Here we go again

Are you ready?

There’s real college hockey this weekend, as Mercyhurst has the honor of playing in the first NCAA game(s) of the season, hosting No. 20 Colgate on Saturday and Sunday.

Look for the complete Atlantic Hockey season preview on Sunday, but to start things off, here are Dan Rubin’s and Chris Lerch’s predictions for opening weekend. Besides the Lakers and Raiders, there are a handful of exhibition contests as well, but Dan and Chris open their picks battle with just the pair of official games.

Last season:
Dan: 134-81-27 (.610)
Chris: 137-76-27 (.627)
Chris edged Dan for bragging rights, but just like every team out there right now, they’re both undefeated.

This Week’s Picks
Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4
Colgate at Mercyhurst
Dan: The AHC needs to be better this year about winning non-conference games. Unfortunately, Mercyhurst’s first two draws are against a Colgate team that won 20-plus games last year and came within a game of winning ECAC. Even though the games are in Erie, Colgate sweeps.
Chris: This is a tough way to open your season, against a Top-20 opponent and with as many as 11 freshmen in the lineup. Colgate sweeps.

Remember to check back on Sunday for the 2015-16 Atlantic Hockey Season Preview.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, the final results

Last week:

Dan: 1-2
Chris: 0-3

For the season:

Dan: 134-81-27 (.610)
Chris: 137-76-27 (.627)

And the winner is:

Chris made RIT fans happy by picking against the Tigers the final weekend, and they again proved him wrong. But he held on for the season victory against Dan by a mere 3.5 games. We didn’t pick the same number of games because of the best-of-three quarterfinal format, but it was a total of 240 games picked by Chris and 242 by Dan. And we both picked better than six out 10 games correctly over the course of the season.

In 2013-2014, Chris defeated Dan by seven games, so he’s closing the gap. It’s been fun and we’ll do it again next season.

And while not an official pick, Chris is taking Minnesota State over the Tigers in South Bend. That should satisfy the RIT faithful.

Good luck to everyone in their Pick’em prognostications.

Three Things: March 22, 2015

Three things from Championship weekend in Atlantic Hockey:

One and done

For the third consecutive season, the top seed went down in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament. This time it was defending champion Robert Morris, who put 62 shots on net against Mercyhurst in 63 minutes of play, but fell to the Lakers, 4-3 in overtime.

Freshman goaltender Brandon Wildung made a whopping 59 saves for the win. The Lakers opened a 2-0 early lead, but after that the Colonials took charge and seemed to have the game in hand until Mercyhurst’s Chris Bodo scored an extra-attacker goal with 34 seconds left in regulation. Then after Wildung made several big saves early in overtime, Zac Frischmon cruised into the Colonials’ zone and beat RMU goalie Danton Izyk for the game-winner at 3:04 of OT.

That meant another early ticket home for the top seed. In 2013 Niagara finished first but lost in the semifinals, although the Purple Eagles managed an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, the first and only time that has happened to an AHC team. In 2014, regular season champs Mercyhurst failed to make the title game.

“We were in this situation last year, so we know how it feels,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “I wish their was some way to get Robert Morris into the tournament because they’re a great team.”


One and only

The only AHC to make the NCAA tournament this season is Rochester Institute of Technology, which was at Blue Cross Arena for the first time since 2012 and won it all for the first time since 2010.

RIT brought its fans with it for the seven mile trip from its campus to downtown Rochester, and the Corner Crew and company came away happy, cheering the Tigers on to a 2-1 win over Canisius in the semifinals and a 5-1 victory against Mercyhurst in the championship game.

RIT will try to recapture some of the magic that saw Wayne Wilson’s team advance to the Frozen Four in 2010. But the ten other AHC teams will be watching on TV, because the league’s poor non-conference showing put all of its members well below the PairWise ranking threshold for an at-large berth.

“Our league for the most part, with the exception of one year, only one team is going.” said Wilson.

