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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.

Three things: Float like a butterfly, sting like an AIC Yellow Jacket

Three things I think I think about this past weekend’s return to action for Atlantic Hockey:

How ’bout them Jackets?

The American International Yellow Jackets opened up the second half of the season in a big way, taking three points from the Canisius Golden Griffins. Dating back to the end of the first half of the year, that means AIC is all of a sudden one of the hottest teams in the league with a four game unbeaten stretch that’s moved them one point behind a three-way log jam for sixth place and two points behind fifth place Sacred Heart.

In their first game last weekend, the Yellow Jackets trailed 1-0 after Canisius got a goal from Ralph Cuddemi less than two minutes into the second period. But they scored two before the end of the frame, including a last-minute strike from Jackson Dudley, to take a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 33 Alex Murray saves later, AIC had already taken two points from the visitors from Buffalo.

The next night, it was more of the same, with Canisius getting an early first period goal; Jeff Murray scored his second of the year just 40 seconds into the first period. It stayed 1-0 throughout the length of the game from there until the first part of the third period. That’s when Bryant Christian knotted the game at 1-1. Murray registered another 37 saves, giving him 70 for the weekend, and the Yellow Jackets had their second straight weekend victory.

It’s still early, but we’re always looking for that breakout team in the second half of the year. Every year, we have no idea of figuring out who it is until it happens. With a Tuesday tilt against Holy Cross on the horizon, it could be the Yellow Jackets who all of a sudden make everyone start looking at their schedule a little bit differently. Then again, that leads us to those Crusaders who are angling for the role of AHC’s best team.

Crusaders rising

Holy Cross played exactly one game this past weekend, a non-conference win at home over the ECAC/Ivy League’s Princeton Tigers. The 4-3 victory probably went unnoticed by the majority of college hockey, who had larger series and tournaments from which to choose their viewing pleasure.

But the Crusaders win elevated them to the tops of Atlantic Hockey. Coupled with Robert Morris’ defeat against Dartmouth in the Ledyard Bank Classic, Holy Cross vaulted over the Colonials in the Pairwise Rankings to 23rd overall. Now the highest rated AHC team in the rankings, they’re now on the verge of becoming the standard bearer for the league.

While RMU remains arguably the most powerful and talented team in the league, Holy Cross is tied with them for first with 19 points as the two teams get back into league play this week. But the Crusaders have a game in hand, meaning their .731 win percentage is slightly better than the Colonials’ .679. In terms of overall records, Holy Cross’ 11-6-1 is one game better than RMU’s 11-6-3. Holy Cross finishes their non-conference slate this weekend at Dartmouth — the very same Big Green team that just beat the Colonials.

In no way is that disrespect to RMU, who I believe remains the team to beat in the league and the presumed favorite to win the whole kitten kaboodle. Holy Cross, however, was our preseason pick to finish ninth out of 11 teams. They’re also flying very much under the radar, receiving 27 less votes than RMU in the most recent USCHO poll. Sometimes it’s the quiet types that just seem to get you.

Get special

AHC teams scored 53 goals this past weekend, 11 of which came on the power play. The 11 for 81 clip by AHC teams averaged out to a 14 percent success rate — or right in line with what to expect from the first half of the year.

Exiting the weekend, AHC teams continue to score power plays at a 17.2 percent rate, but that’s a number skewed by Robert Morris’ ungodly 32% success rate. Removing the Colonials from the equation drops the league average to 15.6 percent, more in line with how the league performed this past weekend.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that special teams played a factor the other direction, with AHC teams scoring six goals on short-handed opportunities.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, January 2-5

Last week:

Dan: 1-1
Chris: 0-2

On the season:

