well enough as they were flawless aside from a road bump against Long Beach State, starting out 11-1, but they haven’t won a game in over a month.  I realize that you’re going to run into some stiff competition playing in the Big East, but the first five losses in their seven game skid came against unranked opponents, including Wagner (at home) and perennial Big East doormat DePaul.  If that’s not bad enough, I’m currently watching ESPN Gameday and the student body is absolutely dead.  It’s embarrassing.  My alma mater, Fairfield (enrollment 3,300), could bring a more enthusiastic student body.

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Third Consecutive Shutout Leads RIT Past Bentley, 2-0


When the season schedule was released and it revealed that Rochester Institute of Technology would play in Watertown against Bentley for the first time in two years, Falcon fans everywhere circled the date and waited with baited breath.  They waited for the moment when their plucky young birds would take on the Tigers in an attempt to tame the beasts who have ruled over Atlantic Hockey for the past few seasons.

But when the horn sounded to close out Friday night’s contest, the only thing Bentley fans came to realize was that the hype surrounding the Tiger defense and goaltending was, in effect, true.  Shane Madolora recorded his third consecutive shutout as the Tigers slipped past the Falcons with a 2-0 victory.  The game featured the expected strong defense and even stronger goaltending, with only one goal scored with a goalie in net.

That goal came early in the first period, at the 6:02 mark.  The Bentley defense, caught off guard by an aggressive RIT attack, left the area in the slot unguarded for a rebound attempt by freshman Matt Garbowski.  Garbowski potted it into the twine, turning on the red light, and giving RIT a 1-0 lead.

At that moment, the building kind of knew the inevitable, which was that one goal could honestly have been enough to win an Atlantic Hockey Association matchup.

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Bentley Falcons Report Card: Week 10


Photo Credit: Ann Arbor.com

Coming off its 9-3 loss to Yale, the Bentley Falcons men’s ice hockey team was facing some serious questions.  The first was about their ability to rally from a crushing defeat, arguably the most obvious.  The second centered around what went wrong, how it could be fixed, and who would be the ones to fix it (which is actually more like three questions, but we lump them into one here).  And the third was about how such a bad start to the second half of the season would teach them so as to avoid it happening again down the stretch.

Their first chance to show how they’d answer those questions came this past weekend, with a two-game home stand against the Robert Morris Colonials.  RMU’s first trip to Bentley as members of Atlantic Hockey saw the Colonials as one of the three teams towards the top of AHA’s standings, with Bentley tied for fifth with two of their eastern scheduling pod brethren.  It would’ve been fair to expect some points but probably a split out of the Falcons.  And through the first two period of Friday, that expectation would’ve held true, as Robert Morris held a 1-0 lead behind stingy defense and staunch goaltending.

But the Falcons stole the game on heart and determination, using a gritty third period to rally, with the game-winning goal coming with nine seconds left when Alex Grieve teed one up and ripped a laser beam top shelf by goalie Brooks Ostergard.  Grieve’s shot, a crossbar rattling rocket, gave the Falcons a win and momentum into Saturday.  On Saturday, they took a 2-0 lead but choked it away ultimately in the third period, having a return of sorts from RMU, who scored the game-tying goal with less than two seconds left.  We’ll get into the details more throughout the report card, but still, it was a great weekend to be a Bentley fan.

The tie kept Bentley in a three-way tie with UConn and Holy Cross for fifth place in the AHA, one point back of RIT, who was idle in conference play through a two-game tilt with the Wisconsin Badgers out in Madison.  But it kept them within two points of RMU for third and four points of first place Mercyhurst.

But for Bentley the attention turns westward bound this weekend, as they head to second-place Air Force for the teams’ annual meeting.  Air Force absorbed a one point weekend at Holy Cross, tying on Friday and suffering a one-goal loss on Saturday.  Relegated out of the conference’s top slot, they’ll be chomping at the bit at the Cadet Ice Arena to catch the Lakers while holding off the slew of teams within striking distance behind them.

