Despite a poor start to the season, the Black Knights have tied RIT and Robert Morris this month.
On the season:
Dan: 17-9-2 (.643)
Chris: 19-7-2 (.714)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24
Holy Cross at Canisius
Dan: This early in the season, I think neither team is going to be where they may be at the end of the year. In other news, I can give Barry Melrose a run for stating the obvious. Normally, I would say to ride the hotter goalie at this point, but I still can’t really tell who that is. When in doubt, pick the home team. Canisius sweeps.
Chris:I think these will be close games, and my gut tells me Canisius comes away with three points, but since we don’t pick ties, I’m going with a Canisius sweep.
Army West Point at Mercyhurst
Dan: After getting swept a week ago against Michigan, I think the march to 500 continues with two more W’s for Rick Gotkin this weekend. This is shaping up nicely to possibly have him clinch that number at home in a couple of weeks against Air Force. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: This series has the added fun factor of Mercyhurst forward Jack Riley going up against his dad’s team. He played well in series last year and I think will have bragging rights again. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Robert Morris at Niagara
Dan: It doesn’t seem to matter when these old CHA rivals meet; it’s always a toss-up. I don’t have a good feeling that either team is going to sweep, but since I’m not sure which night it will happen, I’m going to sit back and take Robert Morris, who won and tied last week, over Niagara, who was off after playing Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Robert Morris sweeps.
Chris: This will be a good yardstick of how much (or little) has changed has for these teams, which finished first (RMU) and last (Niagara) in the standings last season. While Niagara should be better, I don’t think enough to change the balance of power. Robert Morris sweeps.
Rochester Institute of Technology vs. Colgate
Dan: RIT nearly defeated #10 Bowling Green last week at Blue Cross Arena. This week, they’ll play a home-and-home with a Colgate squad that played very inconsistently against Mercyhurst, then lost to Northeastern. I don’t think Colgate will be swept, so I’m going to pick the home team in each game. Colgate wins on Friday. RIT wins on Saturday.
Chris: Both teams have had their ups and downs already this season. I’m going with the safe pick of the home team each night. Colgate wins Friday; RIT wins Saturday.
American International at Penn State
Dan: AIC played better last week than scores would indicate; they led Fairbanks after the first period, 2-0, and they played Anchorage to a 3-2 game in the second and third period. Unfortunately, though, one period of bad hockey can deep six two periods of good hockey. I think they give Penn State a good run, but I think it’s the Nittany Lions with a sweep in Hockey Valley. Penn State sweeps.
Chris: Penn State is tough to beat at home, and can outgun Austin Orzulak and the Yellow Jackets. Penn State sweeps.
Air Force at Nebraska-Omaha
Dan: After watching Air Force dominate Denver a couple of weeks ago, can you pick Omaha to sweep this series with ease? I won’t. But you don’t get to be the #2 team in the nation by accident, no matter how early it is in the year. Omaha sweeps.
Chris: The Falcons would like nothing better than to ruin the party in Omaha, which opens its new Baxter Arena this weekend. But I think the second ranked Mavericks will prevail in their new barn. UNO sweeps.
Tuesday, October 27
Sacred Heart at American International
Dan: Sacred Heart showed some grit and tenacity last week, rebounding from a 5-2 loss to UMass to pummel Arizona State back to the Valley of the Sun. I’m taking them in a midweek conference game against the Yellow Jackets. Sacred Heart wins.
Chris: I think Sacred Heart is on the upswing, and will be rested coming off a bye weekend while AIC is in Happy Valley. I’m going with a Pioneers win.
A look back at three observations from this past weekend in the world of Atlantic Hockey:
Falcons fly high in sweep of Hockey East’s Huskies
At the end of the first period on Friday night, Hockey East’s Northeastern Huskies had bombed and blitzed Bentley goalie Jayson Argue to the tune of 20 shots. The Huskies went into the locker room after holding possession for nearly 70 percent of the period, outshooting the Falcons 20-2.
But the Falcons led, 1-0. Crazy, right?
It began a theme of the weekend, one where Northeastern’s offense threw everything — including the proverbial kitchen sink — on the Bentley net but simply couldn’t score. During Friday night’s game at Matthews Arena, the Huskies outshot the Falcons 51-11, but they trailed by as many as three (3-0) in the third period thanks to an Andrew Gladiuk hat trick. After Northeastern clawed back within one, Argue slammed the door shut to preserve a 3-2 Falcons win.
