Atlantic Hockey Tournament Finals
God It's Frider
Phillipich, G. Flynn
Kozlak, J. Frider
Cottreau, J. Terminesi
Pitt, B. Coccimiglio
Phillipich, S. Bertsch
Olson, S. Kozlak
Matt Lundin (80:56, 42 svs, 5 GA)
Andrew Volkening (80:56, 49 svs, 4 GA)
MCY 7/25; AF 9-18
Plays: MCY 2-7; AF 1-5
Volkening, Air Force
D-Matt Charbonneau, Air Force
D-Jeff Terminesi, Mercyhurst
F-Brent Olson, Air Force (MVP)
F-Matt Pierce, Mercyhurst
F-Chris Risi, Mercyhurst
N.Y. – At the culmination of the longest championship
game in MAAC/Atlantic Hockey history, Josh Frider had a
short but perfect answer to describe Air Force’s 5-4,
double-overtime victory over Mercyhurst on a late Sunday
night at Blue Cross Arena.
is joy," said Frider, who provided
the championship-winning goal at 56
seconds of the second overtime.
year ago the joy was somewhat muted as Air Force scored
early and kept scoring in a 6-1 title game rout of Army.
This victory, though, was a test of nerves for everyone
involved and a test of endurance for Mercyhurst.
fifth-seeded Lakers were vying to become the first Atlantic
Hockey team to record three wins in three days on championship weekend
and, boy, did they come close.
Lakers rallied from two goals down to tie the game in the
final three minutes of the second period. They even pulled
ahead twice in the third period only to have a gutty Air
Force squad strike back with tying goals.
down 2-0, it really sunk in," said Mercyhurst’s
Mike Gurtler. “Everybody
came together and really brought it up."
cruelest play was saved for last when leading scorer Ben
Cottreau walked in on a breakaway in the final seconds of
regulation only to be stopped by all-tourney goalie Andrew
Volkening, one of his 49 saves.
wasn’t in the cards," said Mercyhurst coach Rick
ever-stoic Volkening basically said most of the game was
a blur with no real
specific recollections, although his two saves on a two-on-one
break by Gurtler and Dan Bremner midway through the first
overtime did stand out. “I kind of remember that one,"
counterpart, Matt Lundin, was saddened to surrender the
game-winner after making 42 saves. The decisive play came
down the right wing and Brent Olson got off a shot which
defenseman Bobby Phillips blocked.
kind of lost sight of it," Lundin said. “I got
a second shot at it on the outside of net. It popped back
out to him and [Frider] put it over my right shoulder."
just took a swing at it," Frider said. “I couldn’t
get too much on it. I think it kind of rolled over his shoulder."
From afar, Volkening could not believe his eyes.
Frider put the puck in the net, I couldn’t believe
it," he said. “It took me
a couple seconds to figure out what was happening."
entire Air Force bench emptied quickly and raced toward
the offensive zone where the dogpile took place. Lundin
and a teammate each cracked their sticks over the crossbar
in disgust before skating away to form the congratulatory
a tough loss," Lundin said. “It’s tough
to take it all in right now. I wouldn’t want to lose
it with any other guys."
said the repeat championship was “pretty unbelievable."
interrupted and staked his team’s claim to legitimate
ownership of two Atlantic
validated this group as a champion," Serratore said.
“There’s an old saying,
‘Once is luck; twice is skill.’ Last year we
won the championship and it was the
first one and we came out of nowhere. RIT was not involved
[so there was an]
asterisk. They had won the league.
had an opportunity to play them in [Saturday’s 5-0
semifinal victory] and we validated last year’s championship
with our performance against them. Then tonight, to win,
and the way we did it … it validated this group as
champions, and we’re not a one-hit wonder."
AND HEARD AT BLUE CROSS ARENA
Frider is Mr. Opportunity:
Air Force’s Josh Frider not only scored the game-winner,
he also provided the tying goal at 11:30 of the third period.
Brent Olson had rifled a shot wide left but the puck took
a crazy bounce off the end boards and caromed right onto
Frider’s stick some five feet away from Mercyhurst
goalie Matt Lundin. Frider shocked Lundin with the equalizer.
“I got a lucky bounce," Frider
said. “I saw it come off the boards. It was bouncing
and I got really good wood on it."
The overtime goal was his 13th of the season,
and the first time Frider had ever won a tournament with
“It was indescribable,’’
Frider said of the emotional moment.
It’s just overtime:
Save any talk about pressure, says Air Force goalie Andrew
“I try not to think about that stuff,
especially in a situation like overtime," said Volkening,
who made 12 stops in extra time. “I just told myself
that after that
third period, after we came back and tied it 4-4, that these
guys are scoring goals and they doing their job. They are there for me and I am
going to be there for them and do my part."
Mercyhurst’s Brett Robinson got behind
three Air Force defenders in the opening
minute of overtime but fired a backhand shot wide. Brandon
Coccimiglio swooped in for a slap shot off a rebound but
Volkening made a great save with 14:47 left in the first
The Lakers got two more great shots late in
overtime. Scott Pitt skated down the right side but Volkening got a piece of his shot and the
puck slid through the
crease with 2:51 left. Forty seconds later, Mike Gurtler
had his shot re-directed in front and Volkening had to reach back with his glove to
stop the puck.