Right now, Mercyhurst is in first, with Air Force, RMU, RIT, Bentley, UConn, and Holy Cross all within striking distance.  That means those teams can slot anywhere between first and seventh, and Canisius and Niagara are within their own striking distance of a first round home series.  Slots 1-9 are up for grabs, meaning those teams in the middle could finish anywhere from the top seed and a first round bye to a first round series on the road at a tough opponent.  This is the last weekend for inter-pod scheduling with east-east and west-west starting back up next week.

This is what AHA hockey is all about.

On with the grades:

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Review and Preview: Hockey East


With the 2012 portion of the schedule underway, it’s going to be a fast and furious marathon sprint to the finish for the world of college hockey.  Although nearly two full months’ worth of games remain, the race for playoff seeding is well underway with teams separating themselves from first round byes and home ice advantage.  In at least two of the conferences, there’s already a good idea of who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the road, and who’s probably not going very far.

With that in mind, we begin a look back and a look forward of the 2011 portion of the college hockey schedule before looking ahead to what could, might, should, and will happen in 2012.

We begin with the Hockey East Association:

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Grieve, Bentley Score Last-Second Win Over RMU


Photo Credit: Bentleyfalcons.com

For 59:51 of game time, the Bentley Falcons mens ice hockey team didn’t have much of an answer for Robert Morris goaltender Brooks Ostergard.  They had one goal, but it was a garbage goal, and the game appeared headed for overtime and an inevitable 1-1 tie.  Over the first 59:51 of game time, the game was sleepy, with occasional bursts, a grind-it-out affair that really couldn’t be anything notable and worthwhile.

The beautiful thing about the game of hockey is that it can change instantaneously, and it did just that with nine seconds left in the third period.

Brett Gensler was tied up in the neutral zone on the left wing with about 11 seconds left when he desperately pushed the puck off to the right.  Alex Grieve, a Bentley freshman, found himself skating into the Robert Morris zone on that right wing with nary a defender near him.  The only man back was well off to his left, and as Grieve started towards the slot, he glanced to his left and found himself alone.  So the Calgary, Alberta native did what came naturally, teed one up, and rocketed a howitzer on net.  The puck went over Ostergard’s shoulder, hit the cross bar, echoed a ping through the John A. Ryan Skating Arena, and landed down over the crease line.  The red light went on, and the most beautiful goal any of the JAR’s 300+ residents had seen to date sent them home happy with a 2-1 win over one of Atlantic Hockey’s top-echelon, toughest opponents.

For Bentley, the win was a cathartic moment after being pummeled, slaughtered, and then defeated on Sunday down at Yale, 9-3.  Head coach Ryan Soderquist went into this game without two of his upperclassmen, who were out of the game for a coach’s decision, and a third player he had removed for the same reason.  It also was a win over the second place team in the AHA at a moment where the top squads looked to be separating themselves from the pack.

“It’s a great win when we’re able to do something like that,” said Soderquist after the game.  “Robert Morris is a very good team, and we came out and took two points from them.”

The game was a very sleepy, grinder affair, with only 15 shots taken in the entire first period.  The Colonials mustered 16 second period shots, an offensive breakout to that point, including a garbage goal with just over five minutes left in the frame.  On that goal, sophomore goalie Brandon Komm made an initial two stops on shots by Ron Cramer and Furman South, but the defense failed to clear in the front of the net.  With two Bentley skaters separated, the lower slot opened up, and the puck found itself dead in the water in front of the crease.  From his body, which was sprawled on the ice, Komm put his glove out to cover the left side post.  But Brandon Blandina elevated just enough to turn on the red light, and Robert Morris found itself up 1-0.

“Komm made some great saves and kept us in the game,” said Soderquist.  “We needed to do a better job playing in front of him, and we needed to tighten up the defense.”

Normally, Bentley uses tough, physical defense and good goaltending as a catalyst for its offense, getting breakouts that result in a defense not getting back fast enough to score.  But on this night, the offense was used as a catalyst for the defense.  The Falcons top line of Grieve, Gensler, and freshman Brett Switzer potted a garbage goal of their own early in the third period to tie the game at 1-1, which then set up the defense to start getting back into its game.  On their own goal, which came at 1:38 of the third, Grieve crossed to Gensler, who took a shot that bounced off Ostergard.  It came to the stick of the younger Switzer, who immediately pushed it back into the net for his fouth goal of the season.

