BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
The collegiate season is winding down and only five alumni remain at the NCAA Division I & III levels. In the 21st edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, we return back to the large scope of former players, and two remain strong in net.
Both netminders in the American Hockey League (AHL) have hit their stride with five combined wins between the two since our last check-in. Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) has now won his last three-straight games as well as his previous four decisions for the Hershey Bears, including a 21-for-22 save effort to help earn a 2-1 win over the Binghamton Senators last Friday. Copley has two wins to start the month of March and improves his record to 12-3-3 on the season. The Alaska native now has 14-straight games without a regulation loss, going 11-0-3 since Nov. 23 in a 2-0 blanking by the St. John’s IceCaps. Copley lost all three games played in November.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms goalie Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) has been up-and-down with the Philadelphia Flyers as a rotating netminder to fill injury voids. Saturday was his first game of March as well as a 4-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His 38 saves on 40 shots is the third-highest save total of the season and makes it two-straight wins along with three games with a point. The Jackson, N.J., native bumps up to 9-11-3 on the season and still holds a 3.00+ goals-against average.
Only one NCAA Division I alumni squad bowed out of conference tournament play, so now three remain eligible for postseason crowns. The University of Alabama Huntsville bowed out of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Tournament last weekend with back-to-back losses against fourth-ranked Michigan Tech in their best-of-three series. The Chargers came close on Friday to an upset win, but in the third overtime Tyler Heinonen tallied the game-winning goal to just nudge the Huskies ahead. The following night, it was a 3-0 shutout that ended the season for the Chargers. Defenseman Frank Misuraca (’11-’12) ended his junior career with six goals and six assists through 38 games. He breaks career-highs in all three major scoring categories with one season remaining of collegiate play.
The Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) Tournament saw one alumni squad break through the opening round as Mercyhurst University took down Bentley University in three games to move on to the AHA Semifinals. Daniel Bahntge led the charge in all three games for the Lakers, scoring four goals in three days including the Game 1 overtime-winner on Friday night. Mychal Monteith (’10-‘12) did not make an appearance in any of the three games but hopes to join his squad as they play their lone game against 20th-ranked Robert Morris University from Blue Cross Arena on Friday. The winner goes for the AHA Championship on Saturday night.
The University of Denver also remains in contention in their conference tournament, heading into the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Semifinals thanks to back-to-back wins against eighth-ranked Minnesota Duluth. The Pioneers came from behind in the third period to take the 4-3 win on Friday night while powering ahead 4-0 on Saturday to complete the sweep. Sophomore Emil Romig (’12-’13) gained two penalty minutes but otherwise did not factor into the scoreline. The fifth-ranked Pioneers head to the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis, Minn. to take on the University of Miami (OH) on Friday at 7:38 p.m. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network as well as the NCHC Championship game on Saturday night.
The bracket is set for the first Big Ten Tournament at Joe Louis Arena, and the Ohio State Buckeyes slot in as the five-seed against fourth-seeded Penn State University on Thursday night. The Buckeyes are coming off their final weekend of the season, drawing 2-2 and winning 2-0 over the University of Wisconsin on the road. Forward Matt Weis (’11-’12) picked up goals in both contests, scoring the eventual game-tying goal during Friday’s draw midway through the third period as well as the insurance goal on Saturday. He closes out the season notching four points in three games and heads into the Big Ten Tournament third on the team in scoring, recording eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points. Ohio State and Penn State face-off at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and can be seen on the Big Ten Network. If they win, they’ll play 13th-ranked Minnesota in the semifinals.
Two teams remain in the NCAA Division III Tournament heading into this weekend, and one of those two teams took down an opponent loaded with IceRays alumni. In the marquee matchup for this report, top-ranked Norwich University edged out Plymouth State University 3-2 last Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals. Forward Mike Economos (’12-‘13) of Plymouth State notched the game’s opening goal at 2:23 of the first period before the Cadets took a 2-1 lead with consecutive goals. After the Cadets added another in the third period, forward Ian McGilvrey (’12-‘13) scored at 15:32 to draw within one, but the Panthers couldn’t complete the comeback. Economos, McGilvrey, and defenseman Tommy Dowell (’10-’11) see their respective seasons come to a close all at once, while forward Dmitry Ermakov (’11-’12) will continue his season with Norwich in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals against Amherst University on Saturday night.
The SUNY Oswego Lakers also pushed their way into the next round with a 6-1 win over Hobart College on Saturday. The Lakers scored three goals in the second period and two more in the third to put the game away before the Statesmen had a chance to enter back into the fray. Forward Brandon Adams (’11-’12) didn’t continue his goal streak from the SUNYAC Tournament but has the chance to help the Lakers as they take on second-ranked Adrian College this Saturday evening. The game has the highest combined rankings in the tournament thus far with the number two squad and the fourth-ranked Lakers squaring off.
Scoring has been sparse in March for defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), but he has three assists in six games including most recently on Sunday against the Gatineau Olympiques. The Victoriaville Tigers got into a shootout with the Olympiques, falling 9-5, and Pietroniro’s helper came during a six-goal second period. The 20-year-old now has 43 points through 68 games played with his final junior games in sight.
For the first time season, forward Chad Pietroniro (’11-’12) notched a point in the QMJHL with Baie-Comeau Drakkar. His biggest contribution thus far has been physicality and fighting, but he scratched across an assist last Friday against Rimouski Océanic during their 4-2 win. In 19 games this season, Chad has 64 penalty minutes and records his second-career QMJHL assist.
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.