Despite a poor start to the season, the Black Knights have tied RIT and Robert Morris this month.
On the season:
Dan: 106-62-24 (.615)
Chris: 114-55-24 (.656)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, February 13
Sacred Heart at Bentley
Dan: When Bentley beat Sacred Heart earlier this year, it was their first win over the Pioneers since October of 2013, a string of five consecutive games. Sacred Heart’s gone 5-2-1 against the Falcons since the start of the ’12-’13 season, but I think Bentley can ride the current wave of momentum over the Pioneers in this one. This game is going to be a great battle. Bentley wins.
Chris: Just a single game as teams try to avoid being idle over the final weekends of the regular season. Game two of this series will be played on Thursday, Feb. 26. The Falcons want to keep the momentum going that has seen them win four in a row to move into sole possession of second place. But watch out for the Pioneers who have put together a six-game unbeaten streak including a sweep of Air Force last weekend. But I think Bentley will keep it going with a win.
Friday, February 13 and Saturday, February 14
American International at Air Force
Dan: AIC is 2-3-1 against Air Force in their last six games. In 2012-2013, the last time the Yellow Jackets played two in a row out in Colorado, they won and tied the Falcons. I find it incredibly hard to beat a team four times in a single season. So I’m going to take AIC to win a game. We always say the Yellow Jackets are going to steal a game, but this time – I’m actually going for it. AIC wins on Friday. Air Force wins on Saturday.
Chris: The flipside of SHU-Bentley are these contests which pit a pair of struggling teams. Air Force has lost four in a row and AIC is winless in its last 11. One of these teams is going to feel better this weekend and I’m picking the home team. Air Force sweeps.
Army at Canisius
Dan: Canisius came up short with just a point against first place Robert Morris last week, but I still think they’re still on the inside track to host a second round series. I think they handle business this weekend against the Black Knights. Army can help Sacred Heart and Air Force clinch home ice in the first round if they get swept, if my math is right. Canisius sweeps.
Chris: The pattern lately with these teams has been a dominant Canisius win on Friday and an Army shutout on Saturday. That’s happened three times in a row, including back in October. Cansisius came up short against Robert Morris last weekend but showed they’re a top four team, and based on that I’m picking against recent history and taking the Golden Griffins to sweep.
Rochester Institute of Technology at Holy Cross
Dan: After sweeping Niagara, Holy Cross failed to keep momentum going with a sweep loss to Bentley. That makes them 2-6 in their last eight games. RIT is very quietly becoming one of the hottest teams in the league with a 6-2-2 record since returning from the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota. At 10-7-5 in league play, the ghosts of the Corner Crew and Tiger domination of years past could finally be back. RIT sweeps.
Chris: This is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal series that went to overtime in Game Three. RIT used to own Holy Cross but lately the Crusaders have had the better of things, including taking three points in Rochester back in November. I like that trend to continue. Holy Cross sweeps.
Niagara at Mercyhurst
Dan: The injury bug is biting Mercyhurst at the wrong time of the year with senior goalie Jimmy Sarjeant and junior forward Kyle Cook reportedly out for the remainder of the season. That said, they have plenty of firepower to go around and two very capable goalies in Brandon Wildung and Spencer Bacon. Wildung is coming off a performance as goalie of the week in the AHC, and the Lakers should be able to ride him the rest of the way. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: I saw Niagara play last weekend, and there were sparks of life despite what has been a miserable season so far for the Purple Eagles. Niagara came away with a point last weekend against RIT (two if the Tigers hadn’t rallied in the final minute on Saturday), but gave up a total of 11 goals in the two games. That’s why I have to go with a Mercyhurst sweep on home ice.
Three things from this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
A playoff atmosphere
The Canisius – Robert Morris series this past weekend, a clash between first and second place in Atlantic Hockey as well as the two longest unbeaten streaks in the nation, lived up to its billing.
Both games were low-scoring and went to overtime, with the host Colonials pulling out a 2-1 victory on Friday, and Canisius getting a late goal to force overtime and an eventual 1-1 tie on Saturday.
“It really felt like a playoff game coming into the weekend and I think it played out like a playoff game and the margin of victory was slim,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith after the game on Friday.