After that goal, Bentley’s defense went to work.  They had been broken up in the second period by the RMU offensive attack, becoming off balance and off guard.  But in the third, they managed to stop the Colonial offense from getting more than a few good looks on net, and they only mustered eight third period shots.  Still, when they did get looks, they nearly capitalized if not for the play of Komm.

“Komm made six or seven saves that looked easy because he was so great at getting into position,” said Soderquist.  “The offense would be coming in and he’d make a move, anticipate the shot, and be right there.  He made the save look easy because he did what was right with the first move.”

As mentioned prior, Bentley was also making a couple of lineup changes following the loss to Yale.  Coach Soderquist indicated the practice coming out of the holidays was flat, and the trip to Yale was an utter disaster in the 9-3 loss.  That led to lineup changes on the ice and the insertion of some different looks.  The game against RMU wasn’t an exciting affair, but the team did what they needed to do in order to pick up the win.  They also rallied from a 1-0 deficit and stayed out of the box, two things that they’ve struggled with on the season.

The two squads are back at it on Saturday night with another 7:05 PM affair on Paramount Place in Watertown.  With the win on Friday, Bentley improved to 6-3-2 in AHA play, while Robert Morris fell to 7-4-2.

Game Notes

-The loss was RMU’s first in nine games in conference play.  After that eight game undefeated streak, the Colonials have now lost two in a row, one to #4 Ohio State and one to Bentley.

-Bentley pulled to within two points of fourth place with the win and now have sole possession of fifth place after Holy Cross tied Air Force, 3-3.  RMU remains in a fourth place tie with Rochester Institute of Technology, who did not play a conference game last night in a 6-3 loss to Wisconsin.

-Both teams were down a coach last night, as Bentley assistant Ben Murphy was on the road while RMU assistant Mark Workman did not make the trip while sick.  For the Falcons, that means they’re down to just Soderquist and strength and conditioning coach Charlie Carkin.  Robert Morris still has assistant Matt Nicholson and volunteer assistant Josh Brown to go along with their head man, Derek Schooley.

-This season has been judged against the magical 2008-2009 season for the Falcons, when they went on a run that ended in the conference semifinals in Rochester.  During that season, Bentley gave up 10 goals and got smoked by Ohio State, a similar result as their defeat against Yale this past weekend.

-There were only five penalties called over the course of the night, a remarkably clean sheet compared to what anyone’s used to out of a Bentley team.  Of the five penalties, only two were against the Falcons, and one was a bench minor for too many men on the ice.  The only penalty called against an actual player was against Ryan Kayfes… a measure that was referred to by one tongue-in-cheek fan who said, “It wouldn’t be an official game without him getting something.”

-After not having a single player on the positive side of the plus/minus on Sunday, Bentley did not have a player on the minus side on Friday.  Most of their skaters stayed at zero, with the same players on the ice for all three goals scored.  Zach Marginsky, who went -4 against Yale, finished as one of the players at +1, along with Zach Ledford and the forwards line of Gensler-Grieve-Switzer.

-A Switzer brother has now scored in six of Bentley’s games this year, but neither Brett nor his brother Mike have scored in the same game.  Only once this year have they connected on the same goal, where the freshman Brett fed his older brother, the senior Mike.

-Bentley now has three consecutive games where they have not shot 30 shots on goal.

-The RMU penalty kill went over 94% by killing the three Bentley power plays.  They entered the game at 75-80, good enough for second best in the nation.


The Misfortune of #2 Alabama


The rematch is on, but that's not stopping a bitter taste in some mouths. (Photo Credit: Seahawknationblog.com)

–Stacey Kilpatrick–

College football has been on my television since the fall of 2006 – the start of my freshman year of college. My school, Champlain College, didn’t have a football team, or any teams to represent, so I took a liking to Alabama. John Parker Wilson was a junior QB at the time and he was easy on the eyes. I was a fan of the SEC, having been born in South Carolina and fixated on the area – although at the time I lived in a suburb of Boston – so the Crimson Tide it was.

For six years I’ve been watching the Crimson Tide, paying particular attention to their games when I’ve been able to, seeing the up-and-coming players, new QB’s and talked-about Heisman contestants and winners.

