Coming Into Focus
The Atlantic Hockey playoff picture is beginning to come into focus, with RIT taking a huge step toward its third regular season title in four years thanks to a road sweep of Army last weekend, the first time the Tigers have been able to take four points at Tate rink.
On Friday, Jared DeMichiel posted his fourth shutout of the season to lead RIT to a 3-0 victory, and the Tigers got the brooms out in a 5-2 win on Saturday that featured plenty of penalties and cheap shots throughout.
Things reached a boiling point at the final buzzer, when three majors (one for elbowing, two for fighting) were handed out, as well as a pair of game disqualifications.
Army Athletic Director Kevin Anderson issued a statement after the game (the link has since been removed from the Army athletics site), apologizing for the “behavior and language exhibited by the RIT players, coaches and staff.” Anderson was actually a participant in the fracas, according to B2 and ITT Knight Vision broadcaster Cody Crusciel.
“Somebody coming off the Army bench … hoping that’s not who I think it is,” said Crusciel during his broadcast of the post game festivities. “That was Kevin Anderson coming off the Army bench, right in the face of RIT coach Wayne Wilson.”
As expected, Wilson had a different take on things.
“We were trying to make plays with the puck, and they were trying to run us,” Wilson said after the game. “In a physical game emotions get high. Those things happen. It’s unfortunate. It’s not something either myself or [Army coach] Brian [Riley] want.”
Neither team has commented further, although sources say RIT is not happy with Anderson’s statement and will respond.
Both teams need to ignore the distraction and get ready for big weekends. Army’s quest for a home playoff spot was dealt a severe blow last weekend, but the Black Knights are still in the running. They travel to Mercyhurst this weekend. Friday’s game will be televised nationally by CBS College Sports.
RIT returns home for a pair against Air Force. The Tigers need two points to clinch a tie for the regular season title and the top seed in the playoffs. Three points in their final four games will give RIT the outright title. But the Falcons pose a serious challenge — they are the only team with a winning record against RIT this season, and all-time in AHA play.
“Air Force is a team you have to go through if you want to get somewhere,” Wilson said. “Their record [as three time defending AHA champions] speaks for itself.”
The Scoop, Version II
Crunching the numbers going the final two weekends of the regular season:
RIT can finish no lower than second place and clinch a share of the regular season title with a combination of two points in its last four games. Three points give the Tigers sole possession.
Sacred Heart can finish no lower than fifth place and needs four points in its last four games to clinch home ice in the quarterfinals.
Air Force can finish no lower than sixth place and needs six points in its last four games to clinch home ice.
Mercyhurst can finish no lower than seventh place and needs to win out to assure home ice. The Lakers can finish no higher than second.
Canisius can finish no lower than seventh place and needs help to finish as high as second.
Army can finish no lower than eighth place and cannot finish higher than seventh without some help. The Black Knights can finish as high as third.
Holy Cross can finish as high as fourth and as low as eighth. The Crusaders need help to finish any higher than seventh.
Bentley cannot finish any higher than fourth place and any lower than ninth. The Falcons need help to finish higher than seventh.
American International can finish as high as eighth and as low as 10th. The Yellow Jackets need help to finish higher than ninth.
Connecticut will finish either ninth or 10th and needs help to finish out of the basement.
We’ll run the numbers again next week.
Player of the Week for Feb. 15:
Jordan Cyr — Holy Cross
The junior forward had five points last week to lead the Crusaders to a 3-0 record. He had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over UConn, and then added a goal and two more assist in a 6-4, 4-0 sweep of Bentley. Cyr leads the team with 22 points.
Goalie of the Week for Feb. 15:
Jared DeMichiel — RIT
The senior goaltender wins the award for the third time this season. DeMichiel allowed just two goals last weekend to help RIT to a sweep of Army. He leads all AHA goalies with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in league play.
Rookie of the Week for Feb. 15:
Thomas Tysowsky — Holy Cross
Tysowsky went 3-0 and stopped 58 of 64 shots, including a shutout, as the Crusaders took care of business against UConn and Bentley. His 687 saves are ranked fourth on the all-time Holy Cross Division I single-season saves list.
Canisius and Mercyhurst resumed their Western New York vs. Eastern Pennsylvania rivalry last weekend, with each team winning on the other’s turf. As a result, the Lakers still lead the Griffs by a single point for the coveted final home-ice spot.
On Friday, the Lakers scored a pair of shorthanded goals en route to a 3-1 win. Saturday was a different story with Canisius coming away with a 4-2 win, scoring a shorthanded goal of its own.
Cory Conacher had a pair of goals and an assist, and continues to lead the nation in scoring in points per game with 1.61. He has 40 points in league play, just the sixth time in AHA history that a player has reached that milestone. He needs six points in his final four games to eclipse Eric Ehn’s record of 45 points set in 2006-07.
“The win tonight was huge,” Conacher said after Saturday’s game. “It was especially big because Mercyhurst is right ahead of us in the standings. We knew that we needed to come in and get a road win. We kept it simple tonight.”
Air Force’s Jeff Hajner is out for the remainder of the season due to a blood clot in his right leg. It’s a blow for Hajner, who prematurely ends his college hockey career, and for the Falcons, who lose their senior captain and fourth-leading scorer. Hajner was one game away from tying the Academy’s all-time record for games played in a career with 150. He had played in every game he was eligible for in his career and those 150 games in a row is a school record.
The Falcons are looking to respond the way they did two years ago when the team lost Eric Ehn to an injury but didn’t skip a beat, winning the league title.
Army Athletic Director Kevin Anderson made a rather strange apology this week (the link has since been removed from the Army athletics site), placing the blame for the rough play, bad language, and post game mini-brawl in Saturday’s game between Army and RIT squarely in the lap of RIT.
“You are among our most prized assets and I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for what you were forced to sit through during Saturday’s Army vs. RIT hockey game, especially those behind the visitor’s bench,” Anderson said in his statement to fans.
“The behavior and language exhibited by the RIT players, coaches and staff is something we will not tolerate and I want to assure you that it will be addressed with the visiting team’s administration as well as the Atlantic Hockey Association. … I want to personally apologize to those fans at Tate Rink on Saturday who were offended and outraged at the language.”
1. It’s not Anderson’s place to apologize for the actions of another team.
2. Anderson was, according to an Internet broadcast of the game, “in the face” of an opposing team’s coaching staff. He’s likely too emotionally involved.
3. While I appreciate Army’s efforts to have a G-rated environment at Tate Rink, this is, after all, hockey. Bad words and rough play are not unexpected as emotions flare, and it look
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.