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This Week in Atlantic Hockey

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This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Feb. 28, 2008

Doing the Math

It’s been a wild and wacky season in Atlantic Hockey, and as we head into the final weekend, the final 10 games of the regular season, there’s still much to be decided. For example, we could end with a four-way tie for first place, and Air Force and RIT are able to finish anywhere from first to fifth.

Army, Sacred Heart, RIT and Air Force have locked up home ice for the first round. Holy Cross, Canisius, Connecticut and AIC know they will be on the road. Mercyhurst has a strong advantage over Bentley for the fifth and final home-ice spot.

Here are the possible scenarios for each team. Look for my picks in the sidebar to see where I think each squad will end up.

But first, a message from Atlantic Hockey. Here is the tiebreaking system as described
by the league:

“Here is the tiebreaker for two or more teams

1. Points head-to-head
2. Goal differential head-to-head
3. Conference wins
4. Goal differential
5. Goals allowed
6. Goals scored

If three or more teams are tied and all played the same number of games against one another, you would use the tiebreaker above top to bottom as a mini-conference.

If three or more teams are tied and all played an uneven amount of games, we will use the tiebreaker above, but break the teams up into a mini-mini-conference.

If three teams are tied and one team played two games against the other two, while the other two faced each other four times, we will break the teams that played four times and run the tiebreaker policy to see who would win that series. Then take the team that won that tiebreaker and pit them against the team that they played twice to see who would win the higher seed. Then you take the final two teams and run the tiebreaker again to see who garners the higher seed.

If you have a four-way tie and two teams played four times and other two played twice, the winners of the four-team tiebreaker and two-team tiebreaker are the number-one and -two seeds based on their head-to-head comparisons, and the losers are the third and fourth seeds based on their head-to-head comparisons.”

The league also told me that if more than one team is tied for first, they will be declared co-regular season champions. The tiebreakers are for seeding purposes only.

Got all that? Good. Feel free to play along at home.

Army (15-8-1; 33 Points; First Place)

Best Possible Finish: First
Worst Possible Finish: Fourth
Opponent this weekend: Sacred Heart
Outlook: The Black Knights can win the title outright by getting two points this weekend against Sacred Heart. They can also win the title if they split with Sacred Heart and RIT fails to sweep Bentley. This would be the first regular-season title in Army hockey history.
Details:
• If Army and RIT wind up tied for first, Army has the tiebreaker based on conference wins.
• If Army, RIT and Sacred Heart tie for first, RIT gets the top seed, followed by Sacred Heart and then Army.
• If Army, RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end up tied for first, the seedings are Air Force, Sacred Heart, Army and RIT.
• If Army, RIT and Air Force wind up tied for second, it will be Army getting the No. 2 seed, followed by Air Force and RIT.

RIT (13-8-5; 31 Points; Tied for Second Place)

Best Possible Finish: First
Worst Possible Finish: Fifth
Opponent This Weekend: Bentley
Outlook: The Tigers can come out on top if they sweep Bentley and Sacred Heart sweeps Army, or if they end in a three-way tie with Sacred Heart and Army.
Details:
• If Army and RIT wind up tied for first, Army has the tiebreaker based on conference wins.
• If Army, RIT and Sacred Heart tie for first, RIT gets the top seed, followed by Sacred Heart and then Army.
• If Army, RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end up tied for first, the seedings are Air Force, Sacred Heart, Army and RIT.
• If Sacred Heart and RIT finish tied for first, RIT gets the top seed on the basis of its regular-season sweep.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end in a three-way tie for second, Air Force gets the second seed, RIT the third and Sacred Heart the fourth.
• If Army, RIT and Air Force wind up tied for second, it will be Army getting the No. 2 seed, followed by Air Force and RIT.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart, Air Force and Mercyhurst all end in a tie for second the order will be: Air Force, RIT, Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst.
• RIT will finish fifth if it loses both games to Bentley, Mercyhurst sweeps Canisius. Air Force gets at least a point against AIC and Sacred Heart gets a point against Army.