“Robert Morris has had an outstanding year. They would be very deserving in going on to the NCAA but the PairWise doesn’t work out that way for them.”

The Tigers are the No.16 seed and will face top seed Minnesota State at the Midwest Regional in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday. Nebraska-Omaha and Harvard are the other teams at that regional.


One more chance

RIT goaltender Jordan Ruby’s college hockey career almost ended on Feb. 20, when he gambled and lost on a breakaway chance by Robert Morris’ Cody Wydo with less than 10 seconds to play in a tie game.

Ruby came out to play the puck but got there a second too late, and Wydo put the puck into an empty net for the RMU victory and its first regular season title.

Sophomore Mike Rotolo backstopped the Tigers to a win over the Colonials the next night, and a sweep of Mercyhurst the next weekend. He and Ruby had battled for the starting position all year, and it looked like Rotolo was going to be the Tiger’s goaltender for the postseason.

But an injury to Rotolo in practice opened the door for Ruby, who then backstopped RIT to a 2-1, 7-3 sweep of Air Force in the quarterfinals and allowed just two goals this weekend.

“You have to learn how to have amnesia and forget about things that happened.” said Ruby. “Rotolo had a great year and (us) just back-in-forth between the pipes, you have to get ready to go. I felt like this was my best year, all year.”

And it’s not over.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, March 20-21

Last week:

Dan: 7-3
Chris: 7-2

On the season:

Dan: 133-79-27 (.613)
Chris: 137-73-27 (.635)

So I retain my title despite a nice comeback by Dan in February.  I’m leading by five games with just three left (The number of games picked are different due to the way we pick best-of-three series).


This Week’s Picks

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – Semifinals
Friday, March 20

No. 5 Mercyhurst vs. No. 1 Robert Morris
Dan: Prior to the season, I floated this game as a possibility for Saturday in the league championship, with the Lakers winning it all this year. But the Colonials are a team on a mission, and I don’t think Mercyhurst is going to be able to come back again if they go down two goals here. RMU advances.
Chris: The Lakers showed a lot of resiliency after a rough end to the regular season and being down late in their third and deciding game at Bentley last weekend. They’re a dangerous team and will be hard to put away. But Robert Morris is the best team in the league and has proved that over the last 22 weeks. The best team doesn’t always win, but it gets my pick. Robert Morris wins.

No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology vs. No. 2 Canisius
Dan: I could give you hockey analysis here, or I could just tell you my gut feeling. It’s taken the Tigers three years to get back to Blue Cross Arena for a postseason game, and with the hometown crowd in their corner, I believe in RIT. Canisius is a very good team, a former champion, and a team that’s proven time and time again that they know how to win. But I’m picking the orange and black. RIT wins.
Chris:  RIT fans love it when I pick against the Tigers, because I’m often wrong (although I picked 63% of games correctly this season). This is a classic matchup between  Canisius’ defense and RIT’s offense and Canisius’ power play vs. RIT’s penalty kill. In the end I think it will come down to goaltending and here the Golden Griffins have the edge. So be happy, Tiger fans because I’m going with the higher seed. Canisius wins.


Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – Finals
Saturday, March 21

? vs. ?
Dan: The defending champions go for two in a row against the team that calls Brick City home. In a one-game series, throw the tale of the tape out the window; this one’s going to be fun. But I’m picking Robert Morris for a second straight year to win it all after watching them lead the conference tape-to-tape and prove deserving of national recognition. No glass slipper needed this year. RMU wins.
Chris: It’s hard to pick against a team that has been building to this all year. Anything less than a title will seem like a failure to Robert Morris, and I think the Colonials will handle the pressure and get the job done. Robert Morris wins against either Canisius or RIT.

Three Things: March 16, 2015

A look back at the weekend that was as the road to Rochester reaches its end:

Sports Giveth, Sports Taketh Away

We start with the most obvious talking point – the wild three game series between Bentley and Mercyhurst and its unpredictable ending.