I remember watching No. 2 Texas’ Colt McCoy walk off the Rose Bowl field with an injured arm on January 7, 2010. I was bummed. Not for his injury – I wish no one harm – but for the fact that us obsessed college football fans wouldn’t get to see McCoy vs. McElroy.

No. 1 Alabama ended up winning, becoming the 2009 BCS National Champions, and that was fantastic, but the satisfaction just wasn’t as sweet as it could have been.

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UConn Evaluating Program; Changes on Way?


The University of Connecticut announced this week that it has hired Stafford Sports, LLC to began an evaluation of its men’s ice hockey program.  Without further details, speculation has been that the move could be to begin making the Huskies more competitive in the sport while possibly gearing up for a move to Hockey East.

The details of what this will entail are murky at best, and there is no evidence to support any particular move by the Huskies athletic department other than that they are retaining the services of this firm.  The firm, based in New Jersey, offers consulting services in line with strategic planning.

UConn hockey has always had a precarious position as a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association.  Despite being part of one of the most profitable athletic departments in major college sports, the Huskies hockey team plays in the larger, looming shadow of both the men’s and women’s basketball programs.  The Mark E. Freitas Ice Forum opened in 1996, but it’s dwarfed in size and stature by both Gampel Pavilion, where basketball calls home, and the Mark Shenkman Training Center.

But recent moves by the athletic department and the university have shown a desire for a larger stature.  The football program, in the wake of drastic realignment, has been openly campaigning for a slot in the Atlantic Coast Conference to avoid falling out of the potentially large national spotlight.  The basketball teams are already at the top of their own respective games, and the baseball team has had a recent run of success that included hosting a regional bracket in the national tournament, the first for a New England school in over 20 years.

The hockey team for UConn finished 13-12-2 in AHA play and 15-18-4 overall a year ago, gaining a first round bye and advancing through to the conference semifinals.  All of this took place while the program did not offer athletic scholarships.  With a period of unparalleled success, it could be time for the Huskies to start investing in their hockey team to show how serious they are about winning.

Atlantic Hockey currently offers a maximum of 12 scholarships, while Hockey East offers a maximum of 18.  For UConn, the move could begin the process whereby they will try to financially invest in the hockey program and get it to become a national power.  They would have the ability to follow a model Penn State is employing with their hockey team, only with the added privilege of having an existing Division I program to build upon.

Freitas Forum currently seats 3,000 fans, which puts it directly in line with some of the other rinks in Hockey East.  Half of the schools seat below 5,000, even though UConn would be tied for second smallest with Merrimack.

There has been a recent wave of expansion and realignment in college hockey which has drastically altered the landscape, similar to the basketball and football lineups.  Roughly one-third of all hockey schools will shift conference alignment starting in 2013-2014, although only one “eastern” school will change affiliations with Notre Dame joining Hockey East.  It was widely speculated that Hockey East is looking for a 12th team to join alongside Notre Dame to maintain an even number.

In that regard, there have been several schools who have seen their name come up in this discussion.  The most prominent were Holy Cross and RPI, with RIT and others sprinkled throughout.  UConn, with its upper-echelon standing in college sports, is one of the names that makes the most sense, but the Huskies have never really invested in their hockey program to give serious credence to that argument.

Of course, there is the other side of the argument, which states this might be to prove the hockey program is now economically infeasible.  This was something last seen by Alabama-Huntsville, the lone Division I independent and host school for this year’s Frozen Four.  The Charger hockey program was scheduled to be decommissioned to a club team after this season, although the alumni recently won a battle to work with the university’s administration in order to save the program.

Where UConn has never invested fully in hockey, this could be a cost-cutting measure.  However, the Huskies currently offer 18 men’s programs and 18 women’s programs, and cutting one would require a cut on the women’s side as well.  Likewise, investing in the men’s program would require an increase in funding to the women’s sports.  That appears more likely, especially given the hiring of Stafford Sports, a company more concerned with developing revenue streams than it is with closing them down.


EC Saints Staves Off Gull Rally, Wins 57-51


Emmanuel College Saints

Megan Kirwan scored 15 points, including 12 in the first half, and grabbed eight rebounds, and the Emmanuel Saints women’s basketball team never trailed as they defeated the Endicott Gulls at the Jean Yawkey Center in Boston on Tuesday evening, 57-51.

