Three things from Atlantic Hockey play this weekend:
Never say never
Friday’s games featured a pair of wild comebacks. At Bentley, the Falcons found themselves down 5-1 to Sacred Heart early in the third period, but rattled off five straight goals in a span of less than ten minutes to take a 6-5 lead. Then it was the Pioneers’ turn to rally, getting a goal from Jared Eng with 2:58 to play to earn a 6-6 tie.
For both teams, it had to feel like a loss. Sacred Heart blew a four goal lead, and Bentley had all the momentum and the lead late in the contest. But the Pioneers built on the tie with a 3-1 win over the Falcons on Saturday, and are now unbeaten in their last three games after managing just two ties in their first 28 contests (0-26-2).
At American International, the host Yellow Jackets had a 4-0 lead over Holy Cross after the first period, and it was 4-1 going into the third stanza before the Crusaders were able score three times in the final 15 minutes and get the tie. Holy Cross defeated AIC the next night, 4-1.
This we know
We’ll go into more detail in Thursday’s column, but here’s what was decided this past weekend:
- Niagara has clinched the regular season title (this actually happened the weekend before last).
- Air Force, on the virtue of a split with Rochester Institute of Technology, has earned the second of four first-round byes.
- That leaves two first round byes left, and UConn, Holy Cross, Robert Morris, Mercyhurst and RIT are all still in the running. Bentley, Army, AIC and Sacred Heart will be playing in the first round, with the Pioneers on the road for certain.
- If they do not get the bye, UConn, Holy Cross, Robert Morris and Mercyhurst have guaranteed themselves home ice in the first round of the playoffs. That leaves RIT, Bentley, Army and AIC still in the running for the last two home ice spots. The loser of the Army vs. AIC game on Tuesday will be out. A tie keeps them both alive. RIT needs a single point against Canisius this weekend to lock up home ice.
Who’s got the PWR
Niagara’s sweep of Mercyhurst moved it up to eighth in the USCHO.com PairWise Rankings. A sweep of Air Force next weekend would almost guarantee the Purple Eagles an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
Robert Morris swept Canisius and has moved up to 17th, and Holy Cross entered the PWR as a Team Under Consideration (TUC). These events are linked because record against TUCs is one of the PWR criteria, and Robert Morris has one of the better records (5-3-2) against TUCs.
We’ll go into more detail on Thursday, when we’ll also be able to factor in the results of the two remaining make-up games: Sacred Heart at Holy Cross on Monday and Army at AIC on Tuesday. After those games are in the books, all 12 teams have two remaining games left heading into the final weekend in what should be another photo finish.
EDIT: About an hour after I posted this on Sunday night, the Penn State-Wisconsin game went final. Penn’s State’s loss dropped Holy Cross’ RPI below .500, removing it from the list of TUCs (ah, the acronyms). Since you need ten games against TUCs for them to figure in the PWR (you with me?) Holy Cross was a double whammy for Robert Morris, because now that Crusaders are for at least the moment no longer a TUC, Robert Morris doesn’t have the ten games it needs against TUCs and so the whole criteria is thrown out.
As a result, the Colonials fell from an on-the-doorstep No. 17 ranking to not-a-chance-in-heck 25th. Because of one game! (Possibly two if Merrimack-Boston College though a six-degrees of hockey separation, also had some influence.)
I’ll wager that never before has a pair of Monday night hockey games that didn’t involve Robert Morris have such an effect on coach Derek Schooley’s squad. Penn State will again challenge Wisconsin, and Holy Cross is traveling to Sacred Heart. If things go the right way, RMU is back in business.
Thanks to Ed Trefzger for keeping an eye on the PWR.