After a scoreless regulation in Game One, and after being outshot 40-28, the Lakers scored in the first five minutes of overtime to win on Friday, 1-0. On Saturday, the Falcons potted four goals in the first five minutes of the second period en route to a 5-3 victory, again outshooting the Lakers, 37-29. On Sunday, in the only Game Three for Atlantic Hockey’s quarterfinals round, Bentley dominated time of possession through the zones and led, 2-0, 13 minutes into the third period.

That’s when the Laker offense woke up – in 14 seconds. Matthew Zay and Chris Bodo scored to tie up the game and send it into the later stages with an eye for overtime. But with 10 seconds left, Mercyhurst had one last rush. Zac Frischmon went up the left wing, zipped a pass across the circles for Nardo Nagtzaam, and watched as the senior turned the red light on and sent his bench into a frenzy with 5.5 seconds left.

Mercyhurst 3. Bentley 2.

“I (was) absolutely stunned,” said Laker head coach Rick Gotkin after the victory. “I thought Bentley played great this weekend, and I really don’t know what to say. We know that goals are all about momentum, and we got one, then we got the second there. We were just thinking about ‘Okay let’s get to overtime’ and then all of a sudden we score with 5.5 seconds left, and I really don’t know what to say. Hockey’s a game about bounces, and we got the bounces, and we’ll take those bounces. We’ll take this win, and we’re happy to advance. But we know we played and excellent, excellent team in Bentley.”

In going down to the absolute final wire, the two teams put on a display of hockey that gave the paying customers exactly what they could’ve hoped for. There were 31 shots, 19 of which came from the Lakers, with just one penalty called – a stark contrast from a disjointed first two periods where the men wearing stripes threatened to take over the game (and at times did just that). The first two frames featured 15 penalties, including nine in the first period, before the refs put their noisemakers away and let the two teams skate it out. Once that happened, the skill took over and the teams opened up a display commensurate with the drama of a deciding playoff game.

The final goal by Nagtzaam was an illustration in perhaps the best part about sports – the contrasting emotions of elation for one team against the bitterness of defeat of the other. “I didn’t see it because I had my eyes closed, and that’s the truth,” said Gotkin. “I was thinking about getting to overtime to take our swings because it had been a tough night for us to see what happens. Five seconds left – the puck goes in, but I never saw it. But I was high fiving with everyone else.”

In a year in which the two teams played seven games, all but the second game of the series were decided by one goal or less. Sure enough, the two games Mercyhurst won in the playoffs were one goal games. Sometimes sports don’t add up, sometimes they do, but one thing’s for sure – it was one heckuva ride.


The Road To Rochester Reaches Its Final Stop

With their win, the Lakers qualified for the AHC semifinals for the 13th time since joining the old MAAC in 1999-2000. They round out a star-studded, wide-open field featuring the top three seeds, a hometown favorite, two past champions, and the preseason #1.

Robert Morris – defending AHC champs and first place finishers tape-to-tape the whole season as a nationally-ranked power – will play Mercyhurst – the preseason #1 team – in the first semifinal on Friday at 5 PM. Following the conclusion, second-seeded Canisius – the 2013 champion and last year’s league finalist – will attempt to make a third straight championship game against a whole lotta orange. They take on RIT, the hometown favorite who call Blue Cross Arena their second home.

It’s a series that’ll crown one champion with one berth to the NCAA Tournament.


Satisfyingly Strong

In their previous three meetings, the RIT Tigers didn’t so much as score a single goal against the Air Force Falcons. All of that changed at the Polisseni Center this weekend when RIT won a hard-fought 2-1 decision on Friday before hitting the throttle button on Saturday. They scored seven goals against Air Force while outshooting the Falcons 43-27.