Then came Saturday in front of a sold-out home crowd, the first of its kind in Bentley program history.
Bentley scored 1:13 into the first period, then again five minutes later. They built a 3-0 lead after two when Gladiuk scored on the power play, then pushed it to 4-0 early in the third when Kyle Schmidt scored on a great individual effort. Northeastern got one back, but Argue against kept a lid on things with 40 more saves. Bentley 4. Northeastern 1. It was a better all-around effort with the Bentley defense, who blocked 17 shots in the process of the victory.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of synergy (on Friday night); he just saved a lot of second, third, and fourth chance opportunities,” said Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist of Argue. “But I will credit our D corps tonight for saving a lot of those second and third chance opportunities. (Argue) did a great job tonight picking up the first chance, and the defense did a good job of cleaning up the second and third chance. If we can play like that over the season, we’ll be pretty successful.”
Good thing it’s October cuz that’s a whole lotta orange
This weekend’s slate featured two sell-outs, one at Bentley’s JAR and the second as part of the Brick City Classic at RIT. With more than 10,000 fans looking on at Blue Cross Arena, RIT built a 2-0 lead on the back of two Todd Skirving goals scored a minute apart at five and six minutes into the first period. Bowling Green retaliated with a goal of their own a minute after Skirving’s second before the game settled into a 50-minute, one-goal grind.
With about three minutes remaining, Kevin Dufour scored for Bowling Green, tying the game and allowing them to escape Blue Cross Arena with a 2-2 tie. But it was a good confidence builder for the Tigers, allowing the team to “have some belief in ourselves,” according to head coach Wayne Wilson after the game.
All for one, one for all
A running tally Chris and I are keeping all season is Atlantic Hockey’s performance against outside conference competition. The league scored three wins against non-conference opponents this weekend thanks to Bentley’s sweep of Northeastern and Sacred Heart’s 3-0 victory over Arizona State.
That’s still not great for AHC fans. The league is essentially on the same pace it was a year ago. After three weekends last season, AHC schools were 5-19. This year, through roughly the same amount of games (but in one week’s shorter time), the league has the exact same amount of wins. That means there’s work left to do if they intend to work towards that all-important second NCAA berth in this spring’s tournament.
On the season:
Dan: 10-5-1 (.656)
Chris: 11-4-1 (.719)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17
Air Force at Robert Morris
Dan: When talking with USCHO Live this week, I talked about how RMU is a team considered “old and deep.” They’re going to be bigger, stronger, and more experienced. I’m taking RMU this weekend. RMU sweeps.
Chris: The all-time series is 13-12-1 in favor of Air Force, and the games are usually close as well. This is a match-up of experience (RMU) vs. youth (AFA) and I like the Colonials to get some wins on home ice. RMU sweeps.
Bentley vs. Northeastern
Dan: Bentley already sold out the JAR for Saturday’s game, meaning folks may be turned away at the door if they attempt to come buy at the door. In that building, 400 people can feel like 4,000. I’m not sure what 1,200 raging Falcons can do, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Northeastern wins on Friday; Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris: Northeastern hosts on Friday, and Bentley on Saturday, which means the JAR will be rocking. The Huskies have never played at the John A. Ryan Skating Arena, and, despite being located only nine miles apart, these are just the fifth and sixth meetings between the schools. I’m going with the home team each night. Northeastern wins Friday; Bentley Saturday.
Friday, October 16
Bowling Green at Canisius
Dan: I once had a marketing professor in college who went to Bowling Green. No way I’m picking against them since I’m pretty sure I still owe him some credit hours. Bowling Green wins.
Chris: Four AHC teams take on ranked opponents this weekend, including No. 10 BGSU visiting Canisius and Rochester Institute of Technology. Hey, more games against teams named “Falcons”! I think this version leaves HarborCenter happy. Bowling Green wins.
Holy Cross at Providence
Dan: Holy Cross is going to play this game tough, but this isn’t a game Providence is really intending on losing. Though I guess you could say no team actually enters a game expecting to lose, right? Providence wins.
Chris: I expect another good effort by the Crusaders, but you have to like the defending national champs at home. Providence wins.
