The Pioneers will have home ice for the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
On the season:
Dan: 39-23-6 (.618)
Chris: 42-20-6 (.662)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, November 14 and Saturday, November 15
Holy Cross at Army
Dan: David Berard enlightened me to the Holy Cross team concept of strong defense last week. To be honest, I’m pretty high on the Crusaders right now. I said at the beginning of the year that this team will go as far as its defense. With Matt Ginn playing at a high level, that’s pretty darn high. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: I haven’t been doing very well picking against Holy Cross, and after seeing them in person last weekend, I’m sold. The Crusaders are getting scoring from their rookies and play great team defense. Of course, the exact same thing can be said of Army. Still, I’m not going to get burned again so I’m going with a Holy Cross sweep.
Mercyhurst at Bentley
Dan: For the first time in seven years, there’s going to be a brand spanking new face calling a Bentley home game thanks to upcoming nuptials. At the same time, though, this has the makings of everything I want in a jinxable scenario. A) It’s my wedding weekend, which is awesome except for the decision to get married during hockey season (clearly her fault!). B) I already said Mercyhurst is my foil for the season, meaning I could jinx them with my good vibrations. C) At the same time, I could jinx Bentley by overconfidently picking them. So I’m taking a split with absolutely no hockey analysis whatsoever. Best of luck to Jefferson Mills on the call this weekend; you should have a good one. Bentley wins on Friday, Mercyhurst wins on Saturday.
Chris: This is going to be a great series between two teams that like to score in bunches. Too bad Dan won’t be broadcasting these – I hear he has other plans. Priorities, Dan! Anyway, I think this will be a split and am going with Bentley on Friday and Mercyhurst on Saturday.
Rochester Institute of Technology at Canisius
Dan: I think RIT is the only place west of Albany not owned or built by Terry Pegula in some capacity. RIT sweeps.
Chris: These will be the 78th and 79th all-time meetings between the WNY rivals. They’re the first league home games for the Golden Griffins at their new diggs, downtown Buffalo’s HarborCenter. It’s the only two games between the schools this season, so both look to make the most of it, but I like Canisius to sweep on home ice.
Air Force at Robert Morris
Dan: This is one of those series where anything can happen. RMU is coming in piping hot, even though they were off last week, and Air Force is going to have a compete level through the roof given their loss last week to Alabama-Huntsville. I love the coaching matchup between two guys synonymous with “compete level.” Slight edge to Robert Morris right now, but I still think Air Force gets a win. Air Force wins on Friday. Robert Morris wins on Saturday.
Chris: Games between the two former CHA rivals are usually close and entertaining. Will a week off cool RMU’s hot streak? Air Force is coming off a forgettable weekend at home against Alabama-Huntsville (loss and a tie), and I think the break in RMU’s momentum will be brief as they sweep at home.
American International at Michigan
Dan: AIC is coming off a forgettable game against UMass. I think they’ll struggle to win this weekend with a very talented Michigan team, but don’t be shocked if they don’t put a scare into the Wolverines. There should be some great atmosphere as well since Michigan football is on a bye and Michigan basketball doesn’t open up until Monday. Michigan sweeps.
Chris: This series features the two longest-tenured coaches in Division I. Both Michigan’s Red Berenson and AIC’s Gary Wright are in the 31st seasons at their respective schools. The teams also sport similar records coming into the weekend: AIC is 2-5-1 while Michigan is 2-5. But the Wolverines are much deeper and are looking to open a long homestand in style. Michigan sweeps.
Friday, November 14
Sacred Heart vs. Connecticut
Dan: I’m not even gone yet and already everything goes to hell. Chris and I forgot this through our first run through the picks. I blame Chris. Anyways, gotta love old friends dueling on neutral ice in the Nutmeg State. I’m excited to see what happens here and excited to see a good goaltending matchup. Slight edge defensively to UConn, slight edge everywhere else to Sacred Heart in net and up front. SHU wins.
Chris: Yep. My bad. I left this out despite Tweeting about it this week. The game is being played at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut with proceeds going to the family of Jason Pagni, who was killed in an automobile accident the past January, leaving a wife and two kids. He was known for his many contributions to hockey in the Nutmeg State. The game is already sold out. I have to disagree with Dan based on the way UConn has already made an impact in Hockey East. UConn wins.
A look through the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Just under half of the institutions in Atlantic Hockey have roots in the Catholic Church. At the conclusion of this past weekend, four are in early season positioning for a first round bye under the new AHA format. Highlighting that run are Holy Cross and Sacred Heart, both of which gained monster three-point weekends.