Up 2-1 after two, the third period might’ve been the most satisfying period of hockey in years for RIT fans. They scored 17 seconds in to go up 3-1, then added a fourth goal eight minutes later. With six minutes to go and down by a pair, Air Force pulled their goalie, allowing the Tigers to pot an empty net goal. Air Force did score one more, but another empty net goal put RIT up 6-2. For good measure, they added another one on the power play inside of two minutes. Though Air Force scored one late, the 7-3 victory was an offensive display that has the Tigers possibly hitting their stride at the right time.

It’s a scary thought when the road to Rochester leads….well…right through Rochester. It also means home ice advantage before thousands of orange-clad rabid fans and a return to the semifinal round for the Corner Crew. So hats off to them for exorcising some ghosts left over from the old Ritter Arena.


Atlantic Hockey Picks, March 13-15

Last week:

Dan: 5-3
Chris: 5-2

On the season:

Dan: 126-76-27 (.609)
Chris: 130-71-27 (.629)


This Week’s Picks

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – Quarterfinals
Best of Three Series
Friday, March 13 – Sunday, March 15

No. 11 Niagara at No. 1 Robert Morris
Dan: Niagara might be the most dangerous seed to the Colonials’ run. The coaches know each other like a book, and it just feels like one of those series where the higher seed should be on upset alert. I think Niagara’s going to be incredibly tough to play against, especially if Jackson Teichroeb does what he did last weekend. Like I said during last week’s picks, if he heats up, watch out. But I really think RMU is coming in well aware of the thought that anyone can beat anyone, and they’ll be ready for it. RMU sweeps.
Chris:The Niagara team we thought we’d see all season waited until the middle of February to show up. Before that it was injuries, a lack of confidence, and more injuries. The “clean slate, second season” mentality is clearly there, demonstrated by the Purple Eagles not packing it in after losing that marathon game at Holy Cross last Saturday. That said, RMU is best team in the league and I think they will get things into gear after coasting a little the past couple of weekends. Even if these seedings were No. 1 vs. No. 2 instead of No. 1 vs. No. 11, I still would bank on the Colonials. Robert Morris sweeps.

No. 8 Sacred Heart at No. 2 Canisius
Dan: Canisius was elite in the second half of the year, finishing the year on a 10-3-2 clip. They have good goal scoring and a solid defense. They’re deep. But Sacred Heart is playing with house money, and they are starting to play a style resembling the way Canisius played in the last two postseasons. I’m known for making some bold statements, so hear me out on this one – I’ve seen SHU a couple of times, and I’m a believer. By the time this weekend is over, you’ll believe too. Sacred Heart in three.
Chris: The teams have had similar offensive success (both around 2.6 goals scored per game), but Canisius has the top defense in the conference, better by more than a half a goal a game compared to SHU. Sacred Heart’s more open offensive style will have to find a way to generate chances against the Golden Griffs, who like to trap. The trap (pun intended) that Canisius will need to avoid is the comfort of playing at home. The last two quarterfinal series wins for the Griffs came on the road, at Air Force in 2013 and at Bentley last season. Can they find that magic in the new HarborCenter? I think they can. Canisius sweeps.

No. 7 Air Force at No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: RIT’s top line might be the best in the league, but is it enough to a) score the Tigers’ first playoff goal against Air Force before it b) leads the team back to the promised land? This is an interesting series because of what both teams mean to the playoffs, but I’ll throw this out there – Air Force went 4-11-3 on the season away from Cadet Ice Arena. RIT in three.
Chris:Despite RIT coach Wayne Wilson continuing to remind me that past results don’t matter in predicting the future, I’m a believer in history. The Tigers have never beaten Air Force in the postseason. The Tigers have never scored a goal against Air Force in the postseason. RIT is 0-3 against the Falcons in their most important meetings: 5-0 loss in the 2008 semis and 1-0 and 4-0 losses in the 2011 and 2012 championship games, respectively. Only the seniors on each squad were a part of that 2012 contest, which is also the last time either team won a quarterfinal series. This is a time to either exorcise the past or add another brick to the wall. I’m going with the latter. Air Force in three.