Mercyhurst at Michigan
Dan: I’m bought on Mercyhurst this week, and although I think they’re developing as a young team quickly, I can’t pick a tie and I just can’t see Michigan outright losing. Michigan wins.
Chris: Mercyhurst is off to an impressive start, and a young, confident team like the Lakers can certainly pull off an upset of the No. 11 Wolverines. But I’m playing it safe on this one. Michigan wins.
Sacred Heart at Massachusetts
Dan: Coming off their tie against Sacred Heart, the Pioneers very easily could go in and win this game. As a strong team, this is a game they’ll win and start making more waves. Sacred Heart wins.
Chris: SHU had an impressive tie at Union to open the season, and I like them to beat the Minutemen, who are coming off a road sweep of Colorado College. Sacred Heart wins.
American International at Alaska
Dan: Maybe it’s just me, but I really think AIC has a good chance to go up to Fairbanks and knock off at least one team. Unfortunately, I think the host team is just a little bit too strong. The Nanooks, by the way, have historically had the greatest intros in college hockey, so if you’re going to attend, get there early. Alaska wins.
Chris: The Yellow Jackets travel way up north for the Alaska Goal Rush Tournament where they’ll face the host Nanooks as well as Alaksa-Anchorage (Rensselaer is the fourth team in the tournament). Alaska was knocked off by Arizona State last weekend, and I don’t think the Nanooks will be taking AIC lightly. Alaska wins.
Saturday, October 17
Bowling Green at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: The Brick City Classic is RIT’s version of Homecoming, and it’s one of those things you have to experience once in your life. I say that even though virtually every possible event in my life conspires to keep me from visiting Rochester. RIT wins.
Chris: Give RIT credit – the Tigers don’t schedule cupcakes for their annual Brick City game in downtown Rochester. RIT has faced Boston College, Michigan and Penn State the past three seasons, losing each time. But despite the Faclons’ No. 10 ranking, I think this will be the year the Tigers send ten thousand people home happy. RIT wins.
Arizona State at Sacred Heart
Dan: I love everything about this game. Sacred Heart is playing Arizona State, which automatically makes this special. It’s for a great cause, which we’ve outlined a couple of times. The Pioneers are playing in Danbury, a beautiful building out on Connecticut’s western border. It has the potential to get very loud and be a great showing for the host team. SHU wins.
Chris: This game will be played in Danbury, in the second annual charity game in honor of Jason Pagni, a big contributor to hockey in Connecticut. Last year, the Pioneers took down UConn. I like their chances against the newest Division I program. SHU wins.
American International vs. Alaska-Anchorage
Dan: Remember when I said I thought AIC could go to the Great White North and pick up a win? That’s exactly what I’m going with. You know what’s great though? The temperature in Fairbanks is going to be in the 20s at night; that’s how cold it’ll be in Springfield back home for the Yellow Jackets. AIC wins.
Chris: I expect a close contest against a team that struggled in the WCHA last season, but think AIC comes back from Alaska winless. Alaska-Anchorage wins.
Three things from this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
Air Force and Mercyhurst, teams with large batches of newcomers and therefore expected to take a while to gel, look very much ahead of schedule.
The Mercyhurst Lakers, who split with No. 20 Colgate to kick off the college hockey season last weekend, opened Atlantic Hockey conference play with an impressive road sweep of Bentley.
The games were a rematch of last season’s wild quarterfinal series won my Mercyhurst in three games. This time out, Mercyhurst swept a regular season series at Bentley for the first time since 2006, thanks in part to freshmen.
Rookies accounted for five of the six Laker goals in the series, including three by frosh Taylor Best. Best already has four goals on the young season.
Rookies also played a huge role in Air Force’s 5-4 overtime upset of No. 5 Denver on Friday.
Kyle Haak registered a pair of goals in his first collegiate game to pace the Falcons, who had five rookies in all contribute seven points in the contest.
Freshman goalie Billy Christopoulos made 28 saves for his first collegiate win.
Denver earned the split with a 3-1 win on Saturday.
Big wins, more losses
Atlantic Hockey teams have scored two wins against ranked teams so far. Besides Air Force’s win over fifth-ranked Denver on Friday, Mercyhurst topped No. 20 Colgate in a wild, 9-7 affair on Oct. 3.
But for the most part, AHC teams haven’t fared well in non-conference games. The league is 2-11-1 so far against non-league opposition.