Although a team not known for their offensive prowess, Holy Cross went pound for pound with RIT, scoring five goals and rallying after blowing leads on both nights. On Friday, the Crusaders built a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Danny Lopez and TJ Moore. RIT, however, tied it up with a second period goal from Brady Norrish and a third period goal from Andrew Miller. Holy Cross was able to grab a lead two minutes after the Tigers tied it up, but an empty net, extra attacker goal forced a 3-3 tie. On Saturday, RIT outshot Holy Cross, 2-1, but again the Crusaders built a lead, lost the lead, and scored a go-ahead goal. This time, it held up.
As for Sacred Heart, they continued their run of strong hockey by taking three points at home from Canisius. Down 2-1 in the second period on Friday, the Pioneers scored twice in four minutes in the late stages of the frame, including once on the power play. Andrew Bodnarchuk then held on with a strong third period to preserve the victory. After the team’s skated to a tie on Saturday night, the Pioneers found themselves in third place with eight points, undefeated in their last three games, three points back of idle first place Robert Morris.
Coaches, along with media members and fans, always talk about how it’s not where you start but where you finish. That said, fast starts are always a big help, and with an unbalanced schedule providing more east/west matchups, it’s good to see more parity coming down the pipeline with stronger eastern pod victories.
Holy Cross heads to Army next weekend, while Sacred Heart has a one game, non-conference tilt against UConn at the Taft School in Watertown, CT.
Wild Weekend In Erie
A great indicator of the crazy brand of hockey we all enjoy in Atlantic Hockey came from Mercyhurst-Army this past weekend. The series ended up as the highest-scored series with 14 goals scored over two nights, but what’s more amazing is that it came after the Lakers beat the Black Knights, 2-0, on Friday. That said, even that game provided some wildness, and no, I’m not talking about penalties.
Friday featured fantastic goaltending on both sides of the ice, highlighted by Jimmy Sarjeant’s 39-save shutout. But he was matched nearly stop-for-stop by Parker Gahagen, and Mercyhurst won the game based on goals 44 seconds apart. It was one of those games where a fan of good defensive hockey went home completely satisfied. Highlights are available by clicking here.
And then there was Saturday. I’m not sure if both teams used up all of their goaltending on Friday night, but it took the night off in the second game. They combined for six goals in the second period alone after a 1-1 first, including a penalty shot for Army scored by Tyler Pham. Mercyhurst rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3-3, then rallied from down 4-3 to tie things up at 4-4……..all in the same period. Army took a 5-4 lead, but the Lakers finished things off by scoring twice and adding an empty net goal for a 7-5 victory.
Consider this. A night after he went toe-to-toe with arguably the league’s best goalie, Parker Gahagen gave up six goals and still made 34 saves. On the flip side, Sarjeant made 39 saves to shut out Army on Friday, but he didn’t finish the game on Saturday and picked up a no-decision as Spencer Bacon came off the bench, made 12 saves, and received his first career victory in just his second career appearance.
The Lakers head east for the first time this season to take on Bentley next weekend while Army wraps up nine of 11 at home to start the year against Holy Cross.
Niagara off the schneid
If you remember back to last season, I repeatedly said over and over how I didn’t think Robert Morris was as bad as their infamous record portrayed them. At one point, they were 0-5-1, then 1-8-1, then 2-12-2 as the calendar year turned over. This year, I said the same thing about Niagara.
Niagara lost on Friday night to Bentley, 6-0, which made them 0-8 on the season. Watching the Purple Eagles sure as heck didn’t feel like a team that was 0-8, and for the most part, it was just a case of something bad happening right as it felt like things were turning around. As they battled back, things just snowballed and went to worse, and the Falcons capitalized in their own building in a big way. It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort or talent. It just was it was.
But give credit where credit’s due. With players sidelined by injury, Niagara’s hung very tough, and it showed on Saturday night. They never trailed and prevented Bentley from scoring an even-strength goal in a 3-2 overtime victory. Coach Dave Burkholder’s team looked solid defensively all night, and Jackson Teichroeb made 28 saves to pick up the team’s first victory.
Ironically enough, Niagara outshot Bentley 31-30 with the 31st shot being Isaac Kohls’ overtime winner. It was the only shot in overtime.
The Purple Eagles now receive a much needed bye weekend to rest up their banged up roster before playing five of their next six games at home. It starts in two weeks against Army.
On the season:
Dan: 34-20-3 (.623)
Chris: 38-18-3 (.693)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, November 7 and Saturday, November 8
Niagara at Bentley
Dan: This is an intriguing matchup between a Niagara team better than a winless record and a Bentley team that lost its only home game this year. The Falcons have been coming together over the past couple of weeks, which I think propels them this week. I think Niagara gets at least a point, but I can’t pick ties, and I hate picking splits. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: The Purple Eagles are winless so far, and Bentley is home for just the second time this season. The Falcons lost their lone home game at the JAR, but I don’t think that happens this time. Bentley sweeps.