No. 5 Mercyhurst at No. 4 Bentley
Dan: I had this series as a semifinal single game series; that it happens here is going to be interesting. Bentley went undefeated during the regular season, but every game was tight. Mercyhurst received a bye for extra rest, but they’re traveling. Both teams struggled down the stretch, but Bentley is likely to get some healthy bodies back after the week off. Underlying storyline – the series is during Bentley’s spring break, meaning the attendance could be a little weird for the first couple of games. Since this series is a total toss up, I’ll say this – Mercyhurst was my pick to win the league before the year, and I said they’d beat Bentley in the playoffs to do it. I can’t really back out, no matter what my heart wants to pick. Mercyhurst in three.
Chris: Neither team was playing very well over the final two weekends of the regular season, so this will come down to which one made the best use of the bye week to get back on track. Mercyhurst has made it through to Rochester each of the past three seasons, while the Falcons have come up short. As I said, I’m a believer in history, so I’m picking Mercyhurst in three, with at least two going to overtime (that’s for you, Dan).



Saturday, March 14, 2015:
NCAA Women’s First Round
No. 8 RIT at No. 1 Minnesota

Dan: Ali Binnington spearheaded a goaltending trio for RIT that allowed just about two goals per game. The top-ranked Gophers outscored opponents 171-44 on the season. But the win by Bemidji proved someone could beat this team. So I’ll throw down on this one – if RIT beats Minnesota, I will don Tiger colors and post a short video doing some Corner Crew chants on Twitter. But since RIT is in position to pull off the first ever “double” between the CHA and AHC (win both the men’s and women’s title), I’ll do the same if the men win a league championship. Sorry, guys, but this is strictly business. Minnesota wins.
It’s hard to pick against a team that is absolute money in the postseason (the RIT seniors are 15-1 in the playoffs including 10-1 at the D-I level). But it is Minnesota after all. That said, all the ladies have to do is look at the trophy case in the Polisseni Center lobby to see the Frozen Four trophy the men took home after knocking out two highly ranked teams in Albany in 2010. It can happen. I’m not sure what I will do if the Tigers win this one other than buy a t-shirt, but why the heck not? RIT shocks the women’s college hockey world. And no, this pick doesn’t count against our overall record, where my 10 game lead has been whittled down to 4.5 games.

Three Things: March 8, 2015

Three things from the first postseason weekend in Atlantic Hockey:

And then there were eight

Only one first round series went the distance, and that also featured the only upset this past weekend. Niagara opened at Holy Cross with a classic road playoff 2-1 win, and then rebounded from a three-overtime loss in Game Two to take the deciding Game Three, 5-3.

Air Force and Sacred Heart swept their first round series to advance, so we have the following quarterfinal matchups in store, all best-of-three series:

No. 11 Niagara at No. 1 Robert Morris
No. 8 Sacred Heart at No. 2 Canisius
No. 7 Air Force at No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology
No. 5 Mercyhurst at No. 4 Bentley

It takes time

There was a lot of bonus college hockey played this weekend, including the marathon on Saturday between Niagara and Holy Cross, which went to three overtimes before the Crusaders’ T.J. Moore’s game winner in the 111th minute of play. The game went into the record books as the longest in Atlantic Hockey history and the eighth longest in Division I history.