By the way, Volkening was not in net last
year when Air Force beat Sacred Heart 5-4 in the semifinals;
that was Ben Worker.
Three Stars of the Night
Matt Lundin, Mercyhurst
that the season is over, coach Rick Gotkin released
the details of some of his injured stars. Lundin is
going to have shoulder surgery in April. Doctors told
him he shouldn’t play, but he played through
the pain and posted four playoff wins before making
42 saves in a double-overtime loss.
2. Andrew Volkening,
Deep inside, Volkening is kicking himself for allowing
four goals and twice falling behind in the third period
but he came up with huge saves the rest of the way
and 12 in overtime to win all-tourney honors.
1. Josh Frider, Air
He saved the day with his tying goal in the third
period and then won the game with his double-overtime
tally. Frider said he’s had overtime winners
before, but never a tournament winner.
Falcons not lucky right away:
Air Force nearly won the game in the opening seconds of
overtime. Matt Fairchild gained a breakaway when Mercyhurst
defenseman Kirk Medernach fell down at the blue line. Fairchild
swooped around him only to have goalie Matt Lundin thwart
his shot. Air Force’s Derrick Burnett hit the right
post with 14:00 remaining.
When Mercyhurst’s Brandon Coccimiglio
was sent off for interference at 10:47, Lundin was tremendous
as Air Force peppered the Mercyhurst net. Defenseman Greg
Flynn got off a great shot from the right point which Lundin
gloved, dropped to ice, and then covered up.
The game-winner came from Josh Frider at 56
seconds of double overtime.
“I want to give our team credit,"
Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “Our team
was tested. The test came in the third period. We dropped
behind once, we dropped behind twice. I told the boys there
are two ingredients you have to have in order to be a champion.
You have to have the ability to come from behind and the
ability to win on the road. Nobody was better in the league
this year than our group."
Air Force is 9-8-1 away from Colorado Springs
Lakers were praiseworthy:
Air Force coach Frank Serratore was stunned to see Mercyhurst play as well as it did for a third night in a
“I can’t believe Mercyhurst had
the energy that they did," Serratore said. “It
amazing. Them playing three games in three nights and then
having to go into
overtime, I just kept waiting for them to run out of gas.
… They almost pulled off
not the impossible but the very improbable."
One step closer: Mercyhurst
goalie Matt Lundin started his career at Maine, and still
has one year of eligibility remaining. He said the championship
game was “one of the hardest games I’ve played
in," and the play reminded him of the old Black Bear
matchups with the likes of Boston University and New Hampshire.
“Our guys competed so hard and so did
Air Force,’’ Lundin said. “The comparison [with the play in the major four conferences] is right there.
We got closer and closer this year, and next year we'll be even closer."
Cottreau finishes third:
Mercyhurst senior forward Ben Cottreau played a splendid
game in his final collegiate appearance, but he will probably
lament the one shot that could have won it all.
In the closing seconds of regulation time,
Cottreau collected a rink-wide pass along the left boards
and was sprung on a breakaway. Racing toward Air Force goalie
Andrew Volkening, Cottreau made a deke inside and then went
outside in an attempt to score. Volkening stuffed the attempt
on the right post, and the horn sounded.
Cottreau did assist on Matt Pierce’s
power play goal to start the comeback from a 2-0 deficit.
It was his 95th career assist, to go with 61 goals in 132
Cottreau finishes third all-time in MAAC/AHA
career scoring with 156 points. Louis Goulet, a 2002 Mercyhurst
graduate, had the mark of 157 until last season when Pierre-Luc
O’Brien of Sacred Heart finished with 158. The record
would surely have been his had it not been for injuries
which caused him to miss seven games in both his junior
and senior seasons.
Cottreau’s 61 goals ranks seventh all-time
in MAAC/AHA. The 95 helpers leaves him tied for third.
Well into the night: This
was the third-longest game in Atlantic Hockey history. In
2006, Bentley’s Brett Murphy won a quarterfinal playoff
with his goal at 14:30 of the second overtime, beating Army 4-3. A week later, Jaye
Judd scored at 58 seconds of double OT to beat Mercyhurst
3-2 in the semifinals.
Not a repeat performance: This was the
second Atlantic Hockey championship to be decided in overtime.
Mercyhurst won the 2005 title in overtime when Scott Champagne
scored off an assist from Ben Cottreau as the Lakers beat
Hopeful for a return: Air
Force senior forward Eric Ehn has resumed skating but his
status is still uncertain for the NCAA tournament in two
weeks time. Ehn, a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2007, fractured
his left fibula in a Jan. 19 loss to Colorado College. Despite
missing 13 games, Ehn still ranks seventh in Air Force point
production (six goals, 19 assists).
