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Three things: Going streaking

Streaky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of streaks

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

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

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

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

A good problem to have, but still a problem

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Hockey Picks, December 4-5th

Last week:

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

On the season:

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

 

This Week’s Picks:

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

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

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

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

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

Three things: ANOTHER league logjam starting to form?

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

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

That’s the easy part.

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

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

Home cookin’

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

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

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

Brotherly love

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

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

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

Atlantic Hockey Picks, November 27-December 1

Last week:

Dan: 6-3-2
Chris: 6-3-2

On the season:

Dan: 52-28-7 (.638)
Chris: 60-20-7 (.730)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Friday, November 27 and Saturday November 28

Army West Point at Canisius
Dan: It’s hard to imagine Army West Point being swept by anybody these days, and I really think they’re on the verge of a breakout. This could be the weekend they do it; the Black Knights are arguably the best team capable of handling a road series after Thanksgiving, and every home team will deal with the inevitable letdown of their student bases being on vacation. That said, I’m pulling a Lee Corso swerve and taking Canisius in a sweep.
Chris:I’ve correctly picked Army to earn a tie in each of the past two weekends (at least in these comments; we don’t actually pick ties). Why stop now? That said, officially I’m going with a Canisius sweep.

Niagara at Holy Cross:
Dan: 
Holy Cross transformed as a team over the past seven games, a stretch in which they’ve gone 5-2. With the exception of a 7-5 win over Brown, they’ve held opponents to one or none goals in each of their four other wins. They’ve given up three and five goals in losses. If the defense is on, they win. That’s a good challenge against a Niagara offense that’s averaging over three goals per game in their last three games,  Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: There will be lots of purple on display in Worcester, but I like the guys in the mostly white jerseys to pull out four tough points at home. Holy Cross sweeps.

Air Force vs. Colorado College
Dan: These teams will play on Friday at the academy before shifting to the World Arena less than 20 miles away. But you couldn’t find two teams heading in any further directions away from each other. Air Force is 2-0-1 in their last three, including a three point weekend against Sacred Heart on the road. Colorado College is completely winless. Air Force sweeps.
Chris:At 0-9, Colorado College will be playing some desperate hockey, with the added pressure/incentive of a local rivalry on the line. I think the Tigers snap their streak, but not until Saturday. Air Force wins Friday; Colorado College on Saturday.

Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29

Sacred Heart at Robert Morris
Dan: I think I love this matchup as the early season series of the year. Robert Morris has ample motivation to get a good weekend after losing points to AIC and Army West Point the last two weeks. That’s the same for a good SHU squad that lost twice to Penn State and only took a point from Air Force. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. Robert Morris wins on Saturday.
Chris:If this series was in Milford, I’d go with a split. But I think Robert Morris finds a way to win both. RMU sweeps.

Saturday, November 28

Bentley at New Hampshire
Dan: UNH has a decided home ice advantage playing on an Olympic-sized rink measuring 200 feet by 100 feet; they haven’t finished below .500 at home since well over 15 years ago. That said, their only win so far on Lake Whitt is against AIC to start the season. The Wildcats haven’t won a game in general since Halloween That’s an interesting subplot to facing a hungry Bentley team that’s looking to prove it can regain its winning stroke against Hockey East teams. UNH wins, but I feel zero confidence in this pick.
Chris: Bentley has represented the league well  in non-conference play, and while a win here is certainly possible, I’m going with the slumping Wildcats. UNH wins.

RIT at Boston College
Dan: BC is ranked #1 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. That comes despite giving up four goals to Michigan State and three goals to New Hampshire last weekend. If there’s a good news for RIT, it’s that Conte Forum should feel like a mausoleum with a 4 PM Saturday game. Boston College wins.
Chris:
I’ll be broadcasting this one, a payback trip for the Tigers after Boston College came to Rochester in 2014. That was a 6-2 BC win, and I’m thinking along so same lines. BC wins.

Tuesday, December 1

American International at Bentley
Dan: 
After losing at BU and (predicted) at UNH, Bentley returns home for their first conference game at the JAR since October 10th. It’s AIC’s first visit to the JAR since February 28th, 2014, a place where they’re 3-3 since the start of the decade. In a bit of good news, the two teams, member schools of the D2 Northeast-10 in everything else, will play each other four times this year Bentley wins.
Chris: If Bentley can avoid a letdown after some tough road games, I think the Falcons take care of business. Bentley wins.