Pick your poison

So which of the quarterfinal hosts has the easiest route to Rochester? I don’t think there is an easy out in this round when you consider:

  • Air Force thumped American International 6-1 and 10-3 in the first round. Yes, the Falcons have struggled on the road (4-11-3) vs. home (12-6-1) this season but 16 goals is a scary number. Senior Cole Gunner had a six-point weekend, including four goals on Saturday. The Falcons travel to Rochester to try to win the right to return the following weekend.
  • Sacred Heart was on a bit of a roll coming into the playoffs and didn’t let up, sweeping Army. The Pioneers have only two losses in their last 11 games. They travel to Buffalo to face a Canisius squad that SHU took three of four points from in the regular season.
  • Niagara endured an 18-game winless stretch, but is 4-2-1 in its last seven games and rebounded from that triple-overtime defeat on Saturday to win a tough road series at Holy Cross. Goalie Jackson Teichroeb made 136 saves in the series, including 47 in the deciding game. The Purple Eagles will take on Robert Morris, whom they saw two weeks ago, splitting a series with the Colonials.
  • Mercyhurst ended the season on a downturn but the Lakers are still the Lakers, the preseason No. 1 and boasting the third best offense in the conference. They are certainly capable of turning things around in a hurry. Bentley awaits – Mercyhurst was 0-3-1 against the Falcons this season, but every game was decided by a goal or less.

It’s not going out on a limb to predict at least one upset next weekend. Fasten your seatbelts.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, March 6-8

Last week:

Dan: 5-5
Chris: 3-7

On the season:

Dan: 121-73-27 (.609)
Chris: 125-69-27 (.627)


This Week’s Picks

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – First Round
Best of Three Series
Friday, March 6 – Sunday, March 8

No. 11 Niagara at No. 6 Holy Cross
Dan: Niagara is picking up steam at exactly the right time to be that #11 seed you simply don’t want to play. 2-1-1 in their last four games, this series will rest on if Jackson Teichroeb can match Matt Ginn. Can he? Maybe. But I can’t pick the with confidence having to come east. Holy Cross in two.
Chris: Despite having the widest gap in terms of seedings, and despite Holy Cross winning all four meetings between the schools so far this season, I think this will be the most closely contested of the three series this weekend. But I expect the Crusaders to prevail in a trio of low scoring games. Holy Cross in Three.

No. 10 American International at No. 7 Air Force
Dan: AIC has never advanced out of a three-game series and boast only three playoff round victories – a divisional playoff win over Army in 2011 and two play-in game wins (2004 over Army and 2007 over Canisius). I have high hopes for the Yellow Jackets, but being saddled with a trip west to Colorado doesn’t help the situation.  I’m taking Air Force in two.
Chris: At 14-19-4, Air Force is under .500 for the first time since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2006. But the Falcons are still tough on home ice (10-6-1) and I think will take care of business. Air Force in two.

No. 9 Army at No. 8 Sacred Heart
Dan: Sacred Heart is the team getting hot at the right time of the year, finishing the season on a 5-2-3 clip. They played their way into home ice, and they’re starting to resemble the style of hockey team that’s going to ruin the hopes of dreams of someone along the way. Army, meanwhile, played pretty much .500 hockey since their exhibition against the Canadian RMC. They’re 3-4-2 since playing the Paladins. Call this one the series of the weekend, which is fitting since this is the 8/9 matchup.  Sacred Heart in three.
Chris: Army held its own down the stretch against some tough opponents, splitting series with three of the top four teams in the league. But Sacred Heart is also playing its best hockey of the season, defeating Bentley and Holy Cross buy a combined score of 9-1 in its last two regular season games. I’m going with the Pioneers to sweep.

Three Things: March 1, 2015

Oh, what a weekend it was.

It all began where it ends

Rochester, N.Y., will become the center of the Atlantic Hockey universe in less than three weeks’ time when four teams converge for the conference championship weekend. So it’s fitting that we really start the “Road To Rochester” in … Rochester.

Playing at the glittery new Polisseni Center on the campus of RIT, the host Tigers and visiting Mercyhurst Lakers took part in what amounted to a soft opening for the playoffs. Tied in the standings, two points back of third place, both of these teams knew they would have a bye. The only remaining question was which team would be able to play the quarterfinals at home and which would play on the road.