Sacred Heart (14-9-3; 31 Points; Tied for Second Place)

Best Possible Finish: First
Worst Possible Finish: Fifth
Opponent This Weekend: Army
Outlook: The Pioneers can win the league if they take three or four points from Army and RIT does not sweep Bentley.
Details:
• If Army, RIT and Sacred Heart tie for first, RIT gets the top seed, followed by Sacred Heart and then Army.
• If Army, RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end up tied for first, the seedings are Air Force, Sacred Heart, Army and RIT.
• If Sacred Heart and RIT finish tie for first, RIT gets the top seed on the basis of their regular season sweep.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end in a three-way tie for second, Air Force gets the second seed, RIT the third and Sacred Heart the fourth.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart, Air Force and Mercyhurst all end in a tie for second the order will be: Air Force, RIT, Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst.
• If Army, RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end up tied for first, the seedings are Air Force, RIT, Sacred Heart and Army.
• Sacred Heart can finish fifth if it is swept by Army, Air Force gets at least one point, and Mercyhurst sweeps Canisius

Air Force (13-9-4; 30 Points; Fourth Place)

Best Possible Finish: First
Worst Possible Finish: Fifth
Opponent This Weekend: AIC
Outlook: The Falcons need some help to finish first. It can happen if Air Force sweeps AIC and Sacred Heart takes three points from Army.
Details:
• If Army, RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end up tied for first, the seedings are Air Force, Sacred Heart, Army and RIT.
• If Army, RIT and Air Force wind up tied for second, it will be Army getting the No. 2 seed, followed by Air Force and RIT.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart and Air Force end in a three-way tie for second, Air Force gets the second seed, RIT the third and Sacred Heart the fourth.
• If RIT, Sacred Heart, Air Force and Mercyhurst all end in a tie for second the order will be: Air Force, RIT, Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst.
• If Air Force and Mercyhurst end in a tie for fourth, Air Force gets the fourth seed based on head-to-head goal differential.
• Air Force will finish fifth if Mercyhurst sweeps Canisius and the Falcons fail to take more than a point against AIC, or Mercyhurst gets three points, and Air Force gets swept.

Mercyhurst (11-9-6; 28 Points; Fifth Place)

Best Possible Finish: Second
Worst Possible Finish: Sixth
Opponent This Weekend: Canisius
Outlook: The best the Lakers can do is second place, but need just a single point or anything less than a Bentley sweep of RIT to lock up home ice.
Details:
• The Lakers can take second place if they sweep Canisius, Army sweeps Sacred Heart, Bentley sweeps RIT and Air Force gets less than two points against AIC.
• Mercyhurst loses straight-up tiebreakers to Sacred Heart, RIT, Air Force and Bentley, so it gets the lowest seed in any two-, three- or four-way ties.
• Mercyhurst will finish sixth if it gets swept by Canisius and Bentley sweeps RIT.

Bentley (19-11-6; 24 Points; Sixth Place)

Best Possible Finish: Fifth
Worst Possible Finish: Eighth
Opponent This Weekend: RIT
Outlook: The Falcons can only clinch a home-ice spot if they sweep RIT and Canisius sweeps Mercyhurst.
Details:
• In a three-way tie with Canisius and Holy Cross for sixth place, the order for seedings would be Canisius, Holy Cross and Bentley.
• In a three-way tie for sixth with Canisius and UConn, the seedings would be Canisius, Bentley, UConn.
• Bentley can also finish eighth if Canisius and Holy Cross take two more points than the Falcons this weekend.

Canisius (9-13-4; 22 Points; Tied for Seventh Place)

Best Possible Finish: Sixth
Worst Possible Finish: Ninth
Opponent This Weekend: Mercyhurst
Outlook: The Griffs can finish as high as sixth if they can pick up two points on Bentley, and keep pace with Holy Cross.
Details:
• In a three-way tie for sixth place with Bentley, Canisius and Holy Cross, the Griffs would get the sixth seed, followed by Holy Cross and Bentley.
• In a three-way tie for sixth with Bentley and UConn, Canisius would again get the sixth seed, followed by Bentley and UConn.
• In a tie with UConn for seventh place, Canisius wins the tiebreaker based on head-to-head goal differential.
• In a three-way tie with Holy Cross and AIC for eighth, the seedings would be AIC, Canisius, Holy Cross.
• The Griffs can finish ninth if Holy Cross can net an additional point on them, and UConn an additional two points.

Holy Cross (9-13-4; 22 Points; Tied for Seventh Place)

Best Possible Finish: Sixth
Worst Possible Finish: Tenth
Opponent This Weekend: Connecticut
Outlook: The Crusaders can finish as high as sixth if they can pick up two points on Bentley, and a point on Canisius.
Details:
• In a three-way tie for sixth place with Bentley, Canisius and Holy Cross, the Griffs would get the sixth seed, followed by Holy Cross and Bentley.
• In a three-way tie with Canisius and AIC for eighth, the seedings would be AIC, Canisius, Holy Cross.
• Holy Cross finishes tenth if it is swept by UConn and AIC sweeps Air Force.