Army at Mercyhurst
Dan: The last time Army won at Mercyhurst, John F. Kennedy was president. I love Army, but I have a hard time picking against the Lakers in their own barn. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: This series has a nice subplot of Laker sophomore Jack Riley going up against his dad, Army coach Brian Riley. Mercyhurst is coming off a huge win at Colgate last weekend and I think will earn a hard-fought sweep.
Holy Cross at RIT
Dan: This is the first of teams probably glad the games aren’t in Ritter Arena; the Tigers went 9-2-4 at the old barn against the Crusaders. A new slate and a new day for Holy Cross, a team slowly winning me over after I predicted them in the bottom two of the league. And yes, I realize I said I hate picking splits. RIT wins on Friday, Holy Cross wins on Saturday
Chris: RIT has dominated this series, but Holy Cross has come on as of late, including a wild win in last year’s best-of-three playoff series. But I think the Tigers are due for a good weekend at home. RIT sweeps.
Canisius at Sacred Heart
Dan: Having seen Sacred Heart in person, I can tell you they’re a team that will make you a believer. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris:This is a tough one to call as both teams have been up-and-down so far. But Canisius is 8-1-1 against SHU in their previous ten meetings, and I’m going with that trend. Canisius sweeps.
Alabama-Huntsville at Air Force
Dan: Alabama-Huntsville will eventually be much better than they are, and they’re a team now fighting for a potential playoff spot in the WCHA with Alaska suspended from postseason play. That said, this is a non-conference game, a very long road trip, and an Air Force team still hungry after narrowly defeated North Dakota last week. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: This is a matchup of former CHA teams, and a homecome of sorts for UAH coach Mike Corbett, who spent ten years as an assistant at Air Force. The Falcons are coming off a tough lost last Saturday at North Dakota, a game they were seconds away from winning. I think they rebound here. Air Force sweeps.
Friday, November 7
American International at Massachusetts
Dan: UMass fans can call this personal for me, but I’m calling it strictly business. AIC rolls into the Mullins Center and gets it done behind strong third period goaltending. I’m on board with the idea of moving this game to Springfield and making it a thing. Perhaps a trophy is in order? AIC wins.
Chris: The Yellow Jackets are coming off a sweep at Niagara, while the Minutemen lost a pair of close games to Maine last weekend. If AIC rookie goaltender Alex Murray can keep things rolling, the Yellow Jackets will prevail. But I have a hunch UMass will find a way to get it done. UMass wins.
Three Things from this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
Live by the comeback….
On October 25, Air Force staged a terrific comeback to earn a home-ice split with Rochester Institute of Technology. The Falcons scored an extra-attacker goal with 1:33 left in regulation to tie and got the game-winner at 3:50 of overtime.
But the roles reversed this past Saturday, with Air Force less than a minute away from upsetting No. 3 North Dakota at Engelstad Arena.
Trailing 2-1 in the closing seconds, North Dakota was able to even things up at 19:31 of the third, and then scored an improbable shorthanded game-winner with 6.4 seconds left in overtime.
Bryn Chyzk got the GWG off a feed from Michael Parks. Here’s the video.
It was a tough loss for Frank Serratore’s team, who was pressing for the win on the power play. The Falcons top unit has four forwards and only one defenseman.
“This one we will take to the grave,” Serratore said after the game. “This was the best effort we have had all season by a country mile. All I can say is, we have no regrets. Our kids gave all they had. We had our best guys out there and UND got it done. We put our best power-play unit out there at the end because we play to win. We could have put another defenseman out there, but we don’t play to tie. The Air Force Academy does not play to tie, we play to win. We put our best foot forward tonight, but this one stings.”
A pair of streaks continued this past weekend, one good and one not so good.
Robert Morris stayed unbeaten (7-0-1) with a home sweep sweep of Rochester Institute of Technology, taking Friday’s game 6-3 and winning 4-2 on Saturday.
In the first game, RMU got goals from freshman (two by Spencer Dorowicz and one from Brady Ferguson) as well as the first career goal from senior David Rigatti, playing in his 86th game.
On Saturday, Ferguson scored again but most of the damage was done by the Colonials top line of Cody Wydo, Zac Lynch and Scott Jacklin.
Saturday’s win was the 150th career victory for RMU coach Derek Schooley, whose team is off this coming weekend.
“I almost want to keep playing and keep this rolling,” said Schooley after the game. “But we can rest some guys and work on some things. There’s always things to work on, even when you’re winning.”
On the other side of the coin, Niagara’s woes continue after being swept at home by American International, 3-1 and 4-2. The Purple Eagles remain winless (0-8).
Niagara Goaltender Jackson Teichroeb was able to make his first two starts after suffering an injury in a pre-season scrimmage, but it wasn’t enough to put his team into the win column. The Purps outshot the Yellow Jackets handily in each game (43-21 on Friday and 42-24 on Saturday) but AIC rookie goaltender Alex Murry stopped all but three shots he faced for the victories.