Dan: 69-41-9 (.618)
Chris: 77-33-9 (.685)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Saturday, January 2 and Sunday, January 3
Robert Morris at Dartmouth
Robert Morris vs. Union/Merrimack
Dan: This is one of those weekends where RMU can’t necessarily gain space in the Pairwise, but they can definitely lose it if they’re not careful. I think they know what’s at stake, and that means they’re going into this weekend with a ball of fire. I recommend tuning into this weekend of games; I had the privilege of going to the Ledyard Bank Classic last year, and I regretted not bringing skis. It’s a great place to watch a game, as well. RMU beats Dartmouth, then beats either Union or Merrimack.
Chris: On paper, this tournament (Ledyard Bank Classic, hosted by Dartmouth) doesn’t have as strong a field as the Three Rivers Classic, which the Colonials won last weekend, defeating Penn State and Mass-Lowell. But just like last weekend, these are huge conference games for the Colonials, who jumped from 29th in the PairWise Rankings to 19th. I’m going to correct my past mistakes of picking against RMU, and going for a pair of wins, first against Dartmouth and then against either Union or Merrimack.

Bentley at Air Force
Dan: This is Bentley’s first trip to Air Force since November 29th and 30th, 2013. Believe it or not, though, you have to go back even further to find the last time Air Force defeated the Falcons – Pearl Harbor Day back in 2012. And if that doesn’t make your jaw hit the floor, consider this: Air Force hasn’t beaten Bentley at home since November 7, 2009. That’s not to say Air Force hasn’t beaten Bentley (they have, three times, in Watertown), but it creates more drama when you consider the cadets haven’t beaten a conference team at home for 2,247 days. I can’t pick a tie, so I’m going with history here. There’s something in that Colorado Springs water for Bentley, and the eastern Falcons will come home with more points. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: Can either set of Falcons come away with four points? I think Bentley has the best chance of doing so, but I also think Air Force will get a win on home ice. Air Force wins Saturday, Bentley on Sunday.

Canisius at American International
Dan: In my predictions for the second half, I talked about how one team is going to break open the second half of the season and make a hot run into the playoffs. These are two prime candidates. AIC wins on Saturday, Canisius wins on Sunday.
Chris: The Golden Griffins are coming off a nice home win over Robert Morris before Christmas, and the Yellow Jackets did one better, sweeping Army at home in their final games of 2015. I’m going with a a split here. AIC wins Saturday, Canisius on Sunday.

Niagara at Sacred Heart
Dan: For a team with a 3-11-2 record, Niagara has been fairly good at earning points in close hockey games; they’re 3-5 in one or two goal games, and they’re 3-2-1 when they’re leading or tied after two. That’s puts an emphasis on getting a hot start for Sacred Heart, a team that’s -16 in the second and third periods and is 0-5-1 when trailing after two. I think the break will do the Pioneers good, which is why I’m picking them to sweep at home. Pencil this one as your proverbial series of the weekend, though. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris: Niagara showed signs of life before the holiday break, splitting with Bentley and RIT. Sacred Heart is slumping, going 0-7-1 in its last eight games before the Holidays and hasn’t played since Dec. 5. But Niagara is winless on the road so far this season (and beginning a stretch where it will play seven of its next eight away from Dwyer Arena) and I think SHU will come out refocused and get at least three points. I’m going with a Sacred Heart sweep.

Mercyhurst vs. Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: Seeing as I had no idea how to pick this series, I wanted to flip a coin. Since I have no change in my house (it must be all on the floor of my car), I went to the next best thing – my wife. She takes RIT this weekend, so all of the Laker fans can direct their anger at her for picking against them. RIT sweeps.
Chris: RIT hosts Saturday afternoon and then the action moves to Erie, Pa. on Sunday. Both teams have been tough to pin down this season, but I have more confidence in the Lakers right now, who lead the Tigers by a single point in the standings (Mercyhurst is tied for third; RIT tied for fifth). I’m going with a Mercyhurst sweep.

Saturday, January 2
Massachusetts at Army West Point
Dan: Absolutely nothing says Happy New Year like a home game on the Hudson River in West Point, New York. UMass hasn’t won since November 7th, and their 4-0-1 and 6-2-1 start seems like a lifetime ago. Their 0-7-3 run since beating Connecticut doesn’t end at Tate Rink. Army West Point wins.
Chris:Like Robert Morris, Army is coming off a win against a ranked team, knocking off No. 20 Merrimack last Tuesday. I’m picking the Black Knights to keep it going on home ice. Army West Point wins.

