Three Things: Success for first and last


The first and last place teams recorded sweeps this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey play. Robert Morris swept Sacred Heart by identical scores of 2-1, while Niagara took all four points from American International, 2-0 and 4-3.

The rest (with the exception of Canisius, which was idle) had to settle for anywhere from one to three points.

As a result, there was not a lot of movement in the standings with just three weekends to go in the regular season.

The Colonials extended their lead from a single point over Rochester Institute of Technology to three points over Air Force, which jumped over the Tigers into second thanks to a three-point weekend against RIT in Colorado Springs.

The only other changes in position were Bentley cruising past Canisius into sole possession of sixth place, Army moving from ninth into a tie for eighth, and Niagara drawing even with AIC for tenth place.

For real

Air Force extended its unbeaten streak to ten games with a win and a tie against RIT.

After deadlocking 2-2 on Friday, the Falcons put on a dominating performance on Saturday, highlighted by freshman goalie Shane Starrett’s third shutout of the season in a 4-0 win.

Now in second place, this very young Falcons team has exceeded expectations after losing a large veteran class and all three goaltenders in the offseason.

Picked to finish seventh in the preseason coach’s poll, Air Force has taken at least three points in its last five weekends of conference play. They’re clearly for real.

“This is the best Saturday night we have had all season,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. “Good teams are hard to put away and RIT is a good team and they are a contender. It was not easy. I was pleased with a lot of things tonight.”

For Jack

The hockey world was saddened on Wednesday to hear of the passing of legendary coach Jack Riley.

Army West Point will wear helmet stickers for the rest of the season to honor the former Army and U.S. Olympic Team coach.

And because you knew they would, the Black Knights played some inspired hockey this past weekend, taking three points from Holy Cross.

Coach Brian Riley’s team settled for a 2-2 tie on Friday but got off to a quick start on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at Tate rink.

Army West Point’s 3-1 win extended its unbeaten streak to five games, the longest for the Black Knights since 2009.

Next up for Army West Point: a trip to Robert Morris.


Atlantic Hockey Picks, February 5-9

Last week:

Dan: 4-2-4
Chris: 5-1-4

On the season:

Dan: 95-60-20 (.600)
Chris: 109-46-20 (.680)


This Week’s Picks:

Friday, February 5 and Saturday, February 6
Rochester Institute of Technology at Air Force
Dan: The immovable object meets the unstoppable force. RIT is undefeated on the road this year in conference play at 9-0-2, but they’re headed to Air Force – where the Falcons are 7-3 this year and riding an eight game unbeaten streak. But history’s shown how RIT struggles to consistently win in Colorado; they’re 4-12-2 at the academy since beginning the reclassification process back in 2005-2006. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: This is a great matchup between teams with the longest unbeaten streaks in the league: eight (6-0-2) for Air Force and seven (5-0-2) for RIT. A pair of ties certainly isn’t out of the question, but I think Air Force will win two low-scoring games. Air Force sweeps.

Niagara at American International
Dan: A good weekend by AIC at home all but seals Niagara into an 11th place finish. But a good weekend by Niagara all but ends AIC’s fading hope for home ice in the first round. It’s never glamorous when 10th and 11th place meet up, but that doesn’t mean these teams won’t be bringing it. AIC wins on Friday. Niagara wins on Saturday.
Chris: And the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the two teams with the longest winless streaks: 11 for Niagara (0-10-1) and nine for AIC (0-7-2). I think both teams will get a win, with AIC getting the victory on Friday, and Niagara rebounding on Saturday.

Holy Cross at Army West Point
Dan: Expect Army West Point to play inspired hockey this weekend, but Holy Cross has too much stake in going for a first place finish. They stand to gain ground regardless what happens between RIT and Air Force. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: Holy Cross has the chance to be in first place by the end of the weekend, and I think the Crusaders will do their part with a sweep.