It was hoped that things would look up thanks to more non-conference home games on the schedule, and so far six of the 14 non-league games have been held in AHC buildings. Atlantic Hockey went 2-4 in their own buildings vs. 0-7-1 on the road.
On the season:
Dan: 1-1 (.500)
Chris: 1-1 (.500)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10
Mercyhurst at Bentley
Dan: As much as Ryan Soderquist talked about Bentley putting the past behind them, the Falcons have to open the season in the exact same way their playoff run ended – at home against Mercyhurst. In the interest of starting anew, though, I’m going with the host Falcons, who open the year with more returning chemistry and an identity more intact than the visiting Lakers. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: In the first conference series of the season, Mercyhurst returns to the scene of the crime, where they stole a quarterfinal series win over the favored Falcons. The Lakers are coming off a wild split against Colgate, and but I think Bentley will be very motivated to get four points. Bentley sweeps.
Quinnipiac vs. Holy Cross
Dan: Quinnipiac built the prototype of an ECAC powerhouse, posting 20-win seasons every year since 2011-2012. That’s a tall order for the Crusaders, who are opening the season at home for the second straight year. Quinnipiac sweeps.
Chris: Holy Cross hosts on Friday; Quinnipiac on Saturday. Holy Cross begins the post-Matt Ginn era, and it may take a while to adjust to that. Quinnipiac sweeps.
Denver vs. Air Force
Dan: If the preseason prognostications are correct, Denver fans are in for another solid season. They bring back a bulk of their offense, a unit that can really fly. That’s going to be a problem for Air Force’s youth, which will need to mature quickly if it wants to pick up victories. Denver sweeps.
Chris: Air Force coach Frank Serratore referred to No. 5 Denver (where he used to coach) as “The Evil Empire.” They usually have their way with the Falcons, and this pair of games to open a rebuilding year at Air Force, will be an uphill battle. Denver sweeps.
Friday, October 9
Boston College at Army West Point
Dan: This is a return match from when Army traveled to BC two seasons ago and lost at Conte Forum, 11-0. BC is the preseason #1 team in the nation with a group of ultra-talented freshmen, solid defenders, and a goaltender who may be the best in the nation. Army will be improved, but this is going to be a really tough draw. BC wins.
Chris: What a great way for the Black Knights to kick off their season, squaring off against the preseason No. 1. I think things will be close for a period or two, but ultimately go the Eagles’ way. BC wins
Rochester Institute of Technology at Clarkson
Dan: A technology school meets an engineering school. I haven’t decided if I want to bust out my abacus to figure out who wins this one. RIT wins.
Chris: I think RIT may be the better team, but Clarkson has had so much success against the Tigers (9-0-2 in the last 11 meetings) and Atlantic Hockey in general (7-0-1 the past two seasons) that they’ll be a confident bunch, especially on home ice. Clarkson wins.
Niagara at St. Lawrence
Dan: Maybe it’s because I’m from Boston and don’t get out much, but I thought these schools were closer together than they are. The road trip from Niagara to St. Lawrence would take you from my hometown to Philadelphia. The Purps’ gift when they get to Canton? A team that won 20 games last year. SLU wins.
Chris: St. Lawrence was a surprise last season but they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. I like them to get off to a good start on home ice. SLU wins.
Sacred Heart at Union
Dan: This is a fantastic first test for the Pioneers, widely regarded as a team truly ready to start making the jump. They take on a Union team needing to replace its leading scorer and its starting goaltender. I’m going out on a limb and taking SHU to shock the Dutch. SHU wins.
Chris: I’m intrigued to see how Sacred Heart opens what could be a breakout season. They have knocked off some good teams in the past, but I think they come up short on the road. Union wins.
Saturday, October 10
Penn State at Canisius
Dan: Canisius seems to find ways to always be competitive in league play, but they’ve struggled to win non-conference games. The Griffs only won one game each year for the past three seasons. Penn State wins.
Chris:This is another example how a combination of a nice new arena (Harborcenter) and the Big Ten’s need for nonconference games translate into a quality game in an AHC barn. Unfortunately I think the home ice advantage won’t be enough in this case. Penn State wins.
Niagara at Clarkson
Dan: After falling to SLU a night ago, I think Niagara feels things out with some changes for the second night. I think they’ll be competitive, but I’m still taking the Knights. Clarkson wins.