Princeton at Holy Cross
Dan: I had the chance to see Princeton play earlier this year when they were at Brown; they’re a team that’s incredibly streaky but still better than advertised. That said, when I saw them, they have a tendency defensively to rely solely on Colton Phinney. I think that’s a good challenge for Holy Cross, a team that hasn’t lost since November 13th. In a defensive battle, I like the Crusader team defense more than the Tigers standout goalie. Holy Cross wins.
Chris: Holy Cross has been the surprise of the season so far in the AHC, and the Crusaders have played a tough non-conference schedule so far. The home ice advantage puts them over the top against a struggling Princeton team. Holy Cross wins.

Tuesday, January 5
Holy Cross at American International
Dan: If AIC has a good weekend against Canisius, this game will become a fantastic case study among the eastern teams. Holy Cross wins.
Chris: While an AIC win wouldn’t be shocking, I’m looking for the Crusaders to pick up a pair of road points here. Holy Cross wins.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, December 28-29

Last week:

Dan: 1-0
Chris: 1-0

On the season:

Dan: 68-40-9 (.620)
Chris: 77-31-9 (.697)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Monday, December 28 and Tuesday, December 29
Robert Morris vs. Penn State
Robert Morris vs. Mass-Lowell or Clarkson
Dan: This is kind of showdown time for the Colonials if they want to get into the national tournament. I don’t think we’re breaking new ground by saying they’re as must-win as humanly possible. For RMU, that road begins with them going straight through Penn State, their regional rival, in a game that’s fast becoming one of the more fun rivalries in college hockey.

I think RMU can beat Penn State, but I don’t think they’re beating UMass-Lowell in that championship game. Either way, if you’re an Atlantic Hockey fan, you should be pulling for this team. Summary: RMU beats Penn State, then loses to Lowell. If they wind up playing Clarkson in any capacity, they win.
Chris:These games, part of the Three Rivers Classic tournament, are huge for RMU if the Colonials, who currently sit in 29th place in the PairWise Rankings, are to have any chance at an at-large NCAA bid down the road. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Colonials upset cross-state rival Penn State, but I don’t think it will happen. I’m going with a win over Clarkson on Tuesday, ether in in the title or consolation game, but a loss if RMU matches up with Lowell. So to summarize, loss to Penn State and/or Lowell, win over Clarkson.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, December 20th

Last week:

Dan: 4-3-1
Chris: 2-5-1

On the season:

Dan: 67-40-9 (.616)
Chris: 76-31-9 (.694)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Saturday December 20
Canisius at Merrimack
Dan: Saturday’s game is the official kickoff to semester break for both institutions, with both schools having their final exam period end on the 18th. Canisius was a feast-or-famine team last weekend, receiving a 6-0 shutout to Robert Morris before turning around and laying some hurt on the Colonials, 6-2, on Sunday. Merrimack, meanwhile, has cooled since an incredibly hot start. After opening the season 6-1-2, the Warriors are 0-3-3. I think the Golden Griffins have a good chance to pick up a win here, which would be huge for the league as a whole. But since the AHC has been extremely poor in winning non-conference games, I just can’t pick anyone winning in good conscious right now. Merrimack wins.
Chris:I hope the Griffs got their Christmas shopping done early because they’re in action at a time most teams are already enjoying a holiday break. This is just one of only seven Division I games scheduled this weekend. Canisius is coming off a nice rebound win against first-place Robert Morris, and will face a ranked team for the third time this season. The teams met earlier this season at HarborCenter in Buffalo with the ten-No. 16 Warriors (they’re ranked 20th now) getting off to a 3-0 start and hanging on for a 3-2 win. I think this game might not play out that way, but will have a similar result. Merrimack wins.