Mercyhurst split at No. 4 Colgate, defeating the Raiders 2-1 on Saturday after falling 4-0 the previous evening. Saturday’s win featured a 39-save performance from Laker goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant, and was touted by the school as the “Best D-I win in school history.”
I would have gone with the Lakers’ MAAC championship game victory in 2001 or 2003, as well as an Atlantic Hockey title win in 2005. But in terms of defeating a highly-ranked opponent, Saturday’s win gets the nod. Here’s the Mercyhurst video recap.
On the season:
Dan: 28-14-1 (.663)
Chris: 30-12-1 (.709)
This Week’s Picks:
Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31
Bentley at Penn State
Dan: Call me a wikkid homah, but I’m taking the Falcons for at least one this weekend. There’s something about this team on the road that has be feeling like they’re going to be extremely mentally tough. I don’t like picking splits (even though that’s what I did last week), so I’m going with Bentley to win both. Bentley sweeps
Chris: Could this be a repeat of last weekend, when Penn State soundly defeated Holy Cross twice? Or a repeat of last weekend when Bentley went into RPI and took two games in convincing fashion? I’m splitting things down the middle. Bentley wins Thursday; Penn State Friday.
Friday, October 31 and Saturday, November 1
Sacred Heart at Holy Cross
Dan: Both teams were swept last weekend, but I have a feeling Sacred Heart’s near-upsets of Colgate has them slightly ahead of the Crusaders at this point. Call it this weekend for the Pioneers. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris: The Crusaders will host on Friday; the Pioneers on Saturday. Both teams were swept last weekend, but SHU put up more of a fight, losing a pair of close games to Colgate. I’ve been burned going with the home teams in these home-and-home series, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Holy Cross wins Friday; Sacred Heart Saturday.
American International at Niagara
Dan: Niagara was swept last weekend, but the losses came at Notre Dame. AIC, meanwhile, lost two to Canisius. I think the Yellow Jackets are going to surprise the Purple Eagles by having more depth, but ultimately I’m picking Niagara’s slightly better goaltending in this one. Don’t count out AIC to steal one on the road, though. Niagara sweeps.
Chris: This is another case of both teams getting swept last weekend. Niagara has historically done well against AIC, but this is not a typical year so far for the Purple Eagles. I think AIC wins at least one. Niagara wins Friday; AIC wins Saturday.
Rochester Institute of Technology at Robert Morris
Dan: Robert Morris is one point out of becoming the first Atlantic Hockey team in the USCHO Top 20 since Niagara two years ago. I’m not picking against them until someone beats them. Robert Morris sweeps.
Chris: I’ll be broadcasting this series and am looking forward to it. RIT has won the last two meetings on the Island, but RMU is looking to stay unbeaten and is tough at home. If it comes down to goaltending, which it might, RMU has a pair of really hot netminders right now. Robert Morris sweeps.
Ohio State at Canisius
Dan: The lights are on in the new building in Buffalo. Despite my hatred of picking sweeps, I find it hard to pick against a B1G team against Atlantic Hockey, even with my allegiances to the eastern league. That said, goaltending can win one, if not both, for the Griffs. Canisius wins Friday; Ohio State on Saturday.
Chris: The Golden Griffins get to open their new home at HarborCenter against an OSU team that has scored three goals in its last three games. Still, I think each team will win a game. Canisius wins Friday; Ohio State on Saturday.
Mercyhurst at Colgate
Dan: Starr Rink served as one of the filming locations for the movie Slap Shot. That has nothing to do with the outcome of this series, but I felt it warranted mentioning. Colgate wraps up four straight against the AHA at home, and although Mercyhurst is one of those battle tested teams, the Raiders have one of those teams built to handle business. Colgate sweeps
Chris: Boy I really want to pick an upset here as the Lakers take on the No. 4 Raiders. But Colgate is deeper and playing at home. Raiders will sweep.
Friday, October 31
Brown at Army
Dan: Brown might have some of the most dynamic players in ECAC in Matt Lorito and Mark Naclerio. They also have one of their best recruiting classes, headlined by Pittsburgh Penguins draft choice Sam Lafferty. I like Army a lot, but I think Brown has too much energy and too much firepower in this one. Brown wins.
Chris: This is Brown’s first official game of the season (the Bears won an exhibition with Dartmouth last Sunday) while Army already has six contests under its belt. I like the Black Knights to play a few tricks on the Bears, and treat themselves to a victory. Army wins.
Saturday, November 1
Air Force at North Dakota
Dan: If you haven’t experienced a game at the Ralph, I suggest you do it; nobody has a home ice advantage quite like North Dakota. This is also a game they have to take care of business in if they expect to be playing in Boston come springtime. North Dakota wins
Chris: Just one game for the Falcons this weekend, but it’s a big one – at No. 3 North Dakota in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game. UND leads the all-time series 4-0 and I think that trend will continue. North Dakota wins.