Three things: Compelling action grips AHC landscape

Heading into Friday night’s games, I had a feeling the potential best weekend series would come from the series between Niagara and American International. Any time there are two teams needing to avoid falling behind their league brethren at a critical early juncture, they begin to produce high energy action as both identify opportunities to jump start their respective motors.

That’s exactly what happened inside Dwyer Arena. On Friday, a see-saw, overtime thriller turned in favor of Niagara.

In the first period, the Yellow Jackets struck first blood behind Jackson Dudley’s third goal of the season, before the Purple Eagles tied the game 90 seconds later on the first of the year by Stephen Pietrobon.

In the second period, Niagara broke the 1-1 stalemate with two goals, including one on the power play, to take a 3-1 lead with eight minutes left. But after Sam Rennaker’s goal gave the Purple Eagles their two-goal lead, Dudley again scored, pulling AIC within one. In the third, Austin Orszulak scored to tie things up.

Niagara scored at the 6:26 mark to retake a 4-3 lead, only to see AIC come back once again with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. In overtime, Matt Chiarantano notched his first of the season with 18 seconds left, lifting the hosts to their first game of the season with a 5-4 victory.

Then came Saturday’s encore.

The teams went into the first intermission scoreless despite Niagara outshooting AIC, 16-1. That helped boost the Yellow Jackets to two power play goals, then a third on even strength circumstances. Down 3-0, it was Niagara’s turn to play comeback, scoring one before the end of the period and adding a second late in the third.

It would fall short, however, as AIC’s Chris Porter added an empty net goal, resulting in a 4-2 result and a weekend split.

In total, Niagara and AIC combined for 15 goals, 143 shots on goal, 34 penalty minutes, and seven power plays, delivering on all promises from Friday of exciting hockey.

Getting (Army) stronger

Heading into the weekend, both Chris and I reasoned that Army West Point would, at some point, take at least one point from Robert Morris. After seeing the Black Knights shut out Connecticut on the road, we both figured that the Colonials were further along but were also traveling on the road to face a Black Knight team now growing the seeds of progress.

Army West Point proved us prophetic in a 4-4 tie at Tate Rink on Friday. After giving up a goal just past the halfway point of the first period, the Black Knights scored twice in two minutes to go up 2-1. They gave up a shorthanded goal with one second remaining to wind up 2-2 into the first intermission, but they scored 46 seconds into the second period on the power play to retake a 3-2 lead.

It didn’t take long for RMU to tie things up at 3-3, but the Black Knights, undaunted, scored 51 seconds after the tying strike to retake a one-goal lead. Though Brandon Denham’s second goal of the night tied the game early in the third, the cadets held on for a point despite being outshot, 14-11, from the third period through overtime.

RMU returned to form on Saturday in scoring three first period goals, but there’s something to be said for Army’s two additional power play goals in a 5-2 defeat. There could be another team to put on the radar as the season hits the end of its first half.

The need For rivalries

As mentioned during our weekly picks column, last weekend provided the only regular season meeting between Mercyhurst and Canisius, two programs with a long history dating back to both schools’ tenure in ECAC West.

During Canisius’ 4-3 win on Friday, referees called 30 penalties, 20 of which came on a goal with 48 seconds left in the second period by Mercyhurst’s Kane Elliot. Elliot scored on a delayed penalty call — a goal that was eventually held up after review to put the Lakers on the board after trailing 3-0 to that point.

The post play pushing and shoving devolved into as much of a donnybrook as can push the collegiate envelope, with 10 players receiving both two minute minors for roughing and 10 minute misconducts – a total of 120 minutes. For good measure, the delayed penalty — a slash by Ryan Schmelzer — also was called.

With emotions riding high, Mercyhurst clawed back to tie the game with under seven minutes left, only to watch Mike Sabatini score the game winner for the Golden Griffins in a 4-3 decision. It’s worth noting Mercyhurst, to their merit, evened the weekend with a 4-1 victory on Saturday.