Three Things: Something For Nothing

Before I recap this weekend, let’s start with a few statements:

1) It’s always great to get something for nothing.
2) You can never have too much of a good thing.
3) This is the season of giving.
4) This was the last chance we would have to receive something from Atlantic Hockey teams before the Christmas break.

In hockey terms, we all know how great it is to watch a tightly-played and packed game go into overtime. You really can never have enough exciting finishes, and since this is the last time Atlantic Hockey teams had a chance to give us something before the season lets go, they really pulled out all of the stops.

It’s not just that two series went to overtime on both nights; it’s that both treated us to weekends full of discussion points to last us well into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

We start with Army West Point and American International. The Black Knights and Yellow Jackets traded three goals and two leads over a two minute stretch in the final five minutes of the third period. Trailing 2-1, Army West Point’s Nick DeCenzo scored his fourth of the year at 14:46 to tie things up, and Joe Kozlak scored to a minute later to give the Black Knights a 3-2 lead. But AIC rallied at 16:50 on Jackson Dudley’s fifth goal of the year to send the game into overtime.

With less than a minute left in the extra frame, Austin Orszulak took the only shot on goal in the entire overtime period. It went in, giving the Yellow Jackets a 4-3 victory.

On Saturday, Army jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, only to have the Yellow Jackets tie it up in the second. With under seven minutes left in the third, Clint Carlisle gave the Black Knights a 2-1 lead. That set up an extra attacker goal by Trevor Cope to send the teams, once again, to overtime, where Marc Dubeau scored with under two minutes remaining to give AIC the sweep.

It was AIC’s first weekend sweep since a Halloween visit to Niagara last season, and it was their first four point weekend at the Olympia Ice Center since they defeated Bentley on February 5-6, 2010.*

*The majority of scheduling pod weekends in the years since AHC’s expansion have seen them play home-and-home weekends instead of true home weekends.

“Holy” Moly! What a weekend…

The other series to send both games to overtime involved longtime rivals Holy Cross and Bentley. Playing for the only two times this season, a see-saw weekend produced back-to-back memorable nights.

After Scott Pooley found the back of the net to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead on Friday, Bentley found themselves holding on through the end of the period. With about under five minutes left on the clock, Bentley drew a five minute major on a delayed call against Chris Buchanan. Facing a swirling and swarming Crusader power play, the Falcons held on through the end of the period and through the end of the man down to start the third.

Four minutes later, it was Buchanan who found the back of the net, avenging his penalty by tying the game at 1-1.

On Saturday, it was another instant classic. Bentley outshot Holy Cross 29-17 through the first two periods but didn’t solve goalie Paul Berrafato until 1:45 remained. That’s when Billy Eiserman beat Berrafato to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.

Then the Crusaders brought the wood in the third. They outshot the Falcons, 12-3, but it was an innocuous shot from Scott Pooley’s stick somewhere north of the faceoff circles that went by goalie Gabe Antoni to tie the game at 1-1.

In overtime, Holy Cross iced the puck, but the officiating staff chose to wave off the whistle. Bentley returned the favor but drew the call, bringing a faceoff to Antoni’s right. That’s where Mike Barrett scored his 10th goal of the season, giving the Crusaders a 2-1 victory. It was their only shot of the extra frame.

All in all, the teams combined for 64 shots on Friday with another 63 on Saturday, but both goaltenders (Berrafato for Holy Cross, Antoni for Bentley) stood on their heads. There were penalties, but neither team scored a power play goal. It was an emotional, physical, hard-fought weekend where everyone watching walked away wanting more.

Don’t Forget About Us!

Lost in the excitement of watching the eastern teams’ series, RIT and Niagara play a couple of fantastic hockey games in their own right. Scoreless through two periods in Friday’s game in Rochester, Dan Kolenda scored just under five minutes into the third. He added an empty net goal to give the Purple Eagles a 2-0 victory on Friday.