Bentley at Mercyhurst
Dan: A big weekend by Bentley (who’s had back-to-back three point weekends) would have the Falcons in position to move from eighth place to fifth in three weeks time. But they’re taking on a Laker team that swept them in Watertown to begin the year. A split here would be huge for the Falcons’ rising hopes. Mercyhurst wins on Friday; Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris: These teams are establishing a bit of a rivalry based on last year’s postseason and a hard-fought sweep by the Lakers at the JAR at the beginning of the season. I like the Falcons to reverse the trend with the always difficult road sweep.

Robert Morris at Sacred Heart
Dan: What might’ve been the worst part of last week for RMU was losing ground to both Air Force, RIT, and Holy Cross because they were on the bye. The league’s favorite team is back in action this week, facing a deceptively good Sacred Heart team that should be hungry after last weekend at Bentley. I think the Pioneers could earn at least a point somewhere, but I don’t see the Colonials losing either. Robert Morris sweeps.
Chris: Robert Morris is coming off a bye week, but I don’t anticipate any rust. I think these games will be close, but the Colonials will take all four points.

Tuesday, February 9
American International at Massachusetts
Dan: This is a watershed game for UMass, a program that’s been in deep trouble lately. They’ve won only one game since November 7th, and last Saturday’s loss to Maine was their first one-goal loss since January 5th – a string of six straight. That’s a golden opportunity for AIC to start getting hot down the stretch. I’m taking UMass because the AHC struggles in OOC games, but don’t count out the Jackets for a big victory. UMass wins.
Chris: The crosstown rivals will meet at the Mass Mutual Center in downtown Springfield. The Yellow Jackets and Minutemen are both struggling, with a combined record of 12-36-6. I’m going with UMass in this one.

Three Things: Here Comes Bentley

Two weeks ago, when Bentley struggled through two losses to RIT at home at the John A. Ryan Arena, the Falcons looked like a team trending downwards in the second half of Atlantic Hockey. They had lost four in a row and six out of seven games. They had gone from over .500 in league play, a team tied for third or fourth in the league, down to eighth.

Two weeks later, the Falcons are right back in the thick of it.

After taking three points from American International last week, Bentley earned three points the hard way against a Sacred Heart team that almost always plays tough against them. On Friday, Bentley jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Pioneers never really went away. Each time Bentley rallied for a two goal lead, SHU cut it in half.

Up 2-0, Sacred Heart scored 30 seconds later to make it 2-1. When Bentley led 3-1, the next goal came from the Pioneers. Bentley went up 4-2 early in the third but couldn’t hit an empty net goal late to ice the game. They had to play complete hockey on both ends of the ice to come away with two points.

On Saturday, the Falcons needed a rally after giving up the first two points of the game. Justin Danforth scored 3:52 into the game, and another early second period goal by Erlich Doerksen made it 2-0. Buoyed by goaltender Gabe Antoni, the Falcons fought back with a power play goal from Andrew Gladiuk and an early third period goal from Cody DePourcq. Although they took the lead and lost it in about a minute’s time late, it was another earned point for the Falcons.

For the Falcons, back-to-back three point weekends has them out of eighth place and right back in the fight.

Refuse To Lose

No team is better at staving off potential elimination like the RIT Tigers. The defending league champs sat on the verge of losing both games this weekend against Holy Cross. On Friday, they trailed 1-0 for the bulk of the first two periods before going down 2-0 with just over five minutes to go in the game.

With about 90 seconds left in the game, Wayne Wilson pulled goalie Christian Short for an extra attacker. That’s when Todd Skirving led an absolute charge into the Holy Cross zone. Goalie Paul Berrafato came up with the first save, but Caleb Cameron punched the rebound into the net to make it 2-1.

30 seconds later, still with the net empty, the Norrish brothers tied the game when Chase fed Brady for a one-time howitzer knotted the game at 2-2.

The next night, RIT held a 2-1 lead after one but gave up goals to Castan Sommer and Mike Barrett to fall behind 3-2. About a minute and a half after going down by a goal, Chase Norrish did it again, scoring the game-tying goal to tie the game at 3-3.

It wound up being a virtual weekend split since both teams walked away with two points, but the argument could be made that the Tigers truly went out and won the weekend by not dropping points in a huge matchup between teams standing near the top of the AHC.

