1. The League of Extraordinary Goaltenders: If nothing else, the CHA’s reputation outside of the league – besides whatever Mercyhurst does when playing national contenders – is one of strong goaltending. That’s continued so far this year with RIT’s Ali Binnington being Ali Binnington (and effectively spelled by Brooke Stoddart last weekend), Nicole Hensley taking a ton of rubber at Lindenwood and staying afloat, and Penn State’s Hannah Ehresmann brilliantly stepping in for Nicole Paniccia in the Nittany Lions’ rotation. Jenn Gilligan has been good at Syracuse after the Orange lost both of their solid netminders. One of last year’s stalwarts, Robert Morris’ Jessica Dodds, has faltered but 2013-14 backup Courtney Vinet has covered more than capably, picking up both of the Colonials’ wins so far in her three starts, with a 0.962 save percentage on the way there (as well as the CHA’s goalie of the week award on Monday).
Stealing the show, though, has been Mercyhurst’s Amanda Makela. She’s sometimes overlooked given the Lakers’ roster and the other conference goaltenders, but Makela began the season flawlessly, with three consecutive bagels before having her shutout streak snapped at 185:30 on Saturday in a tie with Maine.
2. The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth: Lindenwood and Penn State, two programs that have certainly struggled as DI members so far, both picked up big results last weekend. PSU tied now-ninth-ranked Quinnipiac 1-1 on Sunday thanks to a third-period Amy Petersen goal, while the Lions bested St. Cloud State 5-3. In the latter case, not only was the victory the first of the Scott Spencer era in Missouri, but it was the first major-conference-opponent victory of any era for Lindenwood. It’s hard to argue that those games represent any sort of climate change at this point though – St. Cloud won’t be mistaken for Minnesota or Wisconsin by anyone and QU dominated the draw with PSU everywhere but the scoreboard – but nevertheless, the mere ability of the two cellar dwellers to grab those types of outcomes is a step forward.
3. Polisseni Center Gets USCHOed: The early reviews are overwhelmingly positive for RIT’s new digs, as laid out by an article on USCHO published Tuesday by Scott Biggar. There are some interesting features included, like reserved seating (a thing that didn’t exist at Ritter Arena), but also…
Six luxury suites are spread throughout the venue for larger groups. They include an ice-level “bunker” suite and a VIP “player experience” box located as an extension of the home team bench.
The Polisseni Center centralizes the facilities used by the teams and support staff as well. The men’s and women’s hockey teams each have large locker and dressing rooms adjacent to a shared training room, along with weight rooms, team and video rooms, coaches offices and equipment rooms.
There are four visiting locker rooms as well as rooms for referees and other game officials.
“For the team, it is nice to have everything in one place,” said RIT volunteer assistant coach Mike Germain. ”At Ritter, we had to go all over the complex for different things; now it is all right here.”
The “centralization” model is similar to what Penn State did at Pegula Ice Arena…but be right back while I look into how much those “player experience box” tickets run.
4. Legends of Merica: One nice thing about playing against Colgate, as Robert Morris did this past weekend, is that there’s a pretty decent chance Jim Craig shows up, since daughter Taylor plays for the Raiders. And of course, there’s RMU alumna Brianne McLaughlin too, one of the people who gave the CHA its aforementioned goalie cred.
With Olympic gold medal goalie Brianne McLaughlin at my daughter game I can see her passion to win another gold medal pic.twitter.com/fZlLRSeM49
— Jim Craig (@JimCraigUSA) October 11, 2014
Uhhh…yeah Jimmy, about that “Olympic gold medal goalie” comment…
5. No Ex-Cuses: Despite heavy graduation losses, Syracuse has been arguably the CHA’s second-most impressive program in the early going, thanks to beating Colgate two weeks ago, then drawing Northeastern and New Hampshire this past weekend (with only a blasting by Boston College in the loss column). The play of UNH transfer Gilligan in net has been a big reason for that, but a great freshman class has added plenty as well. Eight of the Orange’s 17 goals or assists so far this season have been collected by first-years, topped by Stephanie Grossi’s two and one (good for the early team scoring lead). If players like Grossi and Alysha Burriss (who scored in the tie with Northeastern) can keep contributing along with mainstays Melissa Piacentini and Jessica Sibley, Gilligan and an experienced and talented defense (Nicole Renault, Larissa Martyniuk, Kaillie Goodnough, etc.) give Syracuse one of the league’s better looking rosters.