The weekend underscored the need to protect the truly great rivalries in Atlantic Hockey. With the current scheduling format, a number of rivalries will only see two games instead of four. Two of those involve Canisius, who will not have return matchups with Mercyhurst or Niagara (with whom they battle for the Canal Cup in the all sports-wide Battle of the Bridge).

Scheduling is an imperfect science, and I know there’s a benefit of the doubt to be given because of its challenges. I just feel there has to be a way to identify and protect certain matchups within the league. With them, there are brilliant opportunities to help generate the emotional feel that can only come with rivalry games.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, Nov. 20-24

Last week:

Dan: 3-6
Chris: 7-2

On the season:

Dan: 46-25-5 (.679)
Chris: 54-17-5 (.739)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21
Robert Morris at Army West Point
Dan: I’m convinced Army could very easily take points in this weekend, and I’m in agreement with Chris over the whole three-point weekend. But since we don’t take ties in this pick ‘em, I’m going to take RMU in a sweep.
Chris: The Black Knights are coming off a nice road shutout of UConn while RMU was idle last weekend. I’d like to predict that the Colonials will take three points, but we don’t pick ties (which is too bad, because, as I mentioned in the picks two weeks ago when RIT visited Tate Rink, I thought it was going to be a win and tie for the Tigers, and that’s what happened). So I’m going with a Colonials sweep.

Mercyhurst at Canisius
Dan: I’m picking Mercyhurst in a sweep because I simply have that feeling. Of course, I went 3-6 last week, so what do I know? Side note – I’ll also agree with Chris on making sure that certain rivalries need to be protected for four games in the future. This is one of Atlantic Hockey’s all-time best.
Chris:This is the longest standing rivalry in the league, dating back to when both schools were in the ECAC West. These games will be the 82nd and 83rd times these teams have faced off. The Lakers lead the all-time series 40-32-10 but Canisius is 7-1-1 against the Lakers in their last nine meetings. These I-90 rivals play just twice this season — can somebody fix that, please? — and I think the Lakers will reverse the recent trend and sweep.

American International at Niagara
Dan: This is an incredibly intriguing matchup. Both teams rank in the bottom four nationally in scoring defense (Niagara at 57, AIC at 60 to bookend Dartmouth and Brown), but I don’t think that’s accurate of what either can do. Niagara tied Penn State and Robert Morris and took Cornell to overtime. AIC beat RMU earlier this season. So I think there’s more there than the numbers might show. Give me a win by each this weekend. Niagara wins on Friday; AIC wins on Saturday.
Chris:The teams are a combined 1-16-2 so far this season, but if one or the other can come away with four points, it will jump-start their season. That said, I’m thinking split. AIC wins on Friday; Niagara wins on Saturday.

Air Force at Sacred Heart
Dan: This matchup isn’t so much as intriguing as it is downright good. I’m thinking this will be the most competitive of the series. I’ve been consistent in my praise for Sacred Heart, so I’m taking them for a three-point weekend. Since we can’t pick ties, I guess I’ll provide some bulletin board material for the Falcons. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris: This should be a fun series between a pair of teams that look to be on the rise. SHU plays Air Force much tougher at home (5-6-1 vs. the Falcons as opposed to 2-15-3 in Colorado Springs) so I’m going with a split. Sacred Heart wins Friday; Air Force wins Saturday.
Friday, November 20
Rensselaer at Bentley
Dan: Last season, Bentley absolutely pummeled the Engineers in a sweep in Troy, outscoring them 9-2. This year, RPI makes a return trip to Watertown undefeated in their last six games (4-0-1). Their last four have been to overtime, resulting in two wins and two ties. Their only other win this year? Boston College. Bentley seems to always play well in heavyweight-type games, so it should be an absolute classic. RPI wins in a squeaker.
Chris: This is the seventh meeting between the schools, but the first time the Engineers have been to the JAR. That makes me lean towards Bentley, but taking account the uncertainty with each team’s goaltending situation (starters Jayson Argue for Bentley and Jason Kasdorf for Rensselaer are both banged up) I’ve got a gut feeling RPI will pull this one out.
Tuesday, November 24
American International at Holy Cross
Dan: AIC has a quick turnaround after having to come back from Niagara Falls, which helps Holy Cross. I’m taking the Crusaders to edge the Jackets.
Chris: It’s games like this, on a weekday early in the season, that often seem to come back to haunt a team desperate for points in February. I’m picking the Crusaders to win this one at home.