Here We Go Again

The season’s last month kicks off this week, and pretty much everything is up for grabs. Robert Morris, who ran away with last year’s regular season championship, sat idle this week, allowing RIT and Holy Cross to make up ground thanks to their weekend “split.” While that was happening, Air Force took three points from Canisius, tying them for third place with the Crusaders.

As it stands right now , the top four teams in the league sit within two points of one another. That’s going to have a huge downstream impact, especially with fifth place Mercyhurst sitting three points back.

But it’s not that easy for the Lakers. They’re only two points up on Canisius for the final bye slot, with Bentley one point behind the Golden Griffins. Sacred Heart’s one point at Bentley keeps them in the fight, one point behind the Falcons in eighth place. Four points separate eighth from fifth, with Army three points behind that in ninth.

Further down, nobody’s been mathematically eliminated from home ice, but Niagara can be the first team locked into a first round road series as early as next week. It can happen to AIC as well since the Yellow Jackets are seven points back of Sacred Heart, but a couple of big weekends could claw them back into things.

Regardless, points are critical for more favorable matchups since everyone is within striking distance of someone else over a single weekend’s time. Best way to move ahead? As the late Al Davis would say, “Just win, baby.”

Atlantic Hockey Picks, January 29-30

Last week:

Dan: 5-4-3
Chris: 7-2-3

On the season:

Dan: 91-58-16 (.600)
Chris: 104-45-16 (.679)


This Week’s Picks:

Friday, January 29 and Saturday, January 30
Sacred Heart at Bentley
Dan:This year’s Sacred Heart seniors are 6-5-2 against Bentley overall, but a 5-2 record over the past two seasons highlights the way they’ve always seemed to play well against the Falcons. After scoring an offensive breakout with seven goals against Connecticut on Tuesday, I don’t foresee them losing two games this weekend. That said, though, Bentley’s offense woke up in a big way, scoring 11 goals last weekend against AIC. I’ll take a split.Bentley wins on Friday, Sacred Heart wins on Saturday.
Chris: Most of the the action is out West this weekend, but the lone matchup in New England is a great one. I’m not leaning either way on this one – Sacred Heart struggled at home with RIT last weekend but hung seven goals on UConn on Tuesday. As Dan said, Bentley’s offense woke up in a big way last weekend as well. So I too am going with a split, and using SHU’s record on Fridays (1-7-3) vs. Saturdays (5-5), I’m going with a Bentley win on Friday and an SHU victory on Saturday.

Air Force at Canisius
Dan: Canisius has been excellent at taking points; they haven’t been swept once in conference play over a full weekend at all this year. After splitting with the Falcons out west, I don’t see that changing. But since we can’t pick ties, I’m going with Canisius; Canisius sweeps.
Chris: Both teams are playing well right now, with Canisius unbeaten in its last four games and Air Force unbeaten in its last six. I’m going with another split with Air Force winning on Friday and Canisius on Saturday.

American International at Mercyhurst
Dan:After losing three of four points to Robert Morris last weekend and only splitting with Sacred Heart the weekend before, Mercyhurst finds itself in need of points this weekend. A big weekend could have them back in the race for a first round bye and home ice.Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: It’s an easy choice to pick the Lakers to sweep, but AIC again showed on Tuesday that a hot goalie can be the equalizer as rookie Jacob Caffrey made 45 saves in a 1-0 loss at Princeton. But I think Mercyhurst will find a way to get all four points at home. Mercyhurst sweeps.

Army West Point at Niagara
Dan: I still think Niagara is a better team than their record would indicate, but they’re really fighting it lately. They haven’t won since December 11th at RIT, going 0-8-1 with only their tie against Canisius since then. These next two weekends might be their best opportunities to get some momentum before playing Mercyhurst, RIT, and Air Force. Niagara wins on Friday. Army West Point wins on Saturday.
Chris: I too think Niagara’s going to win one of these games, but I don’t know which. Since the Purple Eagles have yet to win on a Saturday, I’m going with Niagara on Friday and Army West Point on Saturday.

