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Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – December 8, 2013

Three (OK, four, but they’re short) Things from Atlantic Hockey play this weekend:

Rebound

On Friday, Canisius led host Army 3-2 after two periods before blowing the game open with five goals in the third to win, 8-2. The Griffs chased Black Knight goaltender Rob Tadazak with their sixth goal, the first career tally for rookie Shane Conacher (yes, relation).

It’s always interesting to see how a team responds to a blowout loss. Would Army coach Brian Riley make wholesale changes? How would the Black Knights react, especially if they fell behind early?

Riley elected to go back to Tadazak, and he and sophomore Shane Hearn led the Black Knights to a rebound 2-0 win on Saturday.

Hearn got Army a lead it wouldn’t surrender midway through the second period, and added an insurance goal with 58 seconds left to seal the deal. Tadazak stopped all 15 shots he faced for the shutout. Those 15 shots were a season low for the Golden Griffins. Army surrendered 35 to Canisius the night before.

“I am sure there are some people that would not come back to Tadazak tonight,” Riley said after the game. “But he is a competitor, and he gave us a chance to win tonight and I was happy to see him bounce back the way he did.”

Milestones

Usually it’s near the end of a season that you see players achieve career records or milestones, but a pair of achievements happened this past weekend:

    • Canisius senior Kyle Gibbons scored his 49th and 50th career goals on Saturday, becoming the third player in program history to get to the half-century mark. He’s now tied with Jason Weeks (50 goals from 2006 to 2010) and trails only Cory Conacher (62 goals from 2007 to 2011).
    • Bentley’s Brett Gensler moved into the top position for career points in Bentley’s Division I era with three assists in Friday’s 4-1 win over Robert Morris, moving past Dain Prewitt (’09). Gensler added a goal in Saturday’s 7-2 win and now is at 129 points and counting. The all-time record for career points at Bentley is still held by coach Ryan Soderquist, who recorded 173 back in the Falcons’ Division II days.

 

A heap of helpers

Bentley defenseman Steve Weinstein, who set the school career mark for points by a defenseman on Nov. 30, added to his total with a goal and four assists last weekend. The junior already has 19 assists this season. He’s tied for second nationally, trailing only St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey (23 assists).

Weinstein has had at least one assist in his last eight contests, averaging two a game over that span. His goal on Saturday was his first of the season.

Who’s hot

As we approach Holiday break, who’s the hottest team in Atlantic Hockey?

Canisius was riding a four-game winning streak before being shut out at Army on Saturday. Rochester Institute of Technology has won five in a row, the Tigers’ longest in two years. Mercyhurst has won six of its last seven contests, scoring 34 goals over that stretch.

But I’m going with Bentley. The Falcons are undefeated in their last six contests and have played arguably a tougher schedule over that stretch.

Bentley faces a tough challenge on Saturday, traveling to Boston University for its final game before Christmas.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Dec. 6-7

Last Week:
Dan: 5-2-2
Chris: 5-2-2

On the season:
Dan: 69-31-8 (.676)
Chris: 70-30-8 (.685)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7:
Canisius at Army
Dan: Army’s defense really struggled through the last month or so.  In going 2-8 in November, they gave up 47 goals.  The two wins they picked up were against Sacred Heart and AIC.  While both of those teams are improved, there’s still a Grand Canyon-like chasm between the top and the bottom.  Canisius sweeps.
Chris: These are my favorite kinds of weekends in Atlantic Hockey, with all 12 teams squaring off in six two-game series. First up is Army, one of those teams that will beat you unless you come to play. The odds are you’re not going to outwork the Black Knights, but if you can come close, teams with depth like Canisius can prevail. Canisius sweeps.

Robert Morris at Bentley
Dan:No AHA team is hotter right now than the Bentley Falcons. They’re starting to pick up steam, and with several players chasing down program history, there’s a lot at stake. They’re also 4-4-2 lifetime against the former CHA squad. But RMU needs wins badly or risk having to make up some serious ground against their western foes later in the year. I’m calling it a split. Bentley wins on Friday. RMU wins on Saturday.
Chris: Dan knows more about Bentley than I do, but I think he’s hedging his bets here. I’m going all-in. Bentley sweeps. 

Air Force at Holy Cross
Dan: My hockey expert future wife said it best when she said, “Holy Cross beat BC? Nobody will take them lightly ever again.” Cue up Air Force, stinging from their first conference weekend loss. And really, how can we not take Air Force at least on Pearl Harbor Day? Air Force sweeps. 
Chris: As Air Force coach Frank Serratore says, it usually comes down to goaltending and special teams. Both teams have experienced guys in the pipes that can win a game on their own. But I’m going with Torf over Ginn this weekend. Air Force sweeps. 

Sacred Heart at Mercyhurst
Dan:   I hope Rick Gotkin plays Bachman-Turner Overdrive the entire way to Connecticut because this weekend has to be about “Takin’ Care of Business” for the Lakers. But I say that with a caveat – would anyone be shocked if Sacred Heart took a point? Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: I usually pick before Dan, so this is fun to follow him this week. The Lakers have won four in a row against the Pioneers and I think it’s going to be the” Same Old Song” and Four Tops, errr, four points for the Lakers. Mercyhrust sweeps. 

American International at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: AIC is positively reeling. They’ve lost five in a row, including a game against Army and Tuesday night’s 6-1 beating by UMass-Lowell. In addition, bad defense is rearing its ugly head. The losing streak in shots allowed – outshot 38-18 (UConn); outshot 40-24 (Army); outshot 50-29 (Mercyhurst); outshot 53-26 (Mercyhurst); outshot 44-21 (UML). RIT sweeps.
Chris: Right now you have two teams moving in the opposite direction, with the Tigers on a three-game winning streak and the Yellow Jackets coming in in a downward spiral. But they’ve beaten Holy Cross and Bentley this year, and if one of their goalies find his groove, fortunes can reverse quickly. Still, I think the Tigers have something to prove at home, where they are 0-1 in league play this season. RIT sweeps. 