That led to Saturday. With Niagara up 2-1, Todd Skirving scored to tie the game with just under nine minutes remaining. On the play, Sam Rennaker delivered a crushing contact to the head penalty, resulting in a five minute major and his ejection from the game.

With Rennaker in the box, Erik Brown and Myles Powell added goals two minutes apart to put RIT up 4-2 by the end of the period, a score that would carry through to finality.

In total, the teams amassed 19 penalties for 49 minutes on Saturday, yet another emotional night in Atlantic Hockey, and hopefully, along with the rest of the weekend, a preview of coming attractions as the second half appears on the horizon in a couple of weeks.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, December 11-13th

Last week:

Dan: 4-6-0
Chris: 5-5-0

On the season:

Dan: 63-37-8 (.620)
Chris: 74-26-8 (.722)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Friday, December 11 and Saturday December 12
Army West Point at American International
Dan: When I talked with Brian Riley a couple of weeks ago, I felt the excitement he had for his team, knowing the season was about to turn the corner. It’s turned around in a big way, with Army winning three of their last four games. They head north to take on AIC this weekend, a team that can get hot with strong goaltending (Alex Murray is a dark horse for me to take over the second half of the season). I’m seeing Army hotter right now, so I’m going with a Black Knight sweep.
Chris:Army is riding the second-best unbeaten streak in the league at a modest four games (3-0-1), and I like them to extend it against the Yellow Jackets, who were shutout in their last two contests. I’m thinking one game will be close (the Black Knights have more than their fare share of those so far), and one won’t, but I’m going with an Army sweep.

Holy Cross at Bentley
Dan: If history proves anything, this series is going to be filled with physical play – lots of it. Last season averaged ten penalties per game between the two teams, and these games are always emotional. Bentley doesn’t make a return trip to Worcester this year, but that might not matter. The teams are 2-2-2 in the past three years at the JAR. Bentley wins on Friday. Holy Cross wins on Saturday.
Chris:While I wish the league had more intense rivalries, this one is up there. These games mark the 59th and 60th meeting between the schools. Holy Cross is the best team in the league right now, and Bentley could be if they can play up to their potential and get an injured Jayson Argue back. No word on that, but I think Bentley has enough to earn a split on home ice. I’m going with the Crusaders on Friday and the Falcons on Saturday.

Niagara vs. Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: Chris’ outline is a great example of how evenly played this series has been as of late. Since I’m not really sure who could win on what night, I’m going to toss a coin and let that be the deciding factor. Heads it’s RIT and tails it’s Niagara………. RIT sweeps.
Chris:Niagara used to own RIT, before and after they became conference mates. But a couple of down seasons for NU makes this series a tossup. I think RIT is the better team right now, but Niagara is dangerous at Dwyer Arena, where the Purple Eagles have tied Robert Morris and Penn State, took Cornell to overtime and split with Bentley last weekend. Friday’s game in Rochester should go the Tigers’ way, but I think NU reverses things on Saturday. RIT wins Friday; Niagara on Saturday.

Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13
Canisius vs. Robert Morris
Dan: I have a hard time believing either team could go into the semester break with a loss, so I’m going to pick a split here. As Chris notes, the home team is 11-2-1 since the Colonials joined Atlantic Hockey. Robert Morris on Saturday; Canisius wins on Sunday.
Chris:Robert Morris hosts on Saturday before the action shifts to Buffalo’s HarborCenter on Sunday. Both team are coming off road splits last weekend. The home team is 11-2-1 in this series since RMU joined Atlantic Hockey, and I’m going with history. Robert Morris wins Saturday; Canisius on Sunday.

Three things: Going streaking

Streaky

Without peeking, which two teams have the longest unbeaten streaks in Atlantic Hockey?

One is pretty easy: Holy Cross swept Mercyhurst in convincing fashion this past weekend, 5-4 and 7-3. The Crusaders never trailed on the weekend opening 3-0 and 5-0 leads on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Holy Cross, which got goals from 10 different players, has won five games in a row and moved into sole possession of second place in the standings, a point behind first-place Robert Morris with a game in hand.