Holy Cross at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan:We’re all of a sudden looking at a logjam towards the top of the standings. With RMU off this week, a big weekend by either team can either tie or pass the Colonials and create a real battle for first place. The edge right now is with the Crusaders, who have a slightly better goals against average, so I’m taking the Crusaders. Don’t be shocked with a split, though. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers’ struggles in league play at home (3-5) vs. the road (9-0-1) is somewhat baffling. RIT coach Wayne Wilson has said the opposition gets a jump from the atmosphere at the Polisseni, and that may be the case. Fridays have been especially tough on the Tigers at home, so I’m taking Holy Cross on Friday and RIT on Saturday.

Three Things: Sweeps for the old guard

Sweeps for the old guard

When Air Force and Rochester Institute of Technology joined Atlantic Hockey in 2006, they immediately dominated, posting a combined five regular season titles and six tournament championships in six years.

And in this new age of parity where sweeps are rare, it was the old guard that came away with four points this past weekend. Air Force recorded a home sweep of Niagara (3-0 and 3-1), and RIT wrestled four points away from Sacred Heart at the Milford Ice Pavilion (3-1 and 5-3).

The Falcons dominated on Friday, outshooting Niagara 45-14. Saturday was a closer affair, with Niagara out-chancing Air Force 30-26 and holding the Falcons to a 1-1 tie until late in the third period.

Special teams was the difference in the RIT-Sacred Heart series, with the Tigers going three for four on the power play on Friday, and holding Sacred Heart to one for nine with the man advantage on Sunday. A wild second period saw the teams combine for four goals in a 2:43 stretch including one for each side just eight seconds apart.

Road, sweet road

The win by RIT on Sunday extended the Tigers’ unbeaten road conference streak to a school-record 10 games (9-0-1).

But RIT is just 3-5 at home in conference play and faces a tough challenge when it hosts Holy Cross this weekend. The Crusaders, coming off a tie and overtime loss to Canisius, trail RIT by a point for second place. The setback on Saturday was just the second conference home loss of the season for Holy Cross, which is 7-2-1 in league play at the Hart Center.

Battle won

It won’t affect the standings, but there was a big game played in Kingston, Ontario on Saturday.

Army West point retained the Challenge Cup, defeating their Canadian counterparts, the Royal Military Academy, 4-3. It was 80th meeting between the two schools and the fifth straight win in the series for the Black Knights.

Freshman Ian Mansfield scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the third period.

Because the game was officially an exhibition, neither goal will count in Mansfield’s official statistics. He has yet to record a point in 17 NCAA games, but that doesn’t take away from a big night up north for Mansfield and Army West Point.

The Black Knights return to league play this weekend, visiting Niagara.


Atlantic Hockey Picks, January 22-26

Last week:

Dan: 3-5-2
Chris: 5-3-2

On the season:

Dan: 86-54-13 (.605)
Chris: 97-43-13 (.676)


This Week’s Picks:

Friday, January 22 and Saturday, January 23
Niagara at Air Force
Dan: Niagara is a much better team than people give them credit for, but Air Force doesn’t lose at home. That’s kind of a trump card I can play every week. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: Niagara’s been outshooting its opponents with not much to show for it, and I expect more of the same in Colorado Springs against a Falcons team that’s been exceeding expectations. Air Force sweeps.

American International vs. Bentley
Dan: Bentley’s lone home win this year in conference came in a 1-0 goalie duel between Alex Murray and Gabe Antoni back in December. In that game, there were zero penalties and 63 shots. Hard to tell if we’ll get more of the same, but expect both teams to go hard this weekend – AIC is 0-3 since taking three points from Canisius and a sweep of Army West Point (ironically coming right after that Bentley game), while Bentley is 3-10-1 since sweeping RIT back in November. I think there’s going to be a palpable tension on both nights for these teams; they both need points. Bentley wins on Friday; AIC wins on Saturday.
Chris: The Falcons host on Friday and the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. I normally pick a split in these home-and-home series, and I think we’ll see desperate hockey between two teams that are struggling. But I like the Falcons to put together a pair of hard-fought wins. Bentley sweeps.