Bentley at Boston University
Dan: This is a tremendous opportunity for the Falcons, who two years ago waltzed into Agganis Arena through nor’easter conditions and took a 4-1 victory over the Terriers. I picked that game correctly because I just had a feeling. I have an eerily similar feeling about this game, especially since Bentley could be entering this game 3-1 in non-conference play if they beat RPI on Friday. So I’m going to go for it again and take Bentley to win. Side note – on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Falcons’ 5.2 mile commute into Boston might be their longest road trip of the year (translation: if you’re going to the game, leave plenty of extra time).
Chris: This, and the RIT at BC game a few days later, will be an excellent benchmark for the league, which has struggled out of conference. But I think there will be just too much red BU vs.blue BU. Boston University wins.

Three things: Bye bye

Bye bye

The calendar says we’ve just finished the seventh weekend of the college hockey season, normally a busy time of the season.

But there were just four conference games played this past weekend, and Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, American International and Army West Point were off the schedule completely (the Black Knights and Yellow Jackets had games last Tuesday).

In non-league play, Canisius, Sacred Heart and Niagara went 0-5 against Big Ten competition. That dropped the AHC’s nonconference record to 9-35-3 (.223), about where the league was a year ago at this time.

Next weekend, Rochester Institute of Technology and Holy Cross are idle.

We’ll have to wait until January 2, 2016 to see a day when all 11 Atlantic Hockey teams are in action.

Deja Vu all over again

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Bentley and RIT go to overtime at the Polisseni Center, tied 2-2. The Falcons’ top line comes through at crunch time with the game-winner, and Bentley comes away with a hard-earned pair of road points.

That was the scenario on Friday.

And on Saturday.

The circumstances were slightly different — on Friday the Tigers forced overtime while on Saturday it was the Falcons that knotted the game late — but the result was the same.

Max French got the game-winner on Friday, his second of the game and sixth in just five games so far this season.

On Saturday, French helped set up the GWG by Andrew Gladiuk, his 60th career goal.

Gabe Antoni picked up both wins for Bentley. On Friday, the senior entered the game to start the third period in relief of starter Jayson Argue, who left with a lower-body injury. Antoni stopped all 13 RIT shots he faced in the third period and overtime.

On Saturday, he made 36 saves on 38 shots for the win.

Shooting gallery

Two school records were set this past weekend, both involving a large number of shots on goal.

RIT put a Division I era, school-record 56 shots on net during regulation on Friday, including 45 over the first two periods. Bentley goaltender Jayson Argue made a whole-game-and-then-some collection of saves (43) before leaving after two periods with an injury.

In Happy Valley on Saturday, Penn State and Sacred Heart combined for a whopping 112 shots on goal in the Nittany Lions’ 3-2 win.

SHU goaltender Brett Magnus made a school-record record 64 saves in the loss, including 45 over the final two periods. Magnus obliterated the previous Pioneer record of 54 saves set back in 2006.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, Nov. 12-14

Last week:

Dan: 7-4-1
Chris: 8-3-1

On the season:

Dan: 43-19-5 (.679)
Chris: 47-15-5 (.739)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Thursday, November 12 and Friday, November 13
Holy Cross at Air Force
Dan: If there’s a team that can give Air Force a run in Colorado, it’s going to be the Crusaders. Averaging just over three goals per game, don’t sleep on them lighting the lamp and making the Falcons’ life tough. These games could be high scoring, and if that’s the case, the Crusaders will win at least one. Air Force wins on Thursday. Holy Cross wins on Friday.
Chris: The Falcons will be playing just their second and third home games of the season, coming off a seven-game roadtrip. These teams have gone to overtime 11 times in 24 meetings since AFA joined the AHC in 2006. I’m going with an Air Force sweep in a pair of close games.
Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14
Bentley at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: Bentley hasn’t made a trip to Rochester since the 2012-2013 season when they split with the Tigers a year after their epic three game playoff series, and they’re just 4-9-2 at RIT since the Tigers elevated to Division I. But Bentley has the capability to play any type of game, and I think they’re going to win at least one. Side note: by going on vacation this weekend and into next week, I found yet another reason to miss the trip to Rochester. Chris will find a way to hold this over me  when the Tigers come east later in the year. Bentley wins on Friday; RIT on Saturday.
Chris: The Tigers return home after taking seven of eight possible points on the road against teams near the bottom of the standings. This will be a tougher test against a Bentley team that is slightly ahead of RIT team in both offense (fourth in the league vs. fifth) and defense (third in the league vs. fourth). I’m going with a split. Bentley wins Friday; RIT on Saturday.