Connecticut (9-14-3; 21 Points; Ninth Place)

Best Possible Finish: Sixth
Worst Possible Finish: Tenth
Opponent This Weekend: Holy Cross
Outlook: The Huskies can finish sixth if they sweep Holy Cross, RIT sweeps Bentley, and Canisius gets less than three points.
Details:
• In a three-way tie for sixth with Canisius and UConn, Canisius would get the sixth seed, followed by Bentley and UConn.
• In a tie with Canisius for seventh, Canisius wins the tiebreaker based on head-to-head goal differential.
• In a tie with AIC for ninth, UConn wins the tiebreaker based on taking six of eight points during the regular season.
• UConn finishes tenth if it is swept by Holy Cross and AIC sweeps Air Force.

AIC (8-16-2; 18 Points; Tenth Place)

Best Possible Finish: Eighth
Worst Possible Finish: Tenth
Opponent This Weekend: Air Force
Outlook: The best the Yellow Jackets can do is eighth place, which will happen only if AIC sweeps Air Force, Mercyhurst sweeps Canisius, and Holy Cross is swept by UConn.
Details:
• In a three-way tie with Canisius and Holy Cross for eighth, the seedings would be AIC, Canisius, Holy Cross.
• AIC finishes tenth unless it can sweep Air Force and UConn is swept by Holy Cross.

Got all that? Thanks to Dave Rourke at the league office for spending most of the early part of the week coming up with every possible tiebreaking scenario.

Player of the Week for February 25, 2008
Simon Lambert — RIT

Lambert had a four-point weekend (two goals and two assists) to help the Tigers take three points on the road against Mercyhurst, Lambert has 42 points on the season and his 35 in league play leads Atlantic Hockey.

Goaltender of the Week for February 25, 2008:
Stefan Drew — Sacred Heart

Hey! Somebody other than Josh Kassel finally wins the award. On Saturday, the junior netminder stopped all 31 shots against Holy Cross for his third shutout of the season. The night before, he made 24 saves in a losing effort.

Rookie of the Week for February 25, 2008:
Jon Glant — Connecticut

Glant, forced into the starter’s role after UConn’s other two goaltenders suffered season-ending injuries, stopped 50 of 54 shots to lead the Huskies to their first sweep of the season.

Good and Bad

I talked with Air Force coach Frank Serratore this week, and, as usual, he had strong opinions on the goings-on in Atlantic Hockey.

“I like the tiebreaking system,” he said. “You have to break circular ties some way, and I think it makes sense to look at the teams that played each other four times first. You have more data that way.”

But when asked about the overall playoff system, Serratore, like Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist, isn’t a fan of the Final Five format.

“I don’t agree with it,” he said. “The WCHA does it for two reasons. One is revenue. The other is that they’re a multi-bid conference so even a team that finishes fourth has a shot (at an at-large bid). We’re a one-bid conference. I think it kills the fourth-place team (assuming it wins the quarterfinals and no other upsets occur). There’s no flippin’ way the team that wins that (fourth-fifth) play-in game has a shot. It’s never happened in the WCHA and in the CHA it’s happened just once — Alabama-Huntsville last season.

“I agree with (Soderquist). Kick the ninth- and tenth-place teams out of the playoffs. If I finish ninth or tenth, I’d rather go recruiting. We’re not making enough money to screw the fourth-place team the way we are.”

Serratore’s team sits in fourth place right now, but things can change dramatically this weekend, as the Falcons are still in the running for the top seed. Air Force has won three games in a row for the first time this season, and looks like it’s made the adjustment to life without Eric Ehn.

“I don’t think we’ll see Eric before the skills competition in Denver,” said Serratore. “Breaking the fibula, maybe he could have come back from that. It’s not a weight-bearing bone. But he had ligament damage, too.”

Air Force lost the game in which Ehn was injured, and then was swept by rival Army. Since then, the Falcons are 4-1-1.

“I didn’t want to create excuses, but the culture of the team changes when you lose someone like Eric Ehn,” Serratore said. “We had to adjust to a different culture. We’re planning on going the distance without him.”

Around the League

Holy Cross: Freshman goalie Adam Roy’s 667 saves are the most for a Crusader rookie goalie in the program’s Division I era.

RIT: The Tigers’ traditionally potent power play has awakened over the last seven games. They cashed in on 37% of their chances over that span, raising their season average to 21.9%, seventh-best in Division I. With the 3-3 tie at Mercyhurst on Friday, RIT extended its school record for overtime games in a season to nine, and set a record for ties with six.

USCHO covers Atlantic Hockey all week long on the Atlantic Hockey Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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