Canisius at Holy Cross
Dan: Canisius is coming a long way from to take on a team that’s firing on all cylinders. Having spoken with David Berard a couple of times this year, I don’t think he lets his team lose sight of what’s in front of them. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: I think if Holy Cross can avoid a letdown after two night of war last weekend against Robert Morris, the Crusaders will come through at home. Holy Cross sweeps.

Mercyhurst at Robert Morris
Dan: This is one of those weekends where I see kinds of signs pointing to an RMU sweep. That’s exactly when something weird happens, especially with a Mercyhurst team I’m still pretty high on. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “it’s a trap!” I’m going to party like it’s 2014 if RMU makes me eat my hat again. Robert Morris wins on Friday; Mercyhurst wins on Saturday.
Chris: I really want to pick Mercyhurst to win one of these games, but RMU is tough to pick against at this point. I think the Colonials will take at least three points, and I’m going with all four. Robert Morris sweeps.

Rochester Institute of Technology at Sacred Heart
Dan: I had a chance to really watch RIT last weekend when they came to Bentley. In a game of highs and lows, they do an amazing job of staying cool under pressure. Top to bottom, I’m starting to feel like they may be the most complete team in the league. Despite how much I’ve been heaping love on Sacred Heart this year, RIT sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers have finally got their offense in gear, and historically the Tigers have done well in Milford. I’m going with an RIT sweep.

Tuesday, January 26
American International at Princeton
Dan: The Princeton strategy is usually simple – sit back on defense, let goalie Colton Phinney do his thing, then capitalize when the other team opens the door. I’ve seen them a couple of times, and there’s something about that strategy I don’t feel is going to work against AIC. AIC wins.
Chris: AIC is struggling at the moment, and I don’t see the Yellow Jackets picking up a road win here. Princeton wins.

Sacred Heart at Connecticut
Dan: In-state rivalries are the best, especially when you have a team from Western Connecticut taking on a team most closely associated with Hartford. I really want to take Sacred Heart because I think this is a good matchup for them (and so I can use a Mets-Yankees analogy for Pioneer athletic director Bobby Valentine), but I’m going with the Huskies in this one. UConn wins.
Chris: Sacred Heart has done well lately against its cross-state rival and former league foe, but I think it’s time for the Huskies to come out on top. UConn wins.

Three Things: Shake, Rattle, and Roll

It never ceases to amaze me how a weekend of hockey can provide thrills, spills, and spine-tingling chills – and prove absolutely nothing.

The two best teams in Atlantic Hockey went toe-to-toe this weekend with Robert Morris and Holy Cross facing off at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. On Friday night, a track meet of a game featuring 64 shots and 11 penalties for 22 minutes produced a 5-4 result in favor of the Colonials.

Tied 3-3 after the second period, Brandon Denham scored to put RMU up 4-3 at the 7:45 mark, his 15th goal of the season. That lasted until Timmy Moore, who had the primary assist on the Denham goal, was called for boarding at 15:16. With three seconds left on the power play, TJ Moore tied the game.

But David Friedmann scored with 39.6 seconds left in the game to lift the Colonials.

That’s a great game. So what did they do for an encore? A 5-2 Holy Cross win featured 77 shots, 15 penalties for 30 minutes, two more power play goals. The Crusaders never trailed, opening up a 2-0 lead in the first period.

But RMU never went away. Holy Cross led 2-0, and Robert Morris made it 2-1. Holy Cross took a 3-1 lead in the second period, and the next goal was on a Colonial stick. Holy Cross finally took a 4-2 lead, and it took an empty net goal to salt the game away with about 1:45 left on the clock.

The top two teams in Atlantic Hockey played each other this weekend. Robert Morris entered the weekend with a two point lead. They exited the weekend with a two point lead. A weekend split solved absolutely nothing. But boy did it entertain.

Standings Shakedown

We entered the weekend with one team (RIT) in third place, three teams (Air Force, Sacred Heart, and Mercyhurst) tied for fourth one point behind them, and two teams (Bentley and Canisius) tied for seventh two points behind that group. We exit the weekend with a little bit of breathing room and a little bit clearer of a picture into next week.