Niagara at Connecticut
Dan:  Besides the RMU-Bentley series, this presents the juiciest opportunity for a split. Connecticut is 1-3-1 since November 12th, but they’ve lost to a white-hot Bentley team, a Boston University team getting back their mojo, and Canisius. I think they can take a win in this series, at home, against a Niagara team ranked 53rd nationally in goals allowed. UConn wins on Friday. Niagara on Saturday.
Chris: I think both teams are better than their record indicates. This one’s a tossup for me, but I’m going with the Purple Eagles to pick up their first road wins of the season in a pair of close games. Niagara sweeps. 

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – December 1, 2013

Three things from a wild and ever-changing big story weekend for the Atlantic Hockey Association.

Holy Moly

In its 10-plus season existence, no AHA program had ever beaten the Boston College Eagles.  Earlier this year, Army went to Conte Forum and allowed 11 goals.  But resident giant killer Holy Cross, the team that became the first AHA program to win an NCAA Tournament game back in 2006, jumped out to a 5-1 second period lead over the 7th-ranked Eagles, then held off a furious third period rally to win, 5-4.

It was a seminal breakout moment for the Crusaders, who were outscored, 37-24, by opponents entering Friday night.  But they controlled the middle of the ice and scored four of their five goals on a rush.  They also received 34 saves from goalie Matt Ginn, who head coach Paul Pearl credited with a great performance after the game.  “He was able to square up to the puck and keep composed in those scrambling situations,” said Pearl after the game.

For Atlantic Hockey, this was the biggest, most resounding win since Sacred Heart upended UMass-Lowell to start the year.  The league is struggling through one of its worst non-conference showings ever, and wins against quality opponents are few and far between.  But they’re 3-10 against Hockey East and 8-43-5 against every other league.  Neither number is great.  But considering five Hockey East teams occupy spots in the national poll and the AHA has wins against two of them (the 7th and 8th ranked teams in the nation as of press time)?  That’s a silver lining if there ever was one.

 

Battle of Falcons Goes to the East

In a weekend where the western division reminded the east who’s boss, a bright spot came from Bentley, who traveled west to Colorado to take on their Falcon counterparts at Air Force.  For the second time in three years, Bentley took three points, having now not lost a game at the academy since November, 2009.  In the first game, Bentley rallied from down 1-0 and 2-1 to force two ties and eventually take the lead.  Brett Switzer scored the game-tying goal in the second period after Jason Torf saved Brett Gensler’s initial shot, then tacked on the game-winner with about four minutes left in regulation.  Justin Breton added an empty net strike to give Bentley the win.

Playing with house money, Bentley rallied again from down a goal in the first period to take a 2-1 lead following goals by Alex Grieve and Gensler.  But Frank Serratore made the bold decision to pull his goalie with two minutes left, and Chad Demers scored with just about 30 seconds left to salvage a point.

Bentley is now undefeated in its last four games and has lost only once in its last six – an 8-7 loss to AIC considered by both teams to be a fluke of a game.  The Falcons are now tied with Air Force for second in the league, one point back of Mercyhurst.  They also now have wins in hand as the east continues to struggle with the western scheduling pod.  They’ll entertain Robert Morris at home next weekend.

 

West Dominates East….Again

As mentioned in my column last week, the western scheduling pod usually dominates the east.  And once again, that held true despite Bentley’s weekend against Air Force.  The west went otherwise undefeated en route to a 5-1-2 weekend, taking four points with RIT sweeping at Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst sweeping at AIC and taking three points with Canisius’ win and tie over UConn.

Entering the weekend, there was a total logjam thanks to the evenly played intradivisional rivalries.  As the teams play out across divisional boundaries, the shift and separation will begin in the standings.  After starting out 3-0 in league play, AIC has lost four straight, falling from first to seventh.  In contrast, Mercyhurst is now 5-1 and threatening the same type of separation Niagara had a year ago.

The east-west matchups continue next week.  Key games will include 11th-place Robert Morris (who split their only series with an eastern school when they hosted Holy Cross) at 2nd-place Bentley (1-3-3 against RMU as AHA members); Air Force (the other team tied for second) at Holy Cross (one of four teams tied for 7th); and Niagara at Connecticut in games between two sixth-place teams.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Nov. 29-Dec. 3

Last Week:
Dan: 8-5-1
Chris: 6-7-1

On the season:
Dan: 64-29-6 (.677)
Chris: 65-28-6 (.687)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 30:
Bentley at Air Force
Dan: There’s one-sided rivalries, and then there’s this.  Air Force leads the all-time series 22-7-5, but Bentley took three points two years ago when they last visited.  If Bentley wants to make the jump to the top of the league, they’ll have to take at least one game in Colorado.  Their compete level has been pretty high against good teams this year.  Bentley wins on Friday.  Air Force wins on Saturday.
Chris: Ah, the annual battle of the Falcons. Both teams are playing pretty good hockey right now, so the faithful in Colorado Springs should see a pair of great games. Each team took three points in the others’ buildings over the past two seasons, but I like the blue and grey Falcons to sweep over the blue and gold variety. Air Force sweeps.

Mercyhurst at American International
Dan: AIC got massacred by UConn, then struggled with Army.  After buying low, it might be time to sell high on Yellow Jacket stock.  They’re getting a brutal matchup this week with Mercyhurst, but at least it’s at home.  If they steal a point, I wouldn’t write them off quite yet.  That said, the Lakers just split with RPI and beat Air Force and Niagara as part of