The second-longest unbeaten streak in the conference? That one’s a little tougher. At a modest four games, is Army West Point. The Black Knights swept Sacred Heart, 4-2 on Friday at the Milford Ice Pavilion and 5-2 on Saturday at Tate Rink. They’re now 3-0-1 in their last four.

Friday’s game was the more dramatic of the two, with Black Knight sophomore Nick DeCenzo getting the game-winner with just 37 seconds to play.

On Saturday, Sacred Heart got out to a 2-0 lead before Army West Point rattled off five straight goals to earn the sweep.

The Black Knights travel to American International next weekend while Holy Cross visits Bentley to close out the 2016 portion of their schedule.

Speaking of streaks

A couple of other streaks came to an end on Saturday at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Gene Polisseni Center.

Robert Morris was unbeaten in six straight, including a 4-0 win at RIT the night before, while the Tigers hadn’t won since Nov. 6, a span of five games.

But the Tigers erased an early 2-1 deficit to defeat the first-place Colonials, 6-3.

Myles Powell scored the tying and game-winning goals, and RIT overcame a pair of tallies by the nation’s best power play to earn a split.

A good problem to have, but still a problem

On Friday, Robert Morris senior goaltender Terry Shafer made a triumphant return to his home town, blanking host RIT 4-0. Shafer made 37 saves to earn his fifth career shutdown, tying a school record shared by Eric Lavine ’13 and Shafer’s teammate Dalton Izyk, a junior.

RMU coach Derek Schooley has split time in net evenly between Shafer and Izyk, two of the top goaltenders in the conference.

So despite blanking the Tigers on Friday, Safer was on the bench on Saturday. Iyzk didn’t fare as well, allowing six goals.

Earlier in the season, it was Iyzk who was playing slightly better (the loss on Saturday was his first of the year), but Schooley continued to alternate his goaltenders. So it wasn’t surprising that now that Shafer is playing very well, the rotation stayed intact.

Keeping two quality goaltenders happy is a great problem to have, but it’s still a problem. It will be interesting to see how things play out the rest of the way.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, December 4-5th

Last week:

Dan: 7-3-1
Chris: 9-1-1

On the season:

Dan: 59-31-8 (.643)
Chris: 69-21-8 (.745)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Friday, December 4 and Saturday December 5
Canisius at Air Force
Dan: These are teams heading in opposite directions. Canisius has won only once since Halloween, and Air Force is 3-1-1 in their last five games. Couple that with a trip way out west, and I’m calling for the Falcons. Air Force sweeps.
Chris:Canisius is one of the few teams that’s had success in Colorado Springs (6-6-4 all-time there against the Falcons). They’re 5-5 against each other in the last ten games overall, so I’m thinking a split, with Air Force winning on Friday and Canisius on Saturday.

Mercyhurst at Holy Cross
Dan: This is a big series between teams starting to filter up to the top of the league standings. Tied for second place, a sweep for either team gives them a chance to catch Robert Morris. I don’t doubt a split here, but I think Mercyhurst has too proven of a track record to pick against them. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris:Despite the distance between the schools, this has become a nice rivalry based on frequent postseason meetings. Both teams are playing well right now, but I think the Lakers have a bit more firepower, so I’m going with a difficult Mercyhurst road sweep.

Bentley at Niagara
Dan: Bentley’s played much better in their last two games, including a 1-0 shutout against AIC on Tuesday. Gabe Antoni played great against the Yellow Jackets, which means Bentley has an advantage in net as long as Jayson Argue remains out of action. Bentley sweeps.
Chris:I’d pick a Bentley sweep in a heartbeat if the games were at the JAR, but I think the Falcons will have a tougher time in Lewiston. That said, Bentley earned a tough sweep at RIT two weeks ago, so why not again 90 more miles down the road? Bentley sweeps.

