By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Dec. 30, 2015
It’s a rarity, but every once and a blue moon we go a bit thin for alumni action, especially around the holidays. Could this be a result of the 13th edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Vol. II? We don’t believe in unlucky numbers, but the holidays do bring most of hockey to a screeching halt. With the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the majority of junior hockey and collegiate programs taking breaks, we look to the big boys as our primary feature with a little teaser of two NCAA Division I tournaments taking place at this moment.
The 2015 portion of the AHL schedule comes to a close this weekend, and while there are still a couple games to go before we hit the New Year both goaltenders at that level took a small step back in weekend play. The Chicago Wolves saw another tough defeat, a 2-1 loss to the Iowa Wild at home on Saturday night. Goaltender Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) saw his only action of the weekend that game, stopping 25 of 27 shots in the loss, which comes after three-straight wins. The Alaskan has gone 5-4-0 in nine games in the month of December while recording a season-best .925 save percentage in that stretch. The increased playing time has helped Copley bounce back after a difficult start to the season, and since that opening game with seven goals-against, Copley has yet to yield more than four goals. He’s now 8-7-1 on the season with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
The other loss was another 2-1 defeat with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers taking down the host Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Similarly to Copley, netminder Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) one goal in each of the first two periods, and that’s what ultimately sank the team though putting up 27 saves on 29 shots against. That loss comes after two-consecutive wins but more importantly breaks a three-game span with four goals allowed, his highest goal total of the year. December has humanized Stolarz a bit from his first two months, but he’s still been strong. The Edison, N.J., product has gone 5-3-0 on the month to improve to 12-7-1 through 21 games this season. His goals-against actually rose to 2.16, which is still a stellar number, and his save percentage fell to only .924. Needless to say, despite the “setback,” Stolarz continues to be a force in net.
There was cause to celebrate on the West Coast…at least more west than South Texas. The Utah Grizzlies picked up play last Saturday, and for the second-straight game, defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) got on the board. This time, it wasn’t a helper. The first-year man in the ECHL earned his first professional goal just 2:10 into the second period for the first by a Utah Grizzly in their 5-2 loss to the Idaho Steelheads. Pietroniro’s point production has almost doubled in his last two games. He now owns one goal and four assists through 22 games heading toward the end of the 2015 calendar year.
While most NCAA Division I teams are still biding their time to pick up play until 2016, there are a few tournaments taking place this week, including the Three Rivers Classic at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. Clarkson University played two games on Monday and Tuesday, one against UMass-Lowell and the second against either Robert Morris or Penn State. Score updates didn’t make this edition, but we’ll recap the action next week in hopes that defenseman Perry D’Arrisso (’11-’13) added to his two-goal season.
Another tournament will be coincidentally beginning in the same time span as the aforementioned: the Florida College Classic at Germain Arena, the home of the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Two teams with alumni players will take part in a heavy-hitting pair of games. Ohio State University and Cornell University will play with top-ranked Providence College and fourth-ranked Boston College as well as each other. Buckeyes forward Matt Weis (’11-’12) is now playing consistent hockey heading into the tournament with nine points through 12 games, and while goaltender Hayden Stewart (’12-’13) hasn’t seen any play behind potential all-American Mitch Gillam, there’s always hope that his first games of the season will come this week.
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.