If anything, the atmosphere was more intense on Saturday.
“In a playoff atmosphere with high emotions and high intensity, we played hard and stuck to a game plan but just weren’t able to get a winner through despite 45 shots on net,” said Smith. “We learned a lot from this weekend and our freshmen, especially, gained great experience in a wild game.”
“We gave up two goals this weekend and only got three points,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “That tells you how tough this series was.”
The three points enabled Robert Morris to move closer to the regular season title. The Colonials lead (now) second-place Bentley by nine points with three weekends left. RMU is idle next weekend and needs two points in its final four games to clinch first place.
A streak ends; a streak continues
On Friday, Rochester Institute of Technology defeated Niagara 7-3 at Dwyer Arena, putting to an end a winless streak there that extended back to…ever.
The Tigers defeated Mercyhurst in the Division III ECAC West semifinals in 1998 at Dwyer, but lost to the host Purple Eagles in the championship game the next night.
Niagara moved to Division I the next season, and the teams didn’t meet again in Lewiston until 2005 when the Tigers made the move to D-I. Prior to Friday’s game the teams had met a total of 14 times at Dwyer, with the Purps holding a 9-0-5 advantage. That came to an end Friday.
Another streak unfortunately continued for Niagara, which battled back from a 3-1 third-period deficit on Saturday to take a 4-3 lead late in the game at RIT’s Polisseni Center. But the Tigers scored an extra-attacker goal with 30 seconds left to salvage a tie.
That extended NU’s winless streak to 16 games (0-13-3) dating back to Nov. 22.
The Purple Eagles visit Mercyhurst for a pair of games this weekend.
Part-time Joe goes big-time
Joe Vicario has been a student manager for RIT Hockey for five seasons, and has faced way more than his fair share of challenges: 31 surgeries mostly to address complications from a congenital defect called Goldenhar Syndrome, but also including a life-saving procedure to stop the spread of testicular cancer in 2013.
Vicario, known as “Part-time Joe”, a nickname given to him by RIT coach Wayne Wilson because of the unpredictable schedule he keeps, was honored Saturday for his courage and the work he has done as a founder of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation of Western New York.
The RIT men’s and women’s teams wore and then auctioned off special jerseys and sold T-shirts to raise funds for the foundation.
Saturday’s festivities included a unique ceremonial puck drop that saw Vicario go from referee to player.
Niagara also honored Vicario before the game with Purple Eagle coach Dave Burkholder, a former All-American goaltender for RIT who backstopped the Tigers to the Division II national title in 1983, presented Vicario with a jersey.
Saturday was a reminder that while some things transcend even this sport we cherish, a love of this game brings people together to make good things happen.
On the season:
Dan: 97-62-23 (.596)
Chris: 108-51-23 (.657)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7
Mercyhurst at American International
Dan: I don’t think anyone can ever bet against AIC, but that’s also something we say every weekend. Mercyhurst is in desperate need of points, and I think they get back on the horse this weekend by getting four. Just be wary of the Yellow Jackets as usual. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: Mercyhurst is looking to stop an 0-3-1 skid that has dropped it into a group of four teams in fourth-through-seventh place that are separated by a single point. I’m guessing a win for and a tie for the Lakers (AIC is good at stealing points each weekend) but will go with a Mercyhurst sweep.
Holy Cross vs. Bentley
Dan: The last time these two teams met, a truck rollover on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving caused the Mass Pike to back up traffic only slightly worse than it’s been this week. The game ended up delayed by roughly 40 minutes, and the bus lag allowed Holy Cross to impose their will. This weekend, things will be different. Juxtapose an image of extreme and bitter cold for Friday night against extreme and bitter rivals in Massachusetts. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: Rivalries are best when there is a lot riding on the games, and that’s the case this weekend with Bentley hosting Friday and Holy Cross on Saturday. The Crusaders snapped a dry spell last weekend and are looking to get back on track against a Bentley team coming off a great road weekend against Mercyhurst. I’m going with the Falcons in a sweep.