Robert Morris at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: I would love to see these teams meet again later in the season, perhaps even in the playoffs. But right now, I think RMU is a team that’s starting to hit some cruise control in a good way. They’ve hit cruising altitude and are playing some really great hockey in doing it. With momentum on their side, I don’t see them losing here. RMU sweeps.
Chris:This is the most intriguing matchup of the week. The Tigers have outplayed and outshot some good teams and still lost. But I don’t think RIT will be putting up dominant possession/shot numbers against the first-place Colonials. These are the only meetings this season between the schools, picked to finish first (RMU) and second (RIT) in the preseason coaches poll. RIT used a big win in the second game of this series in Rochester last season to catapult its way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers are hoping for the same kind of boost again, but I don’t think it will happen here. RMU sweeps.

Army West Point vs. Sacred Heart
Dan: Sacred Heart hasn’t won in nearly a month, going 0-5-1 in their last six games. I don’t think their play is indicative of that record, but they’re running into an Army team that’s starting to turn the corner as I predicted a couple of weeks back. I’m picking a split here with the home team winning each game. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. Army wins on Saturday.
Chris: The Pioneers host on Friday with the action shifting to Tate Rink on Saturday. I’m going with the predictable pick of the home team in each game. I’ve correctly picked an Army tie the last three weeks, but think that streak will stop here. Sacred Heart wins on Friday; Army on Saturday.

Three things: ANOTHER league logjam starting to form?

Every season, Atlantic Hockey has one of the most tightly-packed, logjammed races throughout the college hockey universe. There’s constant parity, and even though coaches say they want to play their best hockey in March, games in November inevitably shape the landscape. This season, there is once again little to no breakout from the early parts of the season. Teams with points in the standings will be dealing later on this year with teams making up games in hand.

With their weekend sweep of Sacred Heart, Robert Morris went from a one-point deficit to a three-point advantage for first place in the AHC standings. But Mercyhurst, who they passed, has two games in hand, which they’ll make up to start the January portion of the schedule. The Lakers also have a game in hand over Holy Cross, who swept Niagara at home. The Crusaders, though, have a game left to make up on the Colonials.

That’s the easy part.

Five points separate second place from eighth. Three teams have seven points and are tied for sixth, though all have played varying degrees of games. Even the bottom three teams are jammed, with Army West Point’s six points positioning them in ninth place but Niagara, in last place, holding four games in hand over them.

The bottom line is that this season isn’t warming up yet, but games played now are going to have a major impact when opponents start picking up ground and using up those games in hand.

Home cookin’

Thanksgiving weekend is always an interesting date for scheduling games. Teams needing to travel long distances typically are forced on the road on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) with games played at a time on campuses when students mass exodus facilities and dorms.

This year’s Thanksgiving home teams went 5-4-1 overall but went 4-1-1 in league play. Army West Point took three points on the road from Canisius, but the other home teams – Holy Cross and Robert Morris – held serve in their own barns. All matchups featured teams from the old scheduling pods traveling to a school that would’ve been in the other scheduling pod (i.e. “east-vs-west” matchups).

For those of you wondering about non-conference competition, Air Force split a home-and-home with Colorado College with the home team winning each game; Bentley lost at New Hampshire, and RIT lost at Boston College.

Brotherly love

This weekend, Bentley traveled up to Durham, N.H., to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats in their final nonconference game of the season. The Falcons played well against the Wildcats (outshot 47-15 at Boston University last Tuesday, Bentley was nearly even with UNH, outshot 37-34) and traded the lead back and forth in a wild affair at the Whittemore Center.

An underlying storyline came from a connection between the two schools; Bentley defenseman Billy Eiserman suited up against his brother, Shane, a forward for UNH. Billy helped start the scoring between the two teams, registering the primary assist on Derek Bacon’s game-opening goal at the 5:03 point of the first period.

But Shane got the last laugh, providing the first assist on Maxim Gaudreault’s game-winning goal in the third period of a 5-4 Wildcat victory. Billy had somewhat of a silver lining, having finished with a plus-1 rating compared to his brother’s even strength zero.

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