After a couple of weeks lacking in the news department, we weren’t without a lack of storylines. Let’s review the weekend that was:
The wonder ball. Goes round and round.
The Bentley Falcons have had a topsy-turvy couple of weeks. Despite competing hard with nationally-ranked Quinnipiac, they lost on the road. Then they went back to the Nutmeg State and picked up their first win in almost two years over Sacred Heart. Heading into Saturday of last weekend, the Falcons probably stood as the fourth or fifth strongest team in the league.
Then came Saturday. The Falcons came completely unglued in a 6-3 loss to the Pioneers, one that highlighted the question marks and showed that there would be a lot of work on the table if they intended to compete at a level commensurate with their last few seasons. The lowlights included three ejections, including a game disqualification, and 66 penalty minutes, 40-plus of which came in the game’s final two minutes. Anyone who watched the effort on Saturday would’ve immediately put them much, much further down the Atlantic Hockey power rankings.
But everything comes full circle. The Falcons regained their pride this past weekend by demolishing ECAC foe Rensselaer. On Friday, Kyle Schmidt scored his first two career goals, Alex Grieve scored his first of the season, and the Falcons posted four third period strikes en route to a 5-2 win. On Saturday, they only put 16 shots on goal, but four found the back of the net, and they won 4-0.
Bentley’s defense looked solid, and their goaltending stood tall. Gabe Antoni picked up the win on Friday, and senior Blake Dougherty earned his first career shutout on Saturday. The Falcons now head to Penn State next weekend with a chance to really earn some non-conference brownie points for the Pairwise Rankings, and once again, they look like an entirely different team. Identities early in the year are hard to define, but the mental toughness exhibited this weekend will serve this team well when AHA play resumes.
Well, Atlantic Hockey officials, you’ve done it again
I don’t envy referees. When they call a solid game, nobody ever pats them on the back or says, “Hey, good game out there.” When they do something wrong, however, it’s enough to make heads explode. In Atlantic Hockey, the single worst thing a ref can do is cost a team a league game in a huge matchup. Yet that’s exactly what happened in Saturday’s game between the Air Force Falcons and the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers.
Let’s reset the scenario in the third period of Saturday’s game between the academy and RIT. Officials whistled the Tigers for a too many men on the ice penalty 1:50 into the game’s overtime session. As the penalty was getting ready to expire, RIT had the puck in their own end. They cleared the puck down to the other end of the ice, as is customary for a team on the PK.
The puck, however, hit the ref out by the blue line and fell into the stick of an Air Force skater. Air Force dumped it back into the RIT zone, and the Tigers once again iced the puck with about four seconds left on the penalty. The puck went the length of the ice, and the officials blew the whistle for icing. The puck was iced with RIT clearly on the penalty kill, but the player came out of the box with the puck in transit.
The icing call led to a faceoff near goalie Mike Rotolo, and Air Force ultimately scored to win the game, 4-3. There are multiple videos surfacing based on the incident. The first, which is most damning, shows the puck hitting the official and being sent back in. It then shows the Tigers icing the puck with time left on the power play, a clear indication that icing should not have been called. At least that’s what the broadcast shows; I obviously wasn’t there and can’t speak to the time left on the scoreboard clock, but four seconds seems like a lot of time to say, “Well maybe it was close.”
The second video shows the goal. After the goal is scored, my eyes wander immediately to the orange jerseys. RIT players, steaming mad, slam sticks on the ice and voice frustration. The Tigers eventually gained a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct after the goal was scored.
Look, I’m not one to try and jump all over the referees, and I feel for them in a sense that making a mistake can cost a team a game. When they do their job right, nobody notices, but when they do their job wrong, there’s a lot to discuss. You just hope this game doesn’t eventually become the difference between an RIT home series or bye anywhere along the way.
How ’bout them Pioneers?
The scores indicate they lost by a combined 7-4 count, but the Sacred Heart Pioneers got their money’s worth against #4-ranked Colgate at home this weekend. On Friday, SHU rebounded from giving up the first goal in both the first and second periods to play level hockey through 40 minutes. On Saturday, they were within two seconds and a power play goal of holding Colgate scoreless in the second period and remaining tied, 1-1, after two periods. While they ended up losing both games, they still played very well and earned the respect of a team expecting to travel to Boston in the spring for the Frozen Four.
The AHA hasn’t been great in non-conference play, still hovering below 10 out-of-conference wins. But looking within the numbers shows some really great hockey games with tough competition. Sacred Heart, an example of that, is playing some solid hockey, and they just went toe-to-toe with some of the country’s best.