Rochester Institute of Technology vs. Niagara
Dan: I still thing Niagara is a team nobody will want to face in the playoffs. That said, they’ve done nothing to prove me right, so I have to pick RIT. The Tigers get their first win at Niagara in an eternity, then back up the weekend with two more points in the house Gene Polisseni built. RIT sweeps.
Chris: The Purples Eagles host Friday and the action moved down I-90 to Rochester on Saturday. I guess I have to keep trotting out this factoid: RIT has never ever ever beaten Niagara at Dwyer Arena dating back to when the schools were rivals in the ECAC West in the 1990s. I can’t put my finger on why Niagara has struggled as much as it has this season, especially after getting past their injury-plagued start. But if it’s confidence they lack, history can help with that. I’m going with Niagara on Friday and RIT on Saturday.
Canisius at Robert Morris
Dan: If Robert Morris sweeps, they all but clinch the #1 seed in the playoffs. If Canisius sweeps, they can pull within a weekend of first and essentially eliminate a couple of teams from two of the four home ice slots in the Quarterfinals. I would make this a split, but I think RMU is going to keep winning and make everyone aware that the Pairwise Rankings are an inaccurate judge of who belongs in the tournament. RMU sweeps.
Chris: Two of the hottest teams in the country will go at it in Moon Township this weekend. RMU leads second-place Canisius by 8 points with the Golden Griffins holding two games in hand. The Colonials can essentially clinch the regular season title with a sweep, while Canisius can make it a two-dog race if they can claim four points. As good as the Griffs are playing right now, I have to go with Robert Morris to sweep at home.
Air Force at Sacred Heart
Dan: After riding high on Air Force, the jets were grounded by Robert Morris’ offensive artillery in Colorado (enough military references yet?). Now Air Force comes east still battling an identity crisis of if they’re really good enough to be a top four team. That’ll get positioned nicely against Sacred Heart, a team with more fight than probably anyone else in the league. The Pioneers have done a great job lately of “not losing,” going 1-0-3 in their last four. That signifies a team that will be extremely dangerous down the stretch. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris: Air Force has a commanding lead in the all-time series (21-6-4) but is only 5-4-1 in games played at Sacred Heart. Still, I think the Falcons will rebound after a tough weekend against RMU. Air Force sweeps.
Three observations from this past weekend’s wild slate of Atlantic Hockey Conference action:
The Bentley Falcons traveled west for the third time in four weekends to take on the Mercyhurst Lakers. With a brilliant opportunity to take some huge points, the Falcons opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period on Friday then held on for a 3-2 win when the Lakers came raging back.
On Saturday, Mercyhurst took a commanding three-goal lead in the first period after Chris Bodo scored twice and Matthew Zay scored on a short-handed bid. That chased goalie Jayson Argue from the game in favor of backup Gabe Antoni. The Falcons responded by scoring with less than six seconds left in the frame, cutting the lead to 3-1 in the intermission.
In the second period, Mercyhurst’s Grant Gettinger took an interference penalty in eight seconds before the team took a too many men bench minor 40 seconds later. That gave Bentley an extended 5-on-3 power play, which they capitalized on. With Andrew Gladiuk scoring his second of the game, the Falcons clawed back within one goal in about 90 seconds. They tied the game at the five minute mark when Derek Bacon scored his third of the year.
With the game heading for overtime, Kyle Schmidt decided he wanted to head home sooner, scoring with 16 seconds left. Bentley left Erie, PA with a four point weekend and third place in the standings.
Bentley returns home on Friday to start a home-and-home with Holy Cross. They remain two points back of second place Canisius. Given their earlier loss to the Crusaders before Thanksgiving and knowing the strength and intensity of that rivalry, this weekend’s games will be can’t miss in the east.
Starting To Look Like A Champ
Robert Morris has been riding the high of being a defending champion all season. They haven’t missed a beat, and they’ve been the first place team from the get-go. This weekend, in a huge trip out west to take on Air Force, they had a chance to reassert themselves of that top slot against a team getting on its customary second half run.
Responding with a four point weekend, including an overtime win, the Colonials showed their guts. After opening the year pistol hot, they slid four of seven games in the middle of the year. But they’ve now won six in a row and have an eight point lead over second place Canisius. They’re now within a single game of clinching a first round bye. If they can beat Canisius on Friday, they’ll clinch at least fifth. Sweep or have RIT lose two points at any point, and they’re hosting a second round series.