Chris: Like Dan, I think this will be a close game, but in the end, the Golden Knights will find a way to pull out a victory. Clarkson wins.
Rochester Institute of Technology at St. Lawrence
Dan: After picking up a win over Clarkson the night before, I think RIT keeps it close but ultimate can’t take a weekend sweep of the North Country. SLU wins.
Chris: The Tigers defeated the Saints last season in the opening game at RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center. Different venue and a different result this time. SLU wins.
American International at New Hampshire
Dan: UNH was a very good team once they figured out their goaltending situation last year. Daniel Tirone finished the year with a 2.14 GAA and .924 save percentage. That’s bad news for the Yellow Jackets. UNH wins.
Chris: UNH is heavily favored in this one, and I think things will go according to expectations. UNH wins.
Are you ready?
There’s real college hockey this weekend, as Mercyhurst has the honor of playing in the first NCAA game(s) of the season, hosting No. 20 Colgate on Saturday and Sunday.
Look for the complete Atlantic Hockey season preview on Sunday, but to start things off, here are Dan Rubin’s and Chris Lerch’s predictions for opening weekend. Besides the Lakers and Raiders, there are a handful of exhibition contests as well, but Dan and Chris open their picks battle with just the pair of official games.
Dan: 134-81-27 (.610)
Chris: 137-76-27 (.627)
Chris edged Dan for bragging rights, but just like every team out there right now, they’re both undefeated.
This Week’s Picks
Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4
Colgate at Mercyhurst
Dan: The AHC needs to be better this year about winning non-conference games. Unfortunately, Mercyhurst’s first two draws are against a Colgate team that won 20-plus games last year and came within a game of winning ECAC. Even though the games are in Erie, Colgate sweeps.
Chris: This is a tough way to open your season, against a Top-20 opponent and with as many as 11 freshmen in the lineup. Colgate sweeps.
Remember to check back on Sunday for the 2015-16 Atlantic Hockey Season Preview.
For the season:
Dan: 134-81-27 (.610)
Chris: 137-76-27 (.627)
And the winner is:
Chris made RIT fans happy by picking against the Tigers the final weekend, and they again proved him wrong. But he held on for the season victory against Dan by a mere 3.5 games. We didn’t pick the same number of games because of the best-of-three quarterfinal format, but it was a total of 240 games picked by Chris and 242 by Dan. And we both picked better than six out 10 games correctly over the course of the season.
In 2013-2014, Chris defeated Dan by seven games, so he’s closing the gap. It’s been fun and we’ll do it again next season.
And while not an official pick, Chris is taking Minnesota State over the Tigers in South Bend. That should satisfy the RIT faithful.
Good luck to everyone in their Pick’em prognostications.
Three things from Championship weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
One and done
For the third consecutive season, the top seed went down in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament. This time it was defending champion Robert Morris, who put 62 shots on net against Mercyhurst in 63 minutes of play, but fell to the Lakers, 4-3 in overtime.
Freshman goaltender Brandon Wildung made a whopping 59 saves for the win. The Lakers opened a 2-0 early lead, but after that the Colonials took charge and seemed to have the game in hand until Mercyhurst’s Chris Bodo scored an extra-attacker goal with 34 seconds left in regulation. Then after Wildung made several big saves early in overtime, Zac Frischmon cruised into the Colonials’ zone and beat RMU goalie Danton Izyk for the game-winner at 3:04 of OT.
That meant another early ticket home for the top seed. In 2013 Niagara finished first but lost in the semifinals, although the Purple Eagles managed an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, the first and only time that has happened to an AHC team. In 2014, regular season champs Mercyhurst failed to make the title game.
“We were in this situation last year, so we know how it feels,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “I wish their was some way to get Robert Morris into the tournament because they’re a great team.”
One and only
The only AHC to make the NCAA tournament this season is Rochester Institute of Technology, which was at Blue Cross Arena for the first time since 2012 and won it all for the first time since 2010.
RIT brought its fans with it for the seven mile trip from its campus to downtown Rochester, and the Corner Crew and company came away happy, cheering the Tigers on to a 2-1 win over Canisius in the semifinals and a 5-1 victory against Mercyhurst in the championship game.