On the season:
Dan: 15-11-1 (.574)
Chris: 18-8-1 (.685)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25
Rochester Institute of Technology at Air Force
Dan: Last week’s game against BC proved that RIT is in rebuilding mode. On top of it all, they have to head out west to take on an Air Force team that’s going to be mad as hell after losing games in Alaska. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers are 0-9 in the first game (or single game) of this series when held in Colorado Springs, and haven’t fared much better the following evening. The Falcons are coming off a pair of discouraging losses in Alaska and I think they’ll rebound to take care of business at home. Air Force sweeps.
Canisius at American International
Dan: AIC is a team that’s better than advertised, but Canisius is proving they’re not quite experiencing a huge drop off after graduating all of those pieces from their finals runs. I think eventually these teams will trend closer, but not yet. Canisius sweeps.
Chris:The Yellow Jackets have played well enough to pick them to win one of these games, but I have been terrible picking splits (twice I’ve picked a split but with the wining team on the wrong nights). So I’m going with Canisius to put together a pair of wins on the road. Canisius sweeps.
Robert Morris at Army
Dan: Army is another Atlantic Hockey team that’s getting better, and their wins the last couple of weeks have been extremely encouraging. But they’re running into a buzz saw of a team that’s playing out of its mind to open up the season. I think Army can eke out a point or two with the right puck hops, but until RMU proves that they’re cooling off, you can’t pick against them. RMU sweeps.
Chris: It’s always tough to pick against Army at home, but RMU is on a roll to open the season. The Black Knights are young and figure to improve over the course of the season, but the Colonials have been there, done that. RMU sweeps.
Niagara at Notre Dame
Dan: Teams at the top of Atlantic Hockey are typically expected to compete and defeat teams from the middle or lower tiers of Hockey East. Unfortunately, Niagara isn’t the top tier yet, and Notre Dame’s playing at home. Notre Dame sweeps.
Chris: With arguably three of their top five players injured (although reports indicate goaltender Jackson Teichroeb may be able to see action), it’s going to be an uphill battle against the the Irish, who are in the midst of an eight-game home stand to open their season. Saturday’s game will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network. Maybe a big audience will inspire the Purple Eagles, but I’m sticking with the guys in green and gold. Notre Dame sweeps.
Merrimack at Mercyhurst
Dan: Merrimack is undefeated, but to be honest, they haven’t really beaten anyone. Holy Cross isn’t a powerhouse this year, and UConn isn’t exactly Minnesota. Mercyhurst is at home, and like Chris, I’m going all in on Jimmy Sarjeant shutting down the Warrior offense. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: After a split last season at Merrimack, the Warriors return the favor and again I think the Lakers will win at least one of these. They’re just 2-16-1 all-time against teams from Hockey East, but I’m going all in on Mercyhrust goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant to have a big weekend. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Bentley at Rensselaer
Dan: Saturday’s loss to Sacred Heart was like two defeats – the Falcons lost the game, then lost their cool. It overshadowed a solid win on Friday, and the opening night loss where they competed well against Quinnipiac seemed like light years ago. They head to the Capital District to take on a team that’s lost three in a row – to Minnesota and Denver. RPI isn’t as bad as they’re record, but they’re not great. Pair that against Bentley being most dangerous when doubted. RPI wins on Friday. Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris: This is the matchup I’d most like to see in person. Bentley is coming off a tough loss at in its home opener to Sacred Heart that saw the Falcons finish the game with five players in the penalty box and three more in the dressing room. I think they’ll respond on Friday and give RPI all they can handle, but ultimately will fall in both games. RPI sweeps.
Colgate at Sacred Heart
Dan: Remember last year when ranked-dead-last-in-Division-I Sacred Heart beat #1-ranked UMass-Lowell? Hopefully lightning can strike twice at home, where the Pioneers are running shuttles for students to the games (HINT HINT TO SACRED HEART STUDENTS). I hope the Milford Ice Pavilion is as MIP-y as ever, just so the Raiders can get a great taste of the gritty, municipal rink hockey nature of the AHA. I think there’s too much talent, but SHU’s going to give them a scare, especially early, in the first game. Colgate sweeps.
Chris: This is a nice “get” by Sacred Heart, bringing in the No. 4 team in the nation. SHU can’t be taken lightly, especially at home. Colgate might take some time to adjust to the uniqueness of the Milford Ice Pavilion, but I think the Raiders will find a way to win. Twice. Colgate sweeps.
Friday, October 24 and Sunday, October 26
Holy Cross at Penn State
Dan: I’m sure Chris will make the joke, but the extra day off is because of Penn State-Ohio State football. If the Buckeyes win, they should let David Berard “dot the i” or something. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions defeat ‘Sader Nation this weekend by a field goal. Penn State sweeps.
Chris: The teams play Friday and Sunday, because football. I hear football is kind of a big deal in Happy Valley. I’m hoping at least one of these games ends in a tie so we’ll have a shootout. OK, not really. My sarcasm is getting the better of me. I’m going with the home team in a pair of close games, which hopefully will be decided in regulation. Penn State sweeps.