The only bad news for the Colonials this weekend is that the winter storm bearing down on the east coast forced a cancellation in their flight home, so head coach Derek Schooley and his team were forced to remain in the mountains a little bit longer:
Big win…bad news on cancelled flights. A few more days in Colorado. Be home 11PM on Monday. #Linus
— Derek Schooley (@derekschooley) February 1, 2015
Let’s Get Weird
Five points separate third place from seventh in the standings. Giving you an idea of what’s up for grabs, that’s two second round home series, a first round bye with a road series, and two first round home series. Two points back of that mess is the last home first round slot with Sacred Heart. With RMU all but sealing up a first round bye at this point, one less spot is open for someone.
Next weekend, third place Bentley plays Holy Cross, one of two teams tied for fourth. Mercyhurst, the other fourth place team, plays American International. Air Force, tied with RIT for sixth, plays eighth place Sacred Heart in a big series for them to try and bounce back during. RIT plays Niagara a weekend after losing to Army – the same Army team that is now only four points back of the last home first round series.
Points are at a premium, as every coach has said. Up to nine teams could end this upcoming weekend in a place in the standings different from where they started it. The only things for sure are that nobody can catch Robert Morris, and even with a sweep, Niagara cannot catch AIC, who they sit five points behind.
On the season:
Dan: 92-59-21 (.596)
Chris: 102-49-21 (.648)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, January 30 and Saturday, January 31
Robert Morris at Air Force
Dan: I’m pumped about this series. These are two teams going pistol hot, which means at some point, someone’s run comes to an end. Even though it’s come at the expense of the lower team,s I’m going with Air Force. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: Something’s gotta give here. Air Force has won seven straight against Robert Morris at the Academy, while RMU is 6-1-1 on the road this season. The Falcons are the only team to get the better of the Colonials so far, taking three of four points during a visit to 84 Lumber Arena in November. I’m picking a split, with Air Force winning on Friday and RMU coming back with a victory on Saturday.
Sacred Heart at American International
Dan: Sacred Heart has some major momentum after beating Mercyhurst last week. I’m taking them for a pair. Pioneers sweep.
Chris: The Yellow Jackets have had the momentum in this series recently, but the Pioneers are coming off a good weekend, taking three of four points against Mercyhurst. I like that trend to continue. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Niagara at Holy Cross
Dan: Holy Cross needs these points desperately, which I think paces them against Niagara. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: Purple will be the dominant color this weekend at the Hart Center, and while both teams have struggled recently (Niagara has struggled all season), I think Holy Cross gets back on track here with a sweep.
Bentley at Mercyhurst
Dan: I really think Bentley could’ve had a four point weekend last weekend, but RIT played superb on Saturday. I think Bentley gets back on track with this weekend. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: When these teams met earlier in the season, I predicted a high-scoring series, and it was indeed with Bentley earning three points with a 4-4 tie and a 5-4 overtime win. I have a gut feeling that Bentley will again pull out at least a win and a tie, so I’m going with a Falcons sweep.
Army at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: I believe in Army’s ability to pick up points at some point, even though they haven’t won in their last 13 tries. RIT returns home on the heels of a big split with a chance to get up into the top five. RIT sweeps…but not by much.
Chris: RIT has dominated this series, especially on home ice. The Black Knights haven’t beaten the Tigers in their last 13 meetings and I think that streak will continue. RIT sweeps.
Three (four) observations from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
What a weekend means
Three sweeps, a split, and a win/tie resulted in more separation in what has until recently been a logjammed Atlantic Hockey standings. There are now some teams or groupings separated by four points, i.e. a weekend sweep. Four points means teams are one weekend from moving up:
- First-place Robert Morris, which swept Holy Cross in a pair of close games, has a four point lead on Canisius, which kept pace with a sweep of Niagara.
- Canius now leads third-place Mercyhurst, which managed a single point at Sacred Heart, by four points.
- Behind Mercyhurst are five teams all within four points of each other: Air Force (swept American International), Bentley and Rochester Institute of Technology (which split their series) and Holy Cross.
