By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Mar. 15, 2016
The hockey version of March Madness is still one week away, but NCAA Division I conference tournaments have found their finalists with three teams remaining in play for their respective conference titles. The 21st edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Vol. II showcases those teams while also saying goodbye for the final time to one other player. Also, we re-introduce the rest of the alumni scope with the end of collegiate play in sight.
March isn’t turning out to be what goaltender Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) of the Chicago Wolves hoped for as the American Hockey League (AHL) franchise fights for a playoff spot. The 23-year-old played only one game last week and picked up his third-straight loss to begin the month in a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Copley halted 23 of 27 shots and has now dropped four of his last five contests, going 1-3-2 since the start of February in a span jumping up and down between the AHL and the National Hockey League (NHL). With the loss, he falls to 12-14-3 with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage on the season.
Because of an emergency recall by the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, netminder Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) only played one game last week on Wednesday night, and it was a barnburner. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were dropped 6-5 in overtime despite converting five times on 23 shots, and the reason was an overpowering by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the tune of 41 shots. Stolarz stopped 35 of them despite allowing three in the third period during the comeback. The Edison, N.J., native now has a 19-14-6 record with a 2.57 goals against average and a .917 save percentage after also dropping three-straight and four of his last six games.
In a rather strange portion of the ECHL schedule, the Utah Grizzlies have played seven times in an 11-day span to open March but still hold second place in the Pacific Division. Defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13), despite the amount of time played, has weathered through the stretch and even picked up points in a four-game week starting with Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Kalamazoo Wings. The 21-year-old earned an assist in two of his last three games with Wednesday’s on the eventual game-winner and Saturday’s to add insurance to a 5-1 win over the Colorado Eagles. Pietroniro owns 13 points so far this season with 11 coming as assists.
As the NCAA Division I conference tournament schedule continues, more teams find the end of the season including the last remaining alumni team in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA). The quarterfinal round saw the fall of Mercyhurst University, who were dropped in two-straight games by Rochester Institute of Technology in Erie, Penn. Two seasons come to a close with one for the last time. Forward Tommaso Bucci (’12-’13) caps off his freshman season with the Lakers with 20 games in his pocket, picking up two goals and three assists for five points despite not playing in the conference tournament. However, defenseman Mychal Monteith (’10-’12) closes his collegiate career in the process. Over his four-year campaign, the Toledo, Ohio native played 106 games for the Lakers, recording his sole goal last season along with 14 assists for 15 points with 68 penalty minutes, helping his school reach the AHA Championship in his freshman and junior seasons though without coming away with a win in those games.
The Big Ten Tournament will take only one weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. with the quarterfinal round beginning on Thursday night. Ohio State University comes in as the four-seed of the six-team conference and will play their most recent opponent, Michigan State. Even though one game was not played, the second proved to be an exciting end: a 6-5 overtime win with the final goal scored by forward Matt Weis (’11-’12) with 26 seconds remaining. The goal moves his point streak to seven-straight games and boosts him to double-digit goals and the 30-point threshold. The sophomore looks to continue his run on Thursday, and the winner will play in the semifinal the following night with the Big Ten Championship on Saturday.
The same goes in the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC), but this conference saw two teams bite the dust in the quarterfinal round last weekend. Clarkson University played all four games of postseason play in overtime, and unlike the previous weekend was on the wrong end of back-to-back 3-2 overtime decisions against St. Lawrence University. Overtime losses don’t help when hitting tournaments, but in the process defenseman Perry D’Arrisso (’11-’13) did cap off a really strong offensive season with the team’s first goal in game one on Friday night. It may be an outlier season, but the Ontario native recorded six goals and five assists for 11 points through 34 games, blowing away his previous collegiate-highs set his freshman season totaling three points. This could provide the burst he needs to find some attraction for a potential post-college career.
Cornell University saw the potential end of the road after being downed by formerly top-ranked Quinnipiac University in three games from Connecticut. The Big Red forced a game three with a win on Saturday night but couldn’t complete the upset and move to the semifinals. It’s been a disappointing season for goaltender Hayden Stewart (’12-’13) in terms of getting playing time, sitting behind Mitch Gillam for virtually the whole season and only seeing two games of action, conceding five goals in those team losses. Cornell still has an outside shot of making the NCAA Tournament due to their top-16 ranking and a win against Quinnipiac over the weekend.
The Cinderella run continues at Northeastern University as they punched their ticket to the Hockey East Semifinals with an upset sweep over formerly 10th-ranked Notre Dame on the road. The Huskies took down the Fighting Irish just shy of St. Patrick’s Day with 3-1 and 5-4 victories and breaking their overtime streak and nine-game one-goal difference stretch in postseason play. Defenseman Colton Saucerman (’10-’11) was a big factor in the win, earning the game’s opening goal as well as assisting on the eventual game-winner and one of two insurance goals following. Two of the three points (including his goal) came on the power play as his specialty continues to shine. He now shares his second-highest point total of his collegiate career, and he’s gearing up for quite a story in his senior season if the run continues. Fifth-ranked Boston College awaits on Friday in a one-game semifinal from TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. The game can be seen on NESN and NBCSN.
The Frozen Faceoff begins this coming weekend, and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) will host one alumni team in Minneapolis, Minn. this weekend. The University of Denver improved to 11-straight wins during their sweep of the University of Nebraska-Omaha at home. Two former North American Hockey League (NAHL) players worked well in both games with forward Emil Romig (’12-’13) finding former Wichita Falls Wildcats forward Colin Staub for a regulation goal in Friday’s 5-2 win and the overtime winner in Saturday’s 4-3 victory. The win moves them into a battle with third-seeded St. Cloud State this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Central. Coverage of that came can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.
Conversely, two players in the NCHC saw the end of their freshman seasons over the weekend with one with Nebraska-Omaha. Defenseman Jalen Schulz (’12-’13) played both games in the NCHC Quarterfinals but couldn’t help the Mavericks earn a trip to Minneapolis, concluding year one of his collegiate career. His first year saw his first collegiate point through 12 games, and he hopes to add to that total beginning next season. Elsewhere, Miami University (OH) was also kept winless over the weekend, dropping both games to Minnesota-Duluth with 5-4 and 3-1 losses, also losing four-straight games to the same opponent. Defenseman Grant Hutton (’12-’13) earned five assists this season through 35 games played though could not earn one over the weekend, but the amount of time played is a strong case for his future as a go-to option for the RedHawks for his other three seasons.
Saturday night was big in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for one back end player. In a road contest for the Sioux City Musketeers against the Muskegon Lumberjacks, defenseman Logan Gestro (’14-’15) recorded his first USHL goal at 6:52 of the third period despite the 5-3 loss. The goal is his first point since February 19 and third overall this season coming in game 41. The Musketeers are on a down season, slipping to eighth in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture, but Gestro hopes to be part of the solution next season.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.GoIceRays.com and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.