Three things from the past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Canisius and Army play a two game series, with the Golden Griffins coming out on top in Game One. In 2012 it was a 5-1 victory over the Black Knights on Friday. In 2013 the score was 8-2. This past Friday it was a 6-3 win with Canisius coming back from a 3-0 first period deficit.
Each time, Saturday was a different story, or the same story depending on how you look at it. Last Saturday at West Point, Army responded with a 3-0 win over the Griffs earning a series split. Last year, it was a 1-0 win for the Black Knights. In 2012 the score was also 1-0.
A Canisius win in the first contest following by an Army shutout in Game Two. Three times in a row.
Army goaltender Parker Gahagen stopped all 28 shots he faced on Saturday.
“It was good to get that first shutout off my shoulders,” he said after the game. “It was a good team win for us.”
“I liked our effort tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We had really good push by our top players but their goalie played well. We did a lot of things well but the puck just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
Unlike the past two seasons, the teams will play four times this time around. Canisius will host Army at HarborCenter on Feb. 13 and 14.
History doesn’t repeat
Much has been made of the slow start defending champions Robert Morris endured last season before going on an epic run to emerge victorious.
The Colonials are making sure this season gets off to a different start entirely, sweeping Niagara this past weekend to open the season 4-0 for just the second time in school history.
Both nights Robert Morris scored three third period goals to put the game away. RMU has outscored opponents 9-1 in the final period so far this season.
“We’ve had a good start,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “But you’ve got to stay consistently focused every weekend. We’ve had two good weekends and now we’re going to have to put that behind us.”
All’s quiet at the pumpkin convention
Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena was again a sea of orange as Rochester Institute of Technology again sold out the building (10,556) for its annual Brick City homecoming game. But RIT’s opponent, No. 7 Boston College, spoiled the party by opening up a 4-0 lead early in the second period and coasting to a 6-2 win.
It wasn’t until Todd Skirving’s goal at 1:06 of the third that the large crowd had something to cheer about.
“We couldn’t get any offense,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson after the game. “There was no excitement on the bench at all. They didn’t allow us to get our fans into it. Their defense controlled our forwards.”
Four different BC blueliners scored in the game, in three of the cases as the trailer on an odd-man rush. ”They discouraged us,” said Wilson. “They took away scoring chances and then scored goals themselves. They were a double threat.”
The Tigers will go from Eagles to Falcons as they travel to Air Force next weekend.
Dan: 9-7-0 (.563)
Chris: 11-5-0 (.688)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, October 17 and Saturday, October 16
Canisius at Army
Dan: Army proved last week that their defense is capable of earning wins if they get tough. Canisius proved they could hang with the big boys in a split with Western Michigan. I think this is going to be a fun weekend, but the Griffs are slightly better at this stage of the game. Canisius sweeps.
Chris: The past two seasons, Canisius won big against Army the first night of this series and then was shut out by the Black Knights the following day. I don’t think history will repeat. Canisius sweeps.
American International at Holy Cross
Dan: Both teams hung tough with their opponent last weekend. That’s a great sign for AIC, who had a lead over the defending national champions. It also means reports of Holy Cross’ demise are greatly exaggerated, at least early on. I’m calling for a split, but since I try to avoid picking weekends that way, I’m going with an AIC sweep.
Chris: This is an intriguing matchup and I’m tempted to pick the Yellow Jackets to win at least one of these meetings. But I’m going with Holy Cross, which gave Merrimack all it could handle last weekend. Holy Cross sweeps.
Niagara vs.Robert Morris
Dan: The two storylines coming out of last week? RMU’s looking like a defending champion, and Niagara’s looking like a MASH unit. Colonials sweep.
Chris: Friday’s game is at Robert Morris, with Niagara hosting Saturday. Niagara is already decimated by injuries and the Colonials looked like they haven’t skipped a beat since winning it all in Rochester last March. RMU sweeps.
Bentley vs. Sacred Heart
Dan: Sacred Heart is one of those teams that always gives Bentley fits, and they haven’t lost since the second game of their 2-30-4 season. In fact, SHU went 1-1-1 against the Falcons that year and swept them with three wins last season. I can’t see that happening to start the year. But I also can’t figure out how this would split, and we usually don’t pick weekends that way anyways. Bottom line, I’m going with Bentley to sweep.
Chris: Sacred Heart has played well against Bentley recently and I think are a better team this season than last, while the Falcons may have lost a step. SHU hosts on Friday; Bentley on Saturday. I’m going with the home team in each game. Sacred Heart wins Friday; Bentley wins Saturday.
Friday, October 17
Air Force at Alaska
Dan: I used to work for a guy during my undergrad days who did sports info work for Alaska. He once told me that everyone, once in their lives, needs to live in Fairbanks for at least a full calendar year and experience what it’s like. New to the rankings this week, I’m using zero hockey analysis to pick the Nanooks.