- The pattern changes a bit with eighth-place Sacred Heart trailing Holy Cross by three points, but we’re back to fours again with Army, which is a quartet of points behind the Pioneers.
- The bottom three teams: Army, American International and Niagara are separated by, you guessed it, four points. Or to put it another way, one weekend.
The usual suspects were all over the scoring sheets this weekend, trying to keep pace with the national goal scoring leader, Union’s Daniel Ciampini. Ciampini had a hat-trick in his only game this weekend, an 8-3 win over Rensselaer, so he leads the chase for the scoring title by three goals over a group that includes RIT’s Matt Garbowsky. Garbowsky scored twice in the Tiger’s 5-2 win at Bentley on Saturday.
Canisius’ Ralph Cuddemi led the way with four goals this weekend, a pair in each game in a sweep of Niagara. Cuddemi is now up to 16 goals this season. tied for fifth nationally.
Adding a trio of goals to his season total over the weekend was Air Force’s Scott Holm in a sweep of AIC. Holm now has 14 goals. Robert Morris senior Cody Wydo had a pair of goals in Friday’s 4-3 win at Holy Cross, bringing his season total to date to 16.
Held off the scoreboard this weekend but still among national leaders are Bentley’s Andrew Gladiuk (15 goals) and Max French (14).
How the west was won
With Connecticut leaving the league, reducing the number of teams to an uneven 11, the AHC threw out the “scheduling pods” this season. But you know you’re still tracking East vs. West, right? Four eastern schools hosted western squads this past weekend, and the results were clearly in favor of the visitors with the west coming out on top 5-2-1.
So far this season, the six teams in the old western pod are 34-17-11 against the five eastern squads. That’s the reason why with five weeks to go in the regular season, western schools hold five of the top six spots in the standings.
More than an exhibition
Army and Canada’s Royal Military Academy met for the 79th time on Saturday, with the Black Knights coming out on top 8-0 to retain possession of the Challenge Cup trophy.
CJ Reuschlein had a pair of goals for Army, while Clint Carlisle led all scorers with a goal and three assists. Cole Bruns made 19 saves for the shutout.
Army is at Princeton on Tuesday to close out its non-conference schedule.
On the season:
Dan: 85-55-21 (.593)
Chris: 95-45-21 (.655)
This Week’s Picks:
Thursday, January 22 and Saturday, January 24
Canisius at Niagara
Dan: Niagara is in a bit of a funk this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t steal some points. Of course, Canisius is on fire the last couple of weeks against quality opponents. I think they continue it this week. Side note – as much as I’ve come around on the unbalanced schedule, there needs to be protected rivalries for four games. This one is a perfect example why. Canisius sweeps.
Chris: These are the only regular season meetings between the Western New York rivals, and Niagara needs to come away with at least a split here if it wants to get its mojo going. I think that will happen because, you know, throw out the records and all that. Niagara wins Thursday, Canisius wins Saturday.
Friday, January 23 and Saturday, January 24
Rochester Institute of technology at Bentley
Dan: Two electric scorers go head-to-head when Matt Garbowsky and Max French step on the same ice. The annual USCHO Atlantic Hockey Bowl for Chris and me. One point differential in the standings. What more could you want? Bentley sweeps.
Chris: If the games were in Rochester, I’d go with a split between these teams, which are separated by a single point in the standings. But I like Bentley to get back on track at the JAR. Bentley sweeps.
Robert Morris at Holy Cross
Dan: My biggest fear about Holy Cross was that their offense would experience a power outage, and this team would only go as far as defense and goaltending would take it. If the offense is starting to plateau, that’s bad news for a defense facing one of the best offenses in the league/country. RMU’s scored more goals than anyone this year (91), and their per-game average is second best behind only Michigan. RMU sweeps.
Chris: A couple of weeks ago, Holy Cross was right on RMU’s heels for first place. But the Crusaders have just one win in their last seven games. It’s a great match-up between Holy Cross’ defense and RMU’s offense, which found its groove again last weekend. I’m picking the offense. RMU sweeps.