Air Force used a three-point weekend at Army West Point to take sole possession of fourth after Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst split their series. And Canisius moved in front of Bentley by three points after the Golden Griffins edged rival Niagara with a win and tie of their own.

RIT’s sweep of Bentley allowed the Tigers to pull into the rearview mirror of the Crusaders and Colonials by virtue of the split at Holy Cross. Meanwhile, the Falcons fell into eighth place after coming up empty at home.

It never ceases to amaze me in this league how one point on one weekend can and will make a difference down the stretch.

Lost In The Shuffle? I don’t think so.

This weekend was a perfect storm of storylines.

Robert Morris-Holy Cross? Best two teams in the league.

Air Force-Army West Point? The only two games between the only two service academies with Division I hockey.

RIT-Bentley? Teams with a relatively even history, especially of late, creating a nice rivalry. Of course if you read us, it’s also a chance to have Chris Lerch and me go head-to-head.

Niagara-Canisius? Battle of the Bridge.

Sacred Heart-Mercyhurst? Two teams tied for fourth place battling a weekend of great hockey down in Connecticut.

This was the perfect weekend for Atlantic Hockey fans, an enjoyable weekend of hard-fought games. People always want to talk about Atlantic Hockey as a mid-major type of league, but that’s not the case at all. This was an ultra-competitive weekend of games, full of emotion. When it was over, in many ways, we had some answers to questions about what’s next. In many other ways, though, we’re just getting warmed up.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, January 14-16

Last week:

Dan: 6-4-1
Chris: 8-2-1

On the season:

Dan: 83-49-11 (.619)
Chris: 92-40-11 (.682)


This Week’s Picks:

Thursday, January 14 and Saturday, January 16
Niagara vs. Canisius
Dan: Few things beat good, clean hate. The Battle of the Bridge takes to the ice this weekend with Canisius hosting on Thursday and Niagara on Saturday. I hope the crowds get as up for this one as I am. Canisius wins at home on Thursday. Niagara on Saturday.
Chris: This is the first of two big rivalry series this weekend. Canisius hosts on Thursday with the second game scheduled for Saturday at Niagara. Both teams are on the verge of breaking out, with Canisius’ power play showing improvement and Niagara goaltender Jackson Teichroeb looking like he’s fully recovered from injury. So I’m calling for a split, with Canisius winning at HarborCenter on Thursday and Niagara coming through on home ice on Saturday.


Friday, January 15 and Saturday, January 16
Air Force at Army West Point
Dan: On Twitter this week, I deemed this America’s Game, which is a moniker used for Army-Navy in football. Because Navy doesn’t sponsor Division 1 hockey, this is one of those series that transcends the actual game being played. Guessing there’s going to be a great crowd on hand, and if you don’t get up for something like this, then you just don’t get it. At the end of the day, though, I’m picking Air Force in two really hard fought games. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: You can throw out the records and yadda yadda yadda. If we could pick ties, I might even predict two, but I’ve got a feeling Air Force is going to cure its road woes and come away with a sweep.

Robert Morris at Holy Cross
Dan: RMU looked like a team getting ready for a historic second half run last weekend, but Holy Cross is the league’s best team at home. I honestly think this series is going for a split, but I just can’t put my finger on where. I also think that little bit of home cooking gives the edge to the Crusaders, who can really put a hold on the league’s top slot with a big weekend. Count me among the believers, even if it means I have to pick against Robert Morris AGAIN. They’re going to split, but since I can’t figure out when, I’m going with the home team the whole way through. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: It doesn’t get much better than this: the top two teams in the conference squaring off in their only meeting this season. It’s going to be a classic battle between RMU’s potent offense and special teams, and Holy Cross’ defense, currently second in the conference. But on the flip side, the Crusaders can score goals and the Colonials have excellent goaltending , so it’s truly a clash of titans. Robert Morris looked scary good last weekend against Bentley, and I’m banking on that and more experience in big games to carry the Colonials. Robert Morris sweeps.

Rochester Institute of Technology at Bentley
Dan: A huge rivalry weekend in Atlantic Hockey this week. Air Force-Army. Canisius-Niagara. And the top teams in the league play each other. None of that matters, though, when you put RIT and Bentley in the same rink.