Chris: On consecutive weekends to open the season, Alaska (the school in Fairbanks) and Alaska-Anchorage take turns hosting tournaments. This weekend. Air Force is participating in the Alaska Gold Rush, held in Fairbanks. The schedule is per-determined, with Air Force and Penn State each taking on the Alaska schools. I’m going with the teams from The Last Frontier. Alaska wins.
Saturday, October 18
Boston College at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: I have immense respect and love for both of the programs in this game. I grew up watching games at BC and BU, and I’ve learned to love RIT from my time spent with Chris. One thing I’m really hoping for is a tremendous hockey game in front of some great fans at Blue Cross Arena. But I think the difference is Thatcher Demko in net for BC, a position the Eagles are substantially better at. BC wins a closer one than expected.
Chris: This is RIT’s annual “Brick City” game at downtown Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena, which is again a sellout. Despite 10,000 orange clad maniacs cheering them on, the Tigers are heavy underdogs for a reason. Boston College wins.
Air Force vs. Alaska-Anchorage
Dan: I can’t see Air Force going north and not coming away with at least one win. Since I think they’ll lose to Fairbanks, I’m picking them to beat the Seawolves on Saturday. Air Force wins.
Chris: See my pick for Friday. I think the Falcons go 0-2 in the 49th state. Alaska-Anchorage wins.
The first weekend of hockey is in the books, which means it’s time to review the weekend that was. Check back all season long for our observations. Let’s kick it off with three things from the first games of the 2014-2015 season:
The Champ Is Here
Despite being defending Atlantic Hockey champions, there was plenty of unknown in Robert Morris to start the year. There’s always heightened expectations in a team raising a banner, a new ring in their name that separates them from the rest of the pack. It also means they have to be the standard bearer for the league in out-of-conference matchups, at least in the early couple of weeks.
Derek Schooley’s bunch did more than just that this weekend. Hosting Lake Superior State this weekend, the Colonials pounded their opponent, 6-1, over two nights. They never trailed and never faced a tie score, save for 0-0, in a two-night sweep where they amassed 79 shots on goal.
Cody Wydo scored a goal and two assists, while Zac Lynch notched three helpers. Scott Jacklin scored two goals. And Terry Shafer combined with Dalton Izyk to stop 98% of all shots on goal.
It’s a great start for the defending champs, a program known for being ultra competitive no matter the conditions in front of them. It’s also a very good sample to base opinions on as they enter their title defense next weekend against Niagara in a home-and-home.
Young Guns Already Firing Away
A substantial amount of teams in Atlantic Hockey are dealing with the identity of being young and inexperienced as the year commences. So much is unknown that we’re not sure who’s going to raise eyebrows both positively and negatively.
That said, we’re already seeing a couple of new names make waves as the new season gets underway. Bentley sophomore Max French scored twice and assisted on a third as the Falcons nearly defeated Quinnipiac before falling, 5-3. Johnny Hrabovsky and AJ Reid, two sophomores on Air Force’s team, helped the team with five combined assists as the Falcons split with last year’s regular season champion, Mercyhurst. Caleb Cameron scored a couple of goals for RIT. Sophomore Parker Gahagen made 34 saves for Army on Saturday, and fellow sophomore Dalton Izyk registered a shutout for Robert Morris.
For so-called freshmen “diaper dandies,” Johno May scored a goal and an assist for AIC, and Jonathan Charbonneau had the same for Mercyhurst. Tyler Pham scored his first career goal for Army on Sunday afternoon.
I know I missed a bunch of names, and it’s only the first weekend of the year. But if Atlantic Hockey can continue to have its youngsters chip in, the future will always remain bright for its member institutions.
Out Of Their League
The past two seasons have been the tale of two worlds for Atlantic Hockey. After getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago, the league struggled mightily last season when it went 17-64-5. Prior to Thanksgiving last year, the league was 6-47-4, a nadir considering the success it had in 2012-2013.
So there’s special attention given to the way AHA teams perform when playing teams from other leagues. In the first weekend, Robert Morris picked up a sweep, RIT defeated St. Lawrence, and Canisius split with Western Michigan as the league went 4-8. Low marks came for Holy Cross (swept by Merrimack) and Niagara (defeated by Clarkson before losing 10-2 against St. Lawrence). Both AIC and Bentley hung tough in their games; the Yellow Jackets led 1-0 and 2-1 over the defending national champions before Union ultimately won, 7-3, and the Falcons had a go-ahead goal nullified, then trailed by only one until an empty net goal gave Quinnipiac a 5-3 victory.
Air Force heads to Fairbanks to take on both Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Alaska Goal Rush, and RIT hosts Boston College in its annual game at Blue Cross Arena as the league kicks up the bulk of its league schedule. The majority of teams return to non-conference games on October 24th.