Mercyhurst at Sacred Heart
Dan: For the second time in three weeks, these two teams are playing, but the series is shifting out east. Based off what was said after that weekend, the score didn’t indicate how tight SHU played the Lakers. I think the Lakers have to play better in order to ensure four points, which is why I’m picking the always-dangerous split. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. Mercyhurst wins on Saturday.
Chris: Mercyhurst dominated SHU two weeks ago, outscoring the Pioneers 11-4. The venue has changed but I think the results will be the same. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Air Force at American International
Dan: Air Force is picking up steam in the second half of the year once again, winning four straight games. They’ll make it six this weekend, but I’ll throw an asterisk that their second half surge is coming against the bottom of the AHC. Still, this is what they needed for momentum to swing their way. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: Both teams have had their ups and downs so far, and I think AIC can certainly take at least two points at home, but I have a hunch that Air Force will come out on top in a pair of close games. Air Force sweeps.
Tuesday, January 27
Army at Princeton
Dan: Princeton is a bad hockey team this year, having not won a regular season game since November 28th. They have to be cautious to not expend too much here since they’re coming up on a four-game road trip with series at Yale/Brown and Colgate/Cornell. Bad timing for this game for them. Army wins.
Chris: Princeton has just two wins so far this season, and I think Army will handle the Tiger’s anemic offense and win a low scoring game, even without leading scorer Tyler Pham, who will be serving a one-game suspension. Army wins.
Three observations from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Shows You What I Know
Let me rewind the weekend back to Friday when I made the following statement:
“I’m going to go out on a limb and will say that Robert Morris will not sweep AIC this weekend…I think they have a great chance to pick up a win. Problem is, I can’t figure out what night that’ll be, so I can’t pick them in my right mind.”
In the week they fell out of the national polls, the Colonials went out and proved any naysayers or doubters wrong. On Friday, they opened up a 4-0 lead in the third period, then staved off a Yellow Jacket rally to pick up a 5-3 win. On Saturday, they led 3-2 after the second period, then scored six in the third to pound AIC, 9-4, before a sellout crowd at the 84 Lumber Arena.
The top line of Scott Jacklin, Zac Lynch, and Cody Wydo combined for 13 points, with Wydo and Jacklin scoring five points apiece. Wydo scored a hat trick and tied up Boston University wunderkind Jack Eichel for the national scoring lead. In the process, he became the all-time scoring leader in the short history of Colonial hockey.
It wasn’t that AIC played poorly; the box score indicates otherwise. Down 4-0 on Friday, the Jackets kept coming and coming until they made the game closer than RMU probably wanted it. On Saturday, despite the six goal third period, they scored two of their own, and sophomore Austin Orszulak is in the lead for the AHC’s version of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for goal scoring (which doesn’t exist, by the way). It’s just that they ran into a speeding bullet train that refused to be denied.
Side note – they also wore some pretty sweet sweaters while doing it:
— Derek Schooley (@derekschooley) January 18, 2015
Series of the Weekend
Seldom does anything in sports actually live up to the hype surrounding it. That said, that’s exactly what Mercyhurst and Holy Cross did this weekend. Meeting for the 15th and 16th times since the 2011-2012 season, the Lakers and Crusaders turned in what might’ve been the series of 2014-2015.
Scoreless through the first on Friday, Kyle Just scored his seventh goal of the season to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead. Five minutes into the second, the Lakers made it 2-0 off the stick of Kyle Cook, who notched his second goal of the year on a power play. But when Alec Shields went to the box for tripping with under four minutes to go in the game, Jake Bolton scored to cut the lead to 2-1. Holy Cross pulled their goalie late to try and tie things up but failed and lost 2-1 in a thriller.
On Saturday, Holy Cross jumped out a two-goal lead with 9:35 left in the first period, but Mercyhurst scored twice – 30 seconds after the second Crusader goal and again with 32 seconds left on the power play in the period – to tie it up into the locker room.
In the second period, Jack Riley took a penalty ten seconds into the frame, and Joe McNamara scored six seconds later to give Holy Cross a power play lead 16 seconds into the period. They scored again on the power play five minutes later to go up 4-2. But Mercyhurst channeled their inner New England Patriots by rallying from a two-score deficit again, tying the game with thanks to Kyle Just’s power play goal and Daniel Bahntge’s score with under a minute to go.
