Three things from the past weekend in Atlantic Hockey (with apologies to the band Asia):
Atlantic Hockey received its first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last season, but it was clear by December that it wasn’t going to happen this time around. Despite some high-profile upsets, the league’s non-conference record wasn’t strong and no team put together enough wins to merit a spot in the upper echelons of the PairWise.
It means that, as they say, there can be only one team to advance to the NCAA tournament. We’re down to four:
No. 7 seed Canisius vs. No. 1 seed Mercyhurst
No. 6 seed Niagara vs. No. 5 seed Robert Morris
This is the lowest set of seeds to advance to the championship weekend in league history.
Prior to last year’s playoffs, 28 of 29 best-of-three playoff series in league history had been won by the home team. Last season, Canisius and Mercyhurst both advanced by defeating higher seeded teams in the quarterfinals.
This season, an unprecedented three road teams won quarterfinal series.
The semifinal matchups feature a game between two of the original members of Atlantic Hockey/MAAC as well as a contest featuring a pair of teams that moved to the AHA from College Hockey America together.
Heat of the moment
In hockey, things can literally change in a moment – Friday’s quarterfinal games between Holy Cross and Mercyhurst as well as Canisius and Bentley are prime examples. Both games on Friday went to overtime and both ended at literally the same moment – at 9:34 Eastern Time.
In Erie, Pa., Mercyhurst’s Kyle Cook scored the game winner 4:40 into overtime to defeat Holy Cross in Game One of their quarterfinal series.
At almost the same moment 500 miles away in Watertown Mass., Bentley’s Brett Switzer delivered the GWG 40 seconds into overtime in a 4-3 Game One victory over Canisius.
There was another similarity between the two games. Both winning teams scored an extra-attacker goal to tie things up with less than a minute to play in regulation. Bentley drew even on a Brent Gensler goal with 23 seconds left; Mercyhurst’s tying goal came from Daniel O’Donoghue with 27 ticks to go in regulation.
Mercyhurst would go on to sweep Holy Cross, while Bentley, despite leading Canisius 4-1 in the third period of Game Two, would fall to the Griffs 5-4 in another overtime (this time double overtime) on Saturday and 3-2 on Sunday, which surprisingly ended in regulation.
(Over)Time Will Tell
The Bentley-Canisius series was a classic, with those two overtime games as well as the deciding game going down to the wire.
In all, four of the ten quarterfinal games played this past weekend went to overtime, including the third and deciding game between Niagara and Air Force. Eight of those ten contests were one-goal games.
If championship weekend can come close to matching the dramatics of the past two playoff rounds, fans are in for a treat.