Perfection: Air Force is
7-0 in Atlantic Hockey playoff games and 4-0 at Blue Cross
Arena. Last year, the Falcons beat Sacred Heart and Army
on the way to their first Atlantic playoff title. The seven
playoff wins ties coach Frank Serratore with Holy Cross’s
Paul Pearl in that category.
Something had to give: Air
Force came into the game riding an eight-game unbeaten streak
(7-0-1). Both teams had won their last four games. The last
team to beat Air Force was Mercyhurst as the Lakers pulled
out a 3-1 decision Feb. 8 in Erie, Pa.
The Falcons started their streak the next
night with a convincing shutout victory,
scoring seven times on Matt Lundin on 36 shots.
A killer PK: Air Force killed
off 30 consecutive opponent power plays before
Mercyhurst struck for a pair from Matt Pierce and Steve
Cameron late in the second period. The last time the Falcons
surrendered a man-down goal was Feb. 23 against Canisius.
Power rangers: Mercyhurst
has produced power play goals in eight consecutive games
and Air Force has done it seven games in a row. The Falcons
have nine power-play goals in the four playoff games to
Whooping it up: Air Force
was pretty workmanlike during its pregame skate. On the
other hand, Mercyhurst players were laughing and shouting
with glee during their warmup.
Where’s the home locker room?:
This was the first neutral-ice clash between Air Force and
Mercyhurst. Strangely, Air Force owns a 3-1 record in Erie,
Pa., and Mercyhurst has a 3-1 record in Colorado Springs, Colo. For
the record, the
third-seeded Falcons were designated the home team and wore
the white uniforms in the clash with the fifth-seeded Lakers,
adorned in their green sweaters for the third contest this weekend.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
can you say? Sunday’s title game was perhaps the greatest
in the history of Atlantic Hockey and its predecessor, the
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League. It had
crisp play, 100 shots on goal, unbelievable tallies, one
team ahead and then losing the lead … twice. A flurry
of scoring was followed by nearly 30 minutes of heart-stopping
action where the next goal would likely decide matters.
It wasn’t a Game Seven, as fans of NHL playoff hockey
like to cite, but double-overtime title games are just as
coach Wayne Wilson said late Saturday night that it’s
going to take time for Rochester to embrace Atlantic Hockey
and the tourney championship. Let’s hope that’s
the case because the denizens didn’t exactly flock
out to Blue Cross Arena for Championship Sunday. There was
good fan support from Mercyhurst and Air Force had a decent
collection of fans among the announced crowd of 1,468.
championship of Atlantic Hockey was held Sunday and nowhere
was it available on television, pay or otherwise. The shift
in schedules which led to Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey
America to hold their championship weekends a week earlier
than the other four Division I conferences left open an
opportunity to find a way onto TV. A dying CHA had its championship
make its way onto CBS College Sports (formerly known as CSTV); a thriving Atlantic
Hockey could not get ESPN or CSTV to televise and had to
settle for its webcast.
This was ESPN Instant Classic material, but
the networks passed. It’s fabulous that the league
employed the B2 Networks to provide coverage of every Atlantic
Hockey contest during the regular- and post-season schedules,
but it is absolutely unacceptable for a Division I conference
to be shut out from TV on its marquee day. College hockey
fans missed a thriller, to be sure.
Hockey is proud of its venture, but the league has got to
recognize its early history as well. The Metro Atlantic
Athletic Conference Hockey League served as the precursor
to Atlantic play. Eight of the 10 members hailed from the
MAAC. Just because the schools broke off from MAAC ownership,
tweaked a few scholarship rules and appointed its own management
is no reason to disregard past records and proud accomplishments.
As an example, the Northeast Conference did
not disregard the former ECAC Metro when its league changed
names and management, and there are probably other college
conference examples. It's time to merge the record books
into one. Besides, a league with historical depth (10 years
as opposed to five) is more impressive.
Air Force receives one of the six automatic
conference berths into the NCAA Division I tournament. You
can be sure the Falcons will receive a draw against one
of the nation’s elite teams, and Air Force is hopeful
of drawing the Colorado Springs regional.
Listen to coach Frank Serratore during the
post-game press conference, and you would think he was directly
addressing the NCAA tournament seeding committee.
Said Serratore: “We only had three seniors
playing tonight in our lineup. We lost [leading scorer]
Eric Ehn a long while ago. We had one all-conference player
in our lineup, defenseman Greg Flynn. This team went 9-1-2
in their last 12 games, and is unbeaten in their last nine,
and in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs outscored their opponents
22-7. … With those numbers, we are a very deserving
Atlantic Hockey’s champions have performed
well at the NCAA championships. Mercyhurst was tipped by
Boston College, 5-4, in a 2005 East Regional. Holy Cross
earned the league’s first NCAA victory in 2006 when
the Crusaders upset Minnesota and then battled tough in
a second-round loss to North Dakota. Last year, Air Force
held a 3-1 lead on Minnesota with under nine minutes to
play in the NCAA West Regional in Denver before the Gophers
rallied for a 4-3 victory.
McMillan can be reached at email@example.com.