In overtime, Tyler Shiplo gave the Lakers their only lead, ending the game with a 5-4 result 3:09 into free hockey. It was the only shot on goal in the period.
While Spencer Bacon played on Friday and started on Saturday, Brandon Wildung came off the bench to pick up the win in relief on the second night. Starting both nights in place of the injured Matt Ginn (who was hurt last week against Canisius), Paul Berrafato played very well but remains in search of his first career win.
Still Not Quite Over The Hump
One of the running storylines over the years has been the perceived success of the western AHC teams over the east. During division-based scheduling, the west would dominate, resulting in multiple teams receiving byes with the one eastern team breaking away from their brethren.
During the three years of the standard 12-team playoff, that’s what happened. In 2012, all four bye teams came from the west, followed by the fifth and sixth seed coming from the east. All four western bye teams advanced to the semifinals. In ’13, Holy Cross and Connecticut received first round byes, but the other four eastern-based teams all went on the road in the first round after finishing 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. Last year, two eastern teams received byes (Bentley and UConn), with the remaining eastern teams finishing 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th.
Canisius, Robert Morris, and Mercyhurst all started breaking away with huge weekends against eastern teams, allowing them to give the west the inside track to those coveted byes. With eight wins already, the Lakers have six games left over the next three weekends against the east. Conversely, RMU (seven wins vs. east) only has a two game series at Holy Cross remaining this week, although they have a commanding lead already in the standings for first place. Canisius (six wins vs. east) has arguably the toughest road to sealing up the bye with only two games left against the east and games left against the Colonials and Lakers.
Further back is where things will get really interesting, thanks in part to the unbalanced schedule. Bentley (5-3-2 against the west) has seven games left against the east; Holy Cross (4-4-2 vs. western teams) has five. That said, three of those are against each other. Further beyond that, they both still have to play Sacred Heart; the Pioneers are 1-2-1 against them this year and have picked up late season points against either or both programs every year since 2003-2004.
Air Force has 18 points, one back of both Bentley and Holy Cross for the last bye slot. Four of their remaining games are against AIC, currently 2-6-4 against the west. RIT (4-2-2 vs. east) is tied with the Falcons for sixth place, but their four games left against eastern teams are against Bentley and Holy Cross (combined 9-7-2 against the west). Sacred Heart (3-7-2 vs. west) is in the last home ice spot but has four games left against the west. Their run to the end goes through both Bentley and Holy Cross – two of the top five teams but teams they’ve sustained success against.
While the games are becoming more competitive and playoff seedings were irrelevant to who actually won Atlantic Hockey, coaches still want their teams to have the best possible finish in the season. In order to get to that point, we have A LOT of hockey left, and things are going to get A LOT more insane.
On the season:
Dan: 77-52-20 (.584)
Chris: 86-43-20 (.644)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17
Army at Air Force
Dan: Army hasn’t had a win over Air Force in a really long time, but the gap is starting to close. That said, it’s not quite there yet. This is going to be an exciting weekend, the one time of year when America’s finest boys go head-to-head on an ice rink. Divided in hockey, united in defense of our country. If you get the chance to get out and watch a game, I absolutely recommend it. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: This built-in rivalry usually lives up to its billing. The Falcons swept the Black Knights at Army last year, so Brian Riley’s team is looking for revenge. But I expect Air Force to find ways to win at home, as they so often do. Air Force sweeps.
Bentley at Canisius
Dan: Bentley is one of those teams that just doesn’t go away, and they’re developing a reputation as one of those teams that plays hard every night. Canisius is on a roll. They’ve met each of the last two postseasons, with Canisius winning each. Bentley will be up; get ready for a great weekend of hockey. Canisius wins on Friday; Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris: Canisius is playing some of its best hockey of the season, and a sweep of Holy Cross last weekend and a win at Mercyhurst on Tuesday has vaulted the Golden Griffins into second place. Fourth-place Bentley has split its regular season series with Canisius each of the past five seasons, but it was Canisius that ended Bentley’s run last year in an epic quarterfinal playoff series. I think this will be another split, with Canisius winning on Friday and Bentley on Saturday.
Holy Cross at Mercyhurst
Dan: This won’t be the last time these teams play each other. I’m really high on Mercyhurst, especially if you read my weekly piece this week. I’m also high on Holy Cross. Coin flip comes up………Mercyhurst. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: Despite the distance between the two schools, this has turned into something of a rivalry, with the Lakers ending the Crusader’s season in each of the past three postseasons. It’s a match-up of Mercyhurst’s offense, currently second in the league, with the Crusaders top-ranked defense. I like the Lakers to win a pair of close games. Mercyhurst sweeps.
American International at Robert Morris
Dan: You know what? I’m going out on a limb and will say that Robert Morris will not sweep AIC this weekend. The Yellow Jackets will pick up at least a point. I think they have a great chance to pick up a win. Problem is, I can’t figure out what night that’ll be, so I can’t pick them in my right mind. I’m telling you I’m wrong on one of these nights, and I’m completely devaluing my picks along the way. RMU sweeps.
Chris: AIC has taken points each weekend but one so far in conference play, albeit it often a single point, as it did in a loss and tie against the Colonials earlier in the season. I can’t pick ties, so I’m going with an RMU sweep.
Rochester Institute of Technology at Sacred Heart
Dan: This is going to be a huge series for the playoff race since RIT and Sacred Heart have a good chance to land right at the 8-9 swap for home ice in the first round. The winner or loser could face a long bus trip. If this were in Rochester, I’d take the Tigers, but it’s not. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers have traditionally played well against Sacred Heart, especially at the Milford Ice Pavilion. The teams split in Rochester in late November, and I think that will be the case again this weekend. RIT wins on Friday; Sacred Heart on Saturday.
Niagara at North Dakota
Dan: All year I’ve said I thought Niagara is better than some of the stats and records indicate. That said, I don’t think they’ve ever really found a rhythm this year, and that’s not good since North Dakota can score at an alarming rate and is playing at a very high level of hockey. North Dakota sweeps.
Chris: On paper this isn’t much of a match-up between No. 3 North Dakota and Niagara, which is 59th and last in the Pairwise Rankings. But it is for that reason that North Dakota can’t afford to falter, as a loss against a team low in the PWR will do damage to North Dakota’s Pairwise. I think that will keep ND focused. North Dakota sweeps.
Three things from the past weekend in Atlantic Hockey (stepping up to the plate):
Four points on a weekend is often a difficult task to accomplish in Atlantic Hockey, but this past weekend saw three of five series decided entirely in favor of the host school.
Not that things weren’t close in two of the three series. At Air Force, the Falcons led Niagara for only a total of three minutes and forty seconds in the two games, but engineered two 4-3 come-from behind victories, including an overtime thriller on Saturday.
Air Force’s win on Saturday was the 300th career victory at the school for Falcons coach Frank Serratore. He has 349 career wins including a stint at Denver, but it’s been 17 seasons at Air Force where he’s truly made his mark.
“I didn’t even realize this was my 300th win,” Serratore said after Saturday’s victory. “Thanks to the Academy for allowing me to be here long enough to win that many games. You don’t win without great players and great assistant coaches and I have been very fortunate.”
Men in scoring position
Yeah, it’s a stretch but I’m keeping with the baseball motif (opening day is only 83 days away!). In this case, I’m talking about big time goal scorers, and the league has several players at or near the top of D-I.
American International’s Austin Orszulak scored the tying goal with 6.8 seconds left at Rochester Institute of Technology to help the Yellow Jackets to earn a point against the Tigers on Friday. He scored another in a 3-2 loss to RIT on Saturday. Those were Orszulak’s 14th and 15th goals of the season, tied with Union’s Daniel Ciampini for the national lead.
Right behind with 14 are Bentley’s Andrew Gladiuk and Max French, who’s most recent tally was the lone goal and game-winner for the Falcons in a 1-0 win at Robert Morris on Saturday to earn a weekend split with the first-place Colonials.
Also at 14 is RIT’s Matt Garbowsky, who didn’t light the lamp against AIC, but contributed three assists on the weekend.
So the countdown continues with just seven weekends left in the regular season. And only 37 days until pitchers and catchers report.