But seriously, I think Bentley gets off the schneid playing at home (FINALLY) in freezing temperatures. The ice surface will be a little bit faster and slicker, an edge I give to the Falcons, who absolutely need points to jump back into the driver’s seat for a race to a first round bye and will be playing angry after last weekend’s performance at RMU. I’m coming for you, Chris. Bentley sweeps and wins it for Rubin.
Chris: Can the college hockey universe handle Dan and myself in the same rink? Dan will have the radio call for Bentley and I’ll be doing the same for RIT. With that important note out of the way, which team’s going to come out on top? Bentley has to be motivated after getting shellacked by Robert Morris last weekend, and RIT has struggled with consistency, as well as the recent loss of starting goaltender Mike Rotolo to injury. For those reasons, I’m going with a Bentley sweep on home ice.

Sacred Heart at Mercyhurst
Dan: This is a great test for the Pioneers, a team currently tied for fourth with Mercyhurst. If they want to finish up top and challenge for quarterfinals home ice, they need to take care of business against one of the stalwart teams – on their ice. I don’t know if they can do it for two nights, but they can absolutely do it for one. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. Mercyhurst on Saturday.
Chris: The Lakers found a way to win a pair of games last weekend in which they were outshot handily. Sacred Heart looks to have righted the ship, undefeated in its last four games after an eight-game winless slump. There’s enough here to like about both teams to call for a split, and I’m going with Mercyhurst on Friday and Sacred Heart on Saturday.

Three things: A rare set of sweeps in Atlantic Hockey

A rare set of sweeps

Weekend sweeps have been hard to come by in Atlantic Hockey, as evidenced by the logjam in the standings.

“Sweep and you move up; get swept and you move down,” said Rochester Institute of Technology coach Wayne Wilson. “Split and it’s the status quo.”

This weekend saw three teams manage the feat of taking all four points:

  • Robert Morris swept Bentley 5-1 and 5-0 to move back into first place.
  • Air Force got all four points from American International to move up from a tie for sixth place to a tie for fourth.
  • Mercyhurst also moved from sixth to fourth by virtue of a pair of 3-2 wins over Niagara.

Sacred Heart took three points from Army, leaving just one split: Canisius and RIT each came out of their weekend series with two points, allowing the Tigers to maintain their hold on third place, while the Golden Griffins fell one spot in the standings, from sixth to seventh.

“As long as everybody else is splitting, you’re fine,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith said after the game on Saturday. “We got points every weekend, but we haven’t had a sweep yet. I think that’s why we’re in the middle of the pack with everybody else. I think every team in the middle is looking at that and saying, ‘Hey we can still move up,’ and I know that’s how we feel.”

Outshot but not outgunned

Shots on goal are often a good indicator on how well a team is playing. Generating a lot of offense, and keeping your opponent’s shot total low usually means there’s a good chance to come out on top.

Not always.

Other than Air Force, which dominated AIC both on the scoreboard and the shot counter, it was hard to predict the winner of games based on the number of shots on goal.

Six of the other eight league contests were won by the team with the lower number of shots. The most glaring disparity was in the Niagara-Mercyhurst series that saw the Purple Eagles handily outshoot Mercyhurst in both contests: 35-18 on Friday and 43-26 on Saturday.

The Lakers took both games, 3-2.

“This loss is a really tough one to handle,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder after Friday’s contest. “We dominated the shot totals and tilted the ice in our favor most of the night. We give up just 18 shots and lose. We hope our guys stay with the process, because that was a pretty good effort.”

Saturday was more of the same.

“We’re not scoring, we’re squeezing the sticks, but we’ve got to keep telling these guys that 88 shot attempts and 43 shots on goal is enough to win a game,” said Burkholder after the game. “That’s a factor, no question.”

Twice as nice

One of the keys to the success of Robert Morris in recent seasons has been the play of goaltending tandem Terry Shafer and Dalton Izyk. For all of last season and most of this one, they have alternated turns in net. Diverging from that plan often hasn’t worked out.