Todd Skirving lit the lamp in the first period for RIT on Saturday to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead, but Jonathan Charbonneau drew Mercyhurst even at 1-1 early in the second period. The game remained that way through the rest of the second and through the third, sending it to overtime.

That’s where Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin made a playoff decision. Realizing his team needed a win in order to end up at home next weekend, he pulled his goalie in favor of an empty net in the extra frame. With less than a minute remaining, Myles Powell scored for the Tigers, sending them into the third seed for the playoffs and putting Mercyhurst on the road.

The win propelled RIT to 5-2-1 in February and 10-4-2 over its last 16 games. A team once destined for a road series in the first round now will host a quarterfinal matchup, meaning the wolf is back in the hen house. The Tigers have never lost a home series in the playoffs, although those series were in the house of horrors at Ritter Arena. The league’s championship weekend is also in their backyard, which is bad news for everyone else should they make it that far.

The other shoe dropped

Roughly 400 miles away from the RIT-Mercyhurst game, Bentley and Holy Cross exchanged blows in what might’ve been one of the hardest-fought hockey games all season. The Crusaders needed a win over their longtime rivals to ensure themselves of the sixth seed, while Bentley needed at least a tie to clinch the third seed in the tournament.

Scoring 4:10 into the third period to break a 1-1 tie, the Crusaders took a 2-1 victory in a game best described as an exhibition of solid goaltending. Holy Cross clinched the sixth seed.

By virtue of the loss, however, Bentley ended up in a tie with RIT. Based on tiebreaker scenarios, the Falcons fell to the fourth seed while the Tigers finished third. That means the Falcons will host fifth-seeded Mercyhurst while RIT takes on the highest remaining seed from the first round of the playoffs.

Is that a good thing for parties involved? Had Bentley won, Mercyhurst would’ve gone back to RIT, a 160-mile ride through Buffalo. It would’ve set up a potential quarterfinals series between the Falcons and Holy Cross (40 miles away) since the Crusaders finished sixth. Instead, a Holy Cross win sent the Crusaders to RIT, a reverse of a rematch from last year’s first-round series where the Tigers lost in overtime in controversial fashion.

Bentley, meanwhile, hosts the Lakers in the second round. Instead of a 160-mile ride, Mercyhurst has a 10-hour, 530-plus mile trek across New York and Massachusetts. Last year, these teams finished first and second in the league’s regular season.

The difference between decisions with Bentley-Holy Cross and RIT-Mercyhurst was roughly 18 minutes. Playoffs.

And then there are those pesky loose ends to tie up …

Air Force played Canisius at 5 p.m. Mountain time in order to have all of Saturday’s games start at the same time. The Golden Griffins, with the second seed already sealed up, gave up three first-period goals and attempted just nine shots on goal — in the entire game. The Falcons won 4-1 but because Holy Cross also won, they finished as the seventh-seeded team.

Meanwhile, Robert Morris scored in the third period on the power play to win 2-1 over Niagara. That made the 5-1 loss by American International to Army a moot point, slotting the Yellow Jackets 10th and the Purple Eagles 11th.

That means AIC is grand prize winner of a trip to Colorado to take on Air Force. In a year where they’ve traveled more than they ever have, perhaps it’s fitting for the road warriors from Springfield, Mass., to have to go to the furthest west trip. In unrelated news, they’ve actually never met in the playoffs.

Niagara, meanwhile, finished 11th and will head east to play Holy Cross. That series is shaping to have a whole lotta purple.

Your final playoff lineup

The demolition derby known as the Atlantic Hockey playoffs start on Friday with the following lineup.

First Round (Best of Three):
#11 Niagara at #6 Holy Cross
#10 American Int’l at #7 Air Force
#9 Army at #8 Sacred Heart

Quarterfinals (Best of Three):
Lowest Remaining Seed at #1 Robert Morris
Middle Remaining Seed at #2 Canisius
Highest Remaining Seed at #3 RIT
#5 Mercyhurst at #4 Bentley

Atlantic Hockey Playoff Race: February 28, 2015

More spots clinched, more spots up for grabs. Let’s take a look at what was clinched last night and what could happen tonight:

What Was Clinched Last Night:

-Canisius clinched the #2 seed by beating Air Force, 4-1. They now have a three point lead over third-place Bentley, who lost to Sacred Heart on Thursday.

-RIT defeated Mercyhurst to tie those two teams up with 31 points for the final second round home series slot.  RIT’s win, coupled with Air Force’s loss, clinched a first round bye for both of those teams.

-AIC’s win over Army did not clinch them the #10 seed because Niagara went out and beat first place Robert Morris, 2-1. Welcome to the Atlantic Hockey stretch run.

Updated Standings (by points)

1-x) Robert Morris – 40 points
2-x) Canisius – 36
3) Bentley – 33
T-4) RIT – 31 (currently wins head-to-head tiebreaker)
T-4) Mercyhurst – 31

5) RIT or Mercyhurst

T-6) Air Force – 27
T-6) Holy Cross – 27
8-x) Sacred Heart – 26

9-x) Army – 18
10) AIC – 15
11) Niagara – 14

Tonight’s Races

The Race for 3rd-5th (Bentley, Mercyhurst, RIT):

If Bentley wins or ties (at home vs. Holy Cross) and RIT wins – the Falcons are the #3 seed, and the Lakers play at the Tigers in the quarterfinals round of the playoffs.

If Bentley wins or ties and Mercyhurst wins – Bentley is still the #3 seed, but RIT goes to Mercyhurst because of the second level tie breaker (head-to-head conference wins). Mercyhurst enters tonight with 14 conference wins compared to 13 for RIT. If the Lakers win, they’re at home in two weeks.

If Bentley loses and RIT wins – RIT is the #3 seed. The Tigers and Falcons split and would both finish with 14 conference wins. The third level tiebreaker is goal differential in head-to-head contests, which the Tigers win by losing 2-1 and winning 5-2 (-1 + 3 = +2 in favor of RIT). Mercyhurst goes to Bentley in two weeks.

If Bentley loses and RIT/Mercyhurst tie – Bentley remains the #3 seed and Mercyhurst goes to RIT next week by losing the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If Bentley loses and Mercyhurst wins – Bentley finishes as the #3 seed by virtue of their 3-0-1 finish against the Lakers this season. RIT goes to Mercyhurst in two weeks.

The Race for 6th (Air Force, Holy Cross):

Since this is only a two-horse race, the head-to-head comparison is pretty easy. They’re both tied for sixth in the standings. If Air Force wins or ties and Holy Cross loses, the Falcons finish sixth. If the Crusaders win or tie and Air Force loses to Canisius, Holy Cross finishes sixth.

If they tie in the standings, however, Holy Cross wins the tiebreaker. Back at the beginning of January, the Crusaders tied the Falcons, 1-1, before defeating them, 3-1.

This will have a huge impact on the race for 10th place because one team is going to Holy Cross and one team is going to Air Force.

The Race of 10th (AIC, Niagara):

AIC has a one point lead over Niagara for the race for 10th. If AIC gets a single point in their game at Army, they clinch 10th position. If they tie and Niagara beats Robert Morris, the teams would tie, but AIC holds the tiebreaker scenario by virtue of their two game sweep (4-1, 4-2) back in October.

The only way Niagara can pass AIC is with a win over Robert Morris AND an AIC loss to Army.

The Playoff Matchups (as of Saturday)

Quarterfinals byes:
#1 Robert Morris vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
#2 Canisius vs. 2nd Lowest Remaining Seed
#3 Bentley vs. Best Remaining First Round Winner
#4 RIT vs. #5 Mercyhurst

First Round:
#11 Niagara at #6 Air Force/Holy Cross winner
#10 AIC at #7 Air Force/Holy Cross loser
#9 Army #8 Sacred Heart

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