Out of the eight Atlantic Hockey teams in conference play last weekend, only American International was able to pick up four points. While sweeps have been few in far between for the Yellow Jackets, their victim last weekend made it all the more impressive.
Mercyhurst was on home ice and riding a four-game winning streak heading into the series. AIC had never before won a game in Erie.
On Friday, AIC trailed 2-1 going into the third period before scoring four unanswered goals to put the game away. Saturday was the Ben Meisner show. The sophomore goaltender stopped all 35 shots he faced for a 3-0 win.
“I don’t think we played well at any point,” Lakers coach Rick Gotkin told GoErie.com. “I just don’t think we had very good jump, didn’t have very good life. The better team won. We have to pick up the pieces.”
“We obviously had strong goaltending and our special teams were pretty effective,” AIC coach Gary Wright said. “I think we’re a little more potent offensively [this season] and had some timely goals.”
Four third-period goals contributed to a total of five for the game, equalling AIC’s top output for the season.
“We were down 2-1 five or six minutes into the third period, and sometimes you get a goal from someone you don’t expect,” said Wright. “Thomas Benovic is a good defensive defenseman, and he got the big goal that tied it up. We got on a roll from there.”
Saturday, Mercyhurst played with desperation, especially in the third period, but could not solve Meisner.
“They certainly outshot us and we took some penalties,” Wright said. “But we did some good things in the third period and Ben kept them off the board.”
AIC hosts Rochester Institute of Technology this weekend.
“It’s nice to build some confidence with two good wins on the road,” Wright said. “We’re really going to have to come to play against RIT. They have a great work ethic and play with a lot of energy. We’re going to have to match that intensity.”
Game(s) of the week
Bentley travels to Robert Morris for a pair of games this weekend. The Colonials need to make some hay since they have only one more league game between this weekend and Jan. 14.
Robert Morris has been idle since Nov. 20, when it lost 3-2 at Canisius in overtime, the third overtime loss of the season for the Colonials.
“We’ve been great in the third period but it hasn’t carried over to overtime,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “You don’t get any points for an overtime loss in the NCAA. We have to find out the way to get a point in games like that. We’re a point behind Canisius [for first place] in the standings, and every point can change things dramatically.”
The Colonials have had to sit on that loss for almost two weeks.
“It seems like it’s been months,” Schooley said. “[The night before] we played a good game against Mercyhurst and couldn’t beat [Mercyhurst goalie Ryan] Zapolski. Saturday wasn’t one of our better efforts, but we had a chance to win.
“Every game we’ve been in has been close. You can see the parity in our league. Everybody can beat everybody. You can see by the scores last weekend that just because you win one game doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next night.”
Bentley comes into the series having won three of its last four games.
“We haven’t played them since 2005 or 2006,” Schooley said. “They have a very good goaltender [Joe Calvi] and when you have a good goaltender, you’re going to be in every game. They have a lot of high-end players and a good coach in Ryan Soderquist.”
The Colonials have a few high-end players of their own, including seniors Nathan Longpre and Denny Urban, both in the top 10 in the league in scoring. Urban leads all Division I defensemen with 16 points.
Calvi has a .920 save percentage for Bentley, which is led in scoring by senior Erik Peterson (12 points).
“What’s eventually going to happen is that one team is going to get hot and go on a streak and take control,” Schooley said. “We hope that’s us.”
Around the league
• Air Force posted a milestone win when it beat Clarkson 2-1 on Friday in the first round of the Denver Cup. The Falcons were making their 15th appearance in the tournament, but had never won a game in the Denver Cup until this. Air Force lost to Denver 3-1 in the second round on Saturday.
• Rochester Institute of Technology was 55th in the nation in penalty killing at 73.4 percent going into last weekend’s series with Sacred Heart. But the Tigers stopped all 14 attempts by the Pioneers. As a result, RIT moved up to 44th place (77.9 percent).
• RIT and Sacred Heart were ranked first and fifth, respectively, in penalty minutes going into last weekend and showed why, racking up a total of 144 minutes in the two games.
• Canisius has played eight overtime games this season, the most in the nation. Minnesota-Duluth is second with seven. The Golden Griffins are 2-2-4 in those games.
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.