RIT will try to recapture some of the magic that saw Wayne Wilson’s team advance to the Frozen Four in 2010. But the ten other AHC teams will be watching on TV, because the league’s poor non-conference showing put all of its members well below the PairWise ranking threshold for an at-large berth.
“Our league for the most part, with the exception of one year, only one team is going.” said Wilson.
“Robert Morris has had an outstanding year. They would be very deserving in going on to the NCAA but the PairWise doesn’t work out that way for them.”
The Tigers are the No.16 seed and will face top seed Minnesota State at the Midwest Regional in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday. Nebraska-Omaha and Harvard are the other teams at that regional.
One more chance
RIT goaltender Jordan Ruby’s college hockey career almost ended on Feb. 20, when he gambled and lost on a breakaway chance by Robert Morris’ Cody Wydo with less than 10 seconds to play in a tie game.
Ruby came out to play the puck but got there a second too late, and Wydo put the puck into an empty net for the RMU victory and its first regular season title.
Sophomore Mike Rotolo backstopped the Tigers to a win over the Colonials the next night, and a sweep of Mercyhurst the next weekend. He and Ruby had battled for the starting position all year, and it looked like Rotolo was going to be the Tiger’s goaltender for the postseason.
But an injury to Rotolo in practice opened the door for Ruby, who then backstopped RIT to a 2-1, 7-3 sweep of Air Force in the quarterfinals and allowed just two goals this weekend.
“You have to learn how to have amnesia and forget about things that happened.” said Ruby. “Rotolo had a great year and (us) just back-in-forth between the pipes, you have to get ready to go. I felt like this was my best year, all year.”
And it’s not over.
On the season:
Dan: 133-79-27 (.613)
Chris: 137-73-27 (.635)
So I retain my title despite a nice comeback by Dan in February. I’m leading by five games with just three left (The number of games picked are different due to the way we pick best-of-three series).
This Week’s Picks
Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – Semifinals
Friday, March 20
No. 5 Mercyhurst vs. No. 1 Robert Morris
Dan: Prior to the season, I floated this game as a possibility for Saturday in the league championship, with the Lakers winning it all this year. But the Colonials are a team on a mission, and I don’t think Mercyhurst is going to be able to come back again if they go down two goals here. RMU advances.
Chris: The Lakers showed a lot of resiliency after a rough end to the regular season and being down late in their third and deciding game at Bentley last weekend. They’re a dangerous team and will be hard to put away. But Robert Morris is the best team in the league and has proved that over the last 22 weeks. The best team doesn’t always win, but it gets my pick. Robert Morris wins.
No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology vs. No. 2 Canisius
Dan: I could give you hockey analysis here, or I could just tell you my gut feeling. It’s taken the Tigers three years to get back to Blue Cross Arena for a postseason game, and with the hometown crowd in their corner, I believe in RIT. Canisius is a very good team, a former champion, and a team that’s proven time and time again that they know how to win. But I’m picking the orange and black. RIT wins.
Chris: RIT fans love it when I pick against the Tigers, because I’m often wrong (although I picked 63% of games correctly this season). This is a classic matchup between Canisius’ defense and RIT’s offense and Canisius’ power play vs. RIT’s penalty kill. In the end I think it will come down to goaltending and here the Golden Griffins have the edge. So be happy, Tiger fans because I’m going with the higher seed. Canisius wins.
Atlantic Hockey Playoffs – Finals
Saturday, March 21
? vs. ?
Dan: The defending champions go for two in a row against the team that calls Brick City home. In a one-game series, throw the tale of the tape out the window; this one’s going to be fun. But I’m picking Robert Morris for a second straight year to win it all after watching them lead the conference tape-to-tape and prove deserving of national recognition. No glass slipper needed this year. RMU wins.
Chris: It’s hard to pick against a team that has been building to this all year. Anything less than a title will seem like a failure to Robert Morris, and I think the Colonials will handle the pressure and get the job done. Robert Morris wins against either Canisius or RIT.
A look back at the weekend that was as the road to Rochester reaches its end:
Sports Giveth, Sports Taketh Away
We start with the most obvious talking point – the wild three game series between Bentley and Mercyhurst and its unpredictable ending.
