Three things from Championship weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
Friday’s semifinals saw a total of 168 minutes of hockey with both games needing overtime to settle things.
The “early” semifinal between defending champion Canisius and regular season champ Mercyhurst went into double overtime before Golden Griffin defenseman Stephen Farrell’s shot from the point found the back of the net. The game took almost four hours to complete, starting at 4:05 p.m. and ending at 7:54.
The “late” (very late) semifinal between Robert Morris and Niagara didn’t get underway until 8:54 and ended exactly three hours later at 11:54 when Scott Jacklin of Robert Morris found himself alone at the far post with a deflected puck on his stick. He got enough of a shot off to win the game 14:56 into overtime, a few minutes before the stroke of midnight.
You had to wonder if fatigue wasn’t a factor in Saturday’s championship game, with each team allowing an uncharacteristic number of goals in the third period. Canisius scored three times in the third, and Robert Morris tallied a whopping five times in the final frame to come away with 7-4 win.
Canisius had allowed a total of five third-period goals in its previous 12 Atlantic Hockey playoff games dating back to last season.
“Wow, what a game,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “I think you saw from both teams what happens with the excitement of the NCAA tournament and the excitement of being the Atlantic Hockey champion.”
And, I suspect, the effects of playing four hours of hockey the day before.
“Once again, going into the third period we had a 2-1 lead and I wanted to lock it down,” said Robert Morris coach Schooley. “(I guess) that just meant outscore them.”
That third period on Saturday saw a total of eight goals scored including three sets of back-and-fourth goals by each team, scored less than a minute apart:
- Just a 1:16 into the period, Canisius’ Shane Conacher scored his sixth goal of the season to pull even with Robert Morris, 2-2. Fifteen seconds later, RMU regained the lead on a goal from Greg Gibson.
- After Robert Morris’ Matt Cope scored at 7:11 of the period to give the Colonials a 4-2 lead, Canisius forward Mitch McCrank pulled the Golden Griffins to within a goal at 10:27. But 39 seconds later, RMU’s David Friedmann scored to make it 5-3.
- Canisius again pulled to within a goal at 12:35, but again the Colonials answered, this time 29 seconds later when Gibson’s shot glanced off the glove of Canisius goaltender Tony Capiobianco and into the net.
Playoff MVP Cody Wydo would finish the scoring with his third goal of the game at 18:06.
“It was obviously a weird period of hockey,” said Canisius defenseman Chris Rumble. “Every time we got the edge and think we were about to make our comeback, they would turn around and do the exact same thing. Every time we thought we were up, we were right back down.”
Robert Morris’ reward for capturing its first Atlantic Hockey title is a first-round NCAA Tournament meeting with No. 1 seed Minnesota, in St. Paul no less.
Atlantic Hockey teams have won first-round matchups before: Air Force defeated Michigan in 2009, Rochester Institute beat Denver (and the next day New Hampshire) in 2010, and most famously, Holy Cross upset Minnesota in 2006.
Denver and Minnesota were the No. 1 ranked teams in the country (Michigan was ranked fourth), but all three AHA wins came on neutral ice. The Colonials will face the Gophers in their backyard: the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“(Minnesota) has a tremendous storied history,” said Schooley after Saturday’s win. “We’ve never played them. I imagine we’ll be playing against the whole state of Minnesota; the state of hockey.
“But we’re not going to worry about that now. We’re going to worry about celebrating a little bit.”
The other championship
Dan Rubin and I each predicted the results of 268 games involving Atlantic Hockey teams this season, and the title of picks champ went down to the wire, with me edging Dan by a mere seven games. The results:
- Chris: 162-83-23 (.647)
- Dan: 155-90-23 (.621)
Hopefully, we’ll square off again next season.