The Saints led this one by as many as 13 in the first half after opening on a 6-0 run.  Paced by Kirwan and guard Chenae Earle, EC got things rolling right away.  Of their 32 first half points, 20 came on the fast break, as 18 Endicott turnovers allowed Emmanuel to get great transition break outs, running a fast-paced, high-energy system that soared passes over defenders’ heads for wide-open layups.

Earle finished the first half with three assists, while the Saints totaled 11 as a team.  Eight players recorded at least one feed as they shot over 51% on the frame.  They took a 32-19 lead into the locker room, as Kirwan shot 6-for-8 from the floor and Laura Benvenuto went 2-for-4, including the game’s only three to that point.

What was amazing at the half was that Endicott was able to keep it within 13 points and relatively close.  They seemingly never went away in the half, even after Samantha Crough was limited to 10 minutes due to foul trouble.  The Gulls shot just 28% from the floor, going 7-for-25, with Jordan Ferland hitting three of those shots on 3-for-9 shooting.  The Gulls kept themselves in the game by playing tight defense, causing 16 Saint turnovers to nearly negate their own 18.  They also went 5-for-9 from the free throw line.

Emmanuel opened up the second half by getting a quick bucket, but their lead ever extended beyond that 15-point margin.  At the halfway point, despite Endicott’s gritty defense and an offense that was starting to get the wheels rolling, the Saints maintained a 13 point margin at 46-33.  But, at that point, their shooting went completely cold as Endicott rolled off an 11-0 run, paced by four points from Crough who was able to play extended minutes.  With Kayleen Whall adding a bonus interior presence, the Gulls were able to cut the lead down to 46-44 with five minutes remaining.

The Saints were able to close the door on the comeback with a dagger three from Benvenuto and key free throws by Lena Negri down the stretch, but it was clear that Endicott succeeded in giving the home squad a fairly large scare.  The Saints half-court defense had no answer to a basic offensive set, which started with either Jen McBrien or Nicole Heffernan driving from the elbow, kicking it to the corner for either Ferland or Crough, then either a shot or a baseline drive with a pass inside to Whall.  Whall then went up and drew contact nearly every time, earning herself ten free throw attempts in the second half alone en route to 12 points in 18 minutes on 10-for-12 shooting from the charity stripe.  The Saints were able to weather the burst with Negri and Benvenuto down the stretch, but they continued to struggle in the second half as they have all season, being outscored 32-25.  Emmanuel has now been outscored 356-331 in the second half on the season, an average of 40-36 per game.

Both EC’s are now off until after the holiday break, although the Saints will travel to London, England for a series of exhibition games after Christmas.  Emmanuel returns to action on January 7 when they travel to Lasell College in nearby Newton, MA.  The Gulls, meanwhile, are off until the same weekend, when they host Salem State on January 5.

Game Notes

-With the win, Emmanuel improved to 6-3 on the season, .500 in their last four games.  Endicott fell to 4-4 and saw their three-game winning streak snapped.

-Fiona O’Dwyer played just limited minutes for Emmanuel, including just nine in the second half.  She also seemed to be fighting the court a bit; we’ll keep an eye on it heading into the second half of the season to see if there’s anything lingering.

-After shooting lights out in the first half, Emmanuel shot just 37.5% in the second half, including 20% from beyond the arc.

-This was a matchup between yound and old lions, with Emmanuel coached by 35-year veteran Andy Yosinoff and Endicott by rookie head coach Brittany Hutchinson.

-It was also a battle of contrasting styles, with the very animated Coach Yosinoff countered by a more reserved Coach Hutchinson.


We Study College Hockey Hard Into Exam Breaks


The first round of college teams wrapped up their pre-exam games this past weekend, and our expectations of close, hard-fought games were completely crushed, especially on the east coast.  The three eastern conferences featured a couple of shockers, a couple of blowouts, and only selected close games.  Some games on the scoreboard were close, but, from reports trickling into the Excalibur email/news desk… not so.  Let’s cut the chit-chat and dive right in, shall we?