After a scoreless regulation in Game One, and after being outshot 40-28, the Lakers scored in the first five minutes of overtime to win on Friday, 1-0. On Saturday, the Falcons potted four goals in the first five minutes of the second period en route to a 5-3 victory, again outshooting the Lakers, 37-29. On Sunday, in the only Game Three for Atlantic Hockey’s quarterfinals round, Bentley dominated time of possession through the zones and led, 2-0, 13 minutes into the third period.
That’s when the Laker offense woke up – in 14 seconds. Matthew Zay and Chris Bodo scored to tie up the game and send it into the later stages with an eye for overtime. But with 10 seconds left, Mercyhurst had one last rush. Zac Frischmon went up the left wing, zipped a pass across the circles for Nardo Nagtzaam, and watched as the senior turned the red light on and sent his bench into a frenzy with 5.5 seconds left.
Mercyhurst 3. Bentley 2.
“I (was) absolutely stunned,” said Laker head coach Rick Gotkin after the victory. “I thought Bentley played great this weekend, and I really don’t know what to say. We know that goals are all about momentum, and we got one, then we got the second there. We were just thinking about ‘Okay let’s get to overtime’ and then all of a sudden we score with 5.5 seconds left, and I really don’t know what to say. Hockey’s a game about bounces, and we got the bounces, and we’ll take those bounces. We’ll take this win, and we’re happy to advance. But we know we played and excellent, excellent team in Bentley.”
In going down to the absolute final wire, the two teams put on a display of hockey that gave the paying customers exactly what they could’ve hoped for. There were 31 shots, 19 of which came from the Lakers, with just one penalty called – a stark contrast from a disjointed first two periods where the men wearing stripes threatened to take over the game (and at times did just that). The first two frames featured 15 penalties, including nine in the first period, before the refs put their noisemakers away and let the two teams skate it out. Once that happened, the skill took over and the teams opened up a display commensurate with the drama of a deciding playoff game.
The final goal by Nagtzaam was an illustration in perhaps the best part about sports – the contrasting emotions of elation for one team against the bitterness of defeat of the other. “I didn’t see it because I had my eyes closed, and that’s the truth,” said Gotkin. “I was thinking about getting to overtime to take our swings because it had been a tough night for us to see what happens. Five seconds left – the puck goes in, but I never saw it. But I was high fiving with everyone else.”
In a year in which the two teams played seven games, all but the second game of the series were decided by one goal or less. Sure enough, the two games Mercyhurst won in the playoffs were one goal games. Sometimes sports don’t add up, sometimes they do, but one thing’s for sure – it was one heckuva ride.
The Road To Rochester Reaches Its Final Stop
With their win, the Lakers qualified for the AHC semifinals for the 13th time since joining the old MAAC in 1999-2000. They round out a star-studded, wide-open field featuring the top three seeds, a hometown favorite, two past champions, and the preseason #1.
Robert Morris – defending AHC champs and first place finishers tape-to-tape the whole season as a nationally-ranked power – will play Mercyhurst – the preseason #1 team – in the first semifinal on Friday at 5 PM. Following the conclusion, second-seeded Canisius – the 2013 champion and last year’s league finalist – will attempt to make a third straight championship game against a whole lotta orange. They take on RIT, the hometown favorite who call Blue Cross Arena their second home.
It’s a series that’ll crown one champion with one berth to the NCAA Tournament.
In their previous three meetings, the RIT Tigers didn’t so much as score a single goal against the Air Force Falcons. All of that changed at the Polisseni Center this weekend when RIT won a hard-fought 2-1 decision on Friday before hitting the throttle button on Saturday. They scored seven goals against Air Force while outshooting the Falcons 43-27.
Up 2-1 after two, the third period might’ve been the most satisfying period of hockey in years for RIT fans. They scored 17 seconds in to go up 3-1, then added a fourth goal eight minutes later. With six minutes to go and down by a pair, Air Force pulled their goalie, allowing the Tigers to pot an empty net goal. Air Force did score one more, but another empty net goal put RIT up 6-2. For good measure, they added another one on the power play inside of two minutes. Though Air Force scored one late, the 7-3 victory was an offensive display that has the Tigers possibly hitting their stride at the right time.
It’s a scary thought when the road to Rochester leads….well…right through Rochester. It also means home ice advantage before thousands of orange-clad rabid fans and a return to the semifinal round for the Corner Crew. So hats off to them for exorcising some ghosts left over from the old Ritter Arena.