Canisius at Ohio State
Dan: Ohio State enters this game at 1-7 after splitting with Mercyhurst last week. Saturday’s game is around 4 PM, right after THE Ohio State University Buckeyes take on Illinois on the road in football. Always one for the bold pick, I’m using that for some whiz-bang analysis and picking the Griffs with the shocking sweep. Canisius sweeps.
Chris: Another AHC vs. Big 10 matchup (more to come). It’s a homecoming of sorts for Golden Griffins coach Dave Smith, who played his college hockey for OSU. (Sorry, THE OSU). The teams meet for the third year in a row, with the Buckeyes leading the all-time series 3-0-1. I expect that streak to continue. Ohio State sweeps.

Sacred Heart at Penn State
Dan: Penn State’s +12 against Atlantic Hockey this year in picking up three wins. I think that comes to a crashing halt this weekend in at least one of the games. After talking with Sacred Heart head coach CJ Marottolo this week, I think they’re the right team at the right time to pick up a win out in Hockey Valley. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. Penn State wins on Saturday.
Chris: Penn State faces off against its fourth AHC opponent so far this season. The Nittany Lions are 3-0-1 so far against teams from Atlantic Hockey, and I look for that trend to continue, especially on home ice. Penn State sweeps.
Friday, November 13
Niagara at Michigan
Dan: Michigan knows better than to overlook a team from Atlantic Hockey. Niagara earned a 1-1 tie against Penn State last week but are still looking for their first win. I think they play tough, but the Wolverines are in a better spot right now. Michigan wins.
Chris: Four of the Wolverines first six games have been against AHC teams, including a loss to Robert Morris two weeks ago. After a bye weekend to stew about it, I don’t think Red’s boys will be taking the Purple Eagles lightly. Michigan wins.

Three things: A Mercyhurst milestone

Mercyhurst milestone

Mercyhurst defeated visiting Air Force 3-1 on Saturday, the 500th career victory for Lakers coach Rick Gotkin, who is in his 28th season at the Erie, Pa. school.

Gotkin began his head coaching career at Mercyhurst in 1988, the second year of varsity hockey at the school and has been there ever since, amassing a record of 500-357-76.

Under Gotkin, the Lakers have been to the Division III, Division II and Division I NCAA Tournaments, and have qualified for the postseason 25 of a possible 27 times.

I’ve known Rick almost as long as he’s been at Mercyhurst, and while there are a lot of nice guys in college hockey, he’s one of the best. Congratulations.

AIC achievement

American International also had a historic win this past weekend, erasing a 2-0 deficit at No. 20 Robert Morris on Friday and winning 3-2. Travis Douglas got the game-winner with 5:11 left and Alex Murray made 44 saves for the Yellow Jackets.

It was AIC’s first win of the season and the first time in the history of the program (67 seasons, including 18 at the full Division I level) that the Yellow Jackets defeated a ranked D-I opponent.

On any given…

Robert Morris got revenge the following night, defeating AIC 7-1 to earn the split.

Also splitting conference weekend series were Air Force and Mercyhurst, as well as Sacred Heart and Holy Cross.

Rochester Institute of Technology took three points at Army to round out conference play.

That means all eight teams playing league games this past weekend earned at least a point, demonstrating again how close the standings have been in recent years, and how no AHC team can be taken for granted.

In 12 weekend conference series so far, only three have resulted in sweeps. Expect more of the same.

Atlantic Hockey Picks, Nov. 6-10

Last week:

Dan: 9-4-1
Chris: 10-3-1

On the season:

Dan: 36-15-4 (.691)
Chris: 39-12-4 (.745)

 

This Week’s Picks:

Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7
Rochester Institute of Technology at Army West Point
Dan: Hard to believe it took RIT six games this year before they won their first last weekend against AIC. Continuing their swing east this weekend at West Point, I think they continue getting better, setting up a typical titan matchup next week against a well-rested Bentley squad. RIT sweeps.
Chris:The teams split last season in Rochester, ending a 15-game unbeaten streak for the Tigers against the Black Knights. I like RIT to take three points this weekend, but since picking ties isn’t allowed, I’m going with an RIT sweep.