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The Big East(?) Highlights Latest Round of Realignment


Get ready for a world where California is in the Big East

The NCAA’s college football scene has shifted more than the ancient tectonic plates of Pangaea this year, with rumors of teams leaving one conference for another creating an atmosphere of distrust, hate, and disloyalty.  Terms like “tradition” became less known than terms such as “competitive atmosphere,” and teams were thrust into the limelight for rippling effect moves moreso than anything we’ve seen in the past.

This week, the Big East very quietly made its long-anticipated move by extending invitations that were accepted by a number of schools with competitive football teams.  Joining the conference in some capacity would be teams from the University of Houston, Southern Methodist University, the University of Central Florida, Boise State University, and San Diego State University.

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UAH Saves Hockey…For Now


 

The University of Alabama-Huntsville has announced its intention to work with fundraising alumni and friends in an attempt to save its hockey program, it was announced was yesterday.  The move comes approximately two months after the school first announced it would disband its Division I hockey program and relegate it to club status.

In a statement released from the school, president Robert Altenkirch said that the school and hockey supporters “came to a consensus to work closely together to pursue institutional and community support to continue UAH hockey at the Division I level.”

Former president Malcolm Portera made the final decision to disband the team by citing $1.5 million in expenses to compete at the top level.  UAH is currently the only Division I school without a conference affiliation, a situation that exacerbated the situation because they did not receive revenue shares or conference monies that others rely on.

The Charger hockey program was a part of the former College Hockey America conference.  The CHA disbanded before last season as it was left with only four teams and no automatic berth to the NCAA national tournament.  Bemidji State left for the WCHA, while Robert Morris and Niagara departed for Atlantic Hockey.  No conference at the time was willing to admit the Charger squad, which is currently the only team located in the Deep South, evidenced by their rejection on application for membership to the CCHA.

It was widely expected that Alabama-Huntsville would become a stop-gap, band-aid team during the recent round of college hockey realignment, but, again, no conference was willing to admit them.  As teams shifted and new conferences formed, the CCHA effectively collapsed and merged into the WCHA.  The Charger name was floated as a team that could end up in either the new-WCHA or Atlantic Hockey in time for the 2013-2014 season when all realignment takes effect.  But that proved moot.

Even if the school is willing to work with supporters and save UAH hockey, there is no guarantee this will last for the long term.  UAH is still an independent, which means the university has to foot the bill for all hockey expenses.  They also lack revenue from lucrative conference tournaments, conference championship weekends, and NCAA tournament berths, as they gained in 2010 when they gained the CHA’s final entry into the national tournament.  Teams are also reluctant to schedule UAH on the road because of travel costs.  This resulted in UAH playing roughly 75% of their schedule as road games at tough opponents, limiting their ability to succeed on the ice.

As a result, the university, which is in the process of breaking away from the official University of Alabama system, will face an uphill struggle to maintain hockey.  The Chargers, a Division II power, cannot return to that division since the NCAA doesn’t officially sponsor it.  They cannot relegate to Division III since they are a Division II athletics program, meaning they will need to remain at Division I or relegate back to club status.  But, for now at least, it appears the university and its supporters have saved the team.

Stay tuned to Excalibur Sports Page for full realignment and college hockey coverage.


Highlights and Broadcast Now Available from Bentley-Niagara!


 

The Bentley Falcons led the Niagara Purple Eagles by a 4-2 count early in the third period, but they couldn’t hold on as the road squad rallied with four unanswered goals in the game’s final 16 minutes to take a 6-4 victory.  The following is the broadcast and highlights from Friday night’s game, including all non-empty net goals and the “save of the year” by Kyle Rank.  Also included is a special, “Captain’s Corner” interview with Bentley senior Jamie Nudy, that aired during the first intermission.  On the call for the Falcons’ America One network broadcast is Rory Duyon and Dan Rubin:

Full Game

Captains Corner with Jamie Nudy

Kayfes First Period Goal

Switzer to Switzer Goal

Rank Save of Season

Niagara Makes It 2-1

Stonacek Goal Makes it 3-1

Niagara Responds to Stonacek’s Goal

Nudy Makes It 4-2 with a Shotgun Goal

Niagara Makes It 4-3

Niagara Ties It at 4-4

Niagara Takes the Lead 5-4