But Shafer played both games against Bentley this past weekend, allowing just one goal on 76 shots. That included Shafer’s seventh career shutout on Saturday, a new school record.

It’s an interesting development as the Colonials head to Holy Cross next weekend for a highly anticipated showdown with the Crusaders.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, January 8-10

Last week:

Dan: 8-4-1
Chris: 7-5-1

On the season:

Dan: 77-45-10 (.621)
Chris: 84-38-10 (.674)


This Week’s Picks:

Friday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10
American International at Air Force
Dan: Here are the following series Air Force has been swept at home since joining Atlantic Hockey: 2007 vs. Mercyhurst, 2009 vs. Canisius, 2015 vs. Robert Morris. As much as I love AIC, that’s a tall order to go up against. Air Force sweeps.
Chris:Air Force has taken points every weekend in league play, but is still looking for its first sweep. The Yellow Jackets are playing some of their best hockey of the season, going 3-1-1 in their last five. But I think Air Force will win the first game, as they usually have this season, and find a way to take the second game as well.  Air Force sweeps.

Niagara vs. Mercyhurst
Dan: I’m with Chris on this weekend. Both teams are better than their records indicate, and I think this will be a good weekend of games to watch. But I think Mercyhurst is a hair ahead of Niagara, which gets them the points. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: Both teams got swept last weekend in league play. Niagara is better than its record, and frankly so is Mercyhurst. The Lakers host on Friday, with Saturday’s contest at NU’s Dwyer Arena. I’m predicting a rebound for Mercyhurst and a sweep.

Canisius at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: I’m going to ride my RIT picks until they prove me (well, okay…my wife) wrong. Just for the record she won a March Madness basketball bracket challenge by picking teams from states she had visited or who had “cool mascots.” Maybe we’re doing this all wrong with the whole “analysis” thing. RIT sweeps.
Chris: RIT owned this series, which has seen either 80 or 67 meetings between the schools depending on which school you ask. But then Canisius got rolling and won four straight three years ago. But the Tigers have rebounded and gone 4-0-1 against the Golden Griffins including their last meeting in the 2015 AHC semifinals. This is the first visit to the Polisseni Center for Canisius, which, despite being the closest neighbor to RIT (about 70 miles), is the final AHC team to play there. I think RIT will pick up three points, but since we don’t pick ties I’ll go with a Tigers sweep.

Bentley at Robert Morris
Dan: This is my pick for series of the weekend. Prediction: it’ll be high energy, fast paced, and extremely competitive. I boil this series down to goaltending, which is as dead even as it’s going to get. But in the interest of being a “wicked homah” (and because I’m losing round to Chris), I’m taking the Falcons. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: This is the series of the weekend for sure between teams that are skilled up front and have great goaltending. I’m going with home ice as the difference. RMU sweeps.

Sacred Heart vs. Army West Point
Dan: This is one of those underrated matchups that could steal the show this weekend. Sacred Heart bounced back from their first half with a big sweep of Niagara last weekend, while Army returns to conference play after beating Merrimack and losing to UMass. I’m taking the home team in competitive, physical games. Army wins on Friday; Sacred Heart wins Saturday.
Chris:There have always been some elements of a rivalry between the schools – proximity and their games are often hard-fought affairs, including the first round of the playoffs last season that saw the Pioneers sweep in Milford. That’s the site of Saturday’s game, with the Black Knights hosting on Friday. I’m going with the home team. Black Knights win Friday; Pioneers win Saturday.

Sunday, January 10
Holy Cross at Dartmouth
Dan: It’s not officially recognized by the NCAA, but the six Ivy League schools sponsoring college hockey sill compete for an “Ivy title” within ECAC based on how they finish against one another. If Holy Cross wins on Saturday, they should be in the running for that title. Holy Cross wins.
Chris: This is a big game for the Crusaders, who moved into first place on Tuesday and are 21st in the Pairwise. They’ve beaten some other ECAC teams (Brown and Princeton) and a win would go a long way in keeping them within striking distance of an at-large NCAA bid. I think they’ll get it. Holy Cross wins.

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