Sacred Heart vs. Holy Cross
Dan: This is as evenly-matched as a weekend can get in Atlantic Hockey; neither team has a weekend sweep of two games since Holy Cross took two from the Pioneers in February, 2012. I think that changes this weekend on one fact – Sacred Heart is ninth best in the nation with a 1.67 GAA (a number that drops to 1.33 in league play). Fun fact: the Pioneers haven’t swept the Crusaders since February, 2010. SHU sweeps.
Chris: I agree with Dan, this series could go either way and should be highly entertaining. Friday’s game is at Holy Cross; Saturday’s at SHU. I’m going with the home team each night. Holy Cross wins Friday; Sacred Heart on Saturday.

Air Force at Mercyhurst
Dan: This is the weekend for Rick Gotkin. Entering Friday at 499 wins, I think the Lakers get it done on one of these nights this weekend. I won’t take them to sweep, but I think we’re going to wake up on Saturday with the Mercyhurst coach as the 23rd coach across all divisions to hit the sacred 500-win mark. Mercyhurst wins on Friday; Air Force wins on Saturday.
Chris:Air Force has played a very tough schedule so far, but so has Mercyhurst. It’s tough to sweep the Falcons, but I think Mercyhurst finds a way. Mercyhurst sweeps.

American International at Robert Morris
Dan: This is a weekend coming at a bad time for AIC. They head to Pittsburgh to take on a Robert Morris team that is looking at the way-too-early Pairwise Rankings from just outside the top 16. I think AIC is going to be much better as the year rolls on, but this is a weekend where they’re facing down a machine playing out this year with something to prove. RMU sweeps.
Chris: I think Robert Morris is locked in right now, and the only way the Colonials don’t take four points is if they suffer a letdown after last Saturday’s big win at Michigan. I don’t think that will happen. RMU sweeps.

 
Friday, November 6
Penn State at Niagara
Dan: Niagara continues to search for their first win of the season after battling through a tough weekend with Cornell last week. Penn State is looking like they’re going to be a tough out for anyone this year. Call this one for the Nittany Lions. Penn State wins.
Chris: I wouldn’t be surprised for Niagara to pull out a win here, but I think Penn State has a shot at winning the Big 10 this season, and should take care of business as it tunes up for league play. Penn State wins.

 
Saturday, November 7
Merrimack at Canisius
Dan: I got a first-hand chance to see Merrimack this week when they beat Bentley, 5-1. They’re big, skilled, and physical. They play tenacious team defense and do a very good job mucking up the neutral zone. They play a stifling 1-3-1, and I honestly think their 16th-overall ranking in the USCHO poll is a little too low for them. That’s bad news for a Canisius offense that’s scored only 11 goals in six games, nine of which from three players. Merrimack wins.
Chris: Like Dan said, Merrimack is firing on all cylinders and on Wednesday broke open what was a close game with Bentley with a barrage of goals in the third period. This is a long way for the Warriors to go for one game, but I think it will be worth it. Merrimack wins.

 
Tuesday, Nov. 10
Sacred Heart at American International
Dan: After beating AIC 4-1 a couple of weeks ago, Sacred Heart rolls back to Springfield for their second game at the Olympia Ice Center. I really think AIC could shock people in this one, but the Pioneers are one of those teams that could get rolling to start the season. SHU wins.
Chris: This ends a busy stretch for AIC, which will play 8 games in 19 days. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll get a win in any of them. Sacred Heart wins.

Army West Point at Connecticut
Dan: Dr. Jeckyll UConn beat Boston University, 5-2, before 5,225 people at the XL Center. Mr. Hyde UConn gave up 10 goals to Notre Dame last weekend, including eight last Sunday at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn in the second part of the collegiate twin-bill (Army played Bentley in the front end). Depending on which UConn shows up, Army has a very good chance at picking up the win. Army wins.
Chris: I look for UConn to bounce back from a tough weekend and get a non-conference win against an old conference rival. UConn wins.

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