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2008-09 Atlantic Hockey Season Preview

“It’s a goalie’s league.”

I agree completely with Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin’s assessment. It’s shared by all the coaches in the league as well. AHA returns all ten of its starting goaltenders in 2008-2009, and only three are seniors.

“Every team has a goalie that can beat you,” said Army coach Brian Riley. “Goals are so hard to come by in this league.”

Who’s the best on any given night? All-American Josh Kassel of Army? All-League netminder Beau Erickson at UConn? All-Rookie goalie Joe Calvi of Bentley? What about Andrew Volkening, who led Air Force to its second consecutive title? Matt Lundin of Mercyhurst, who, now healthy, may be the best of the bunch? RIT’s Louis Menard? Sacred Heart’s Stefan Drew? Adam Roy at Holy Cross? Andrew Loewen at Canisius? AIC’s Dan Ramirez?

afa a volkening 2008 09 Atlantic Hockey Season Preview

Air Force’s Andrew Volkening is among the plethora of returning netminders in Atlantic Hockey this season (photo: Melissa Wade).

All but Ramirez had save percentages over .900 and GAA’s below 3.00 last season. All stole at least one game for their teams.

Some rule changes might help increase scoring — moving more faceoffs to the lower dots and not letting the defensive team change on an icing are on the books this season. Adding an additional referee will probably result in more power plays.

“I think (the rule changes) will create more offensive opportunities,” said Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah. “But you have to take advantage of those chances. These teams all know how to play defense and all have talented and athletic goalies.”

While the guys in net will be the same this year, the playoff format won’t.

Again.

For the sixth time in as many seasons, a new postseason format is being rolled out. This year, Atlantic Hockey decided to abandon its “Final Five” format and will send four teams to Blue Cross Arena.

Teams finishing seventh through 10th will play a single first-round game with the higher seeds hosting on Saturday, March 7. The quarterfinals, held at the top four seeds, will be a best-of-three series played March 13-15. The surviving four teams will play in the semifinals at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester on Friday, March 20, with the title game slated for Saturday, March 2

Who will be there is anyone’s guess, but one thing for sure is that the guys between the pipes will have their say.

“It’s tough sometimes,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “You play well, you do everything right you need to do to win the game. You should win the game.

“But you don’t because of their frickin’ goalie.”

Click on any team name at the top of a section below to view its individual season preview. Teams are listed in order of predicted finish by USCHO.com

Air Force

2007-08 overall record: 21-12-6
2007-08 AHA record: 14-9-5
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Third
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): First
Outlook: Can the Falcons three-peat? Losing Eric Ehn to injury didn’t slow them down last year, so losing him to graduation probably won’t either.

Mercyhurst

2007-08 overall record: 15-19-7
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 11-10-7
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Fifth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Second
Outlook: A healthy Matt Lundin is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

RIT

2007-08 overall record: 19-12-6
2007-08 AHA record: 15-8-5
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Second
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Third
Outlook: The Tigers lost a lot of offensive production to graduation, but now have four full classes of Division I recruits.

Army

2007-08 overall record: 19-14-4
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 17-8-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: First
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Fifth
Outlook: Losing 12 seniors will hurt, but having the best player in the league is a nice consolation.

Sacred Heart

2007-08 overall record: 16-19-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 14-11-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Fourth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches poll): Fourth
Outlook: Always near the top of the standings, expect Bear Trapp to have a monster year and the Pioneers to again challenge for the league title.

Canisius

2007-08 overall record: 11-20-6
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 10-13-5
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Tied for Sixth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Seventh
Outlook: The Griffs may be a year away, but I think they’ll make some serious noise this season and wouldn’t be surprised to see them holding a home-ice playoff spot if they play to their potential.

Bentley

2007-08 overall record: 9-21-6
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 9-13-6
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Eighth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll) : Ninth
Outlook:The coaches picked the Falcons to finish ninth, but with everybody back and an All-Rookie goalie, I think they’ll be better than that.

Connecticut

2007-08 overall record: 13-21-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 11-14-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Tied for Sixth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Eighth
Outlook: The Huskies will be young and will probably go as far as Beau Erickson can carry them.

Holy Cross

2007-08 overall record: 10-19-7
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 9-15-4
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Ninth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Sixth
Outlook: Besides Adam Roy, the key to the Crusaders’ season will be killing penalties. Their power play was outstanding last year. The PK? Not so much.

American International

2007-08 overall record: 8-23-5
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey record: 8-17-3
2007-08 Atlantic Hockey finish: Tenth
2008-09 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Tenth
Outlook: Each of the past three seasons have meant more wins for the Yellow Jackets, but they’ll be hard pressed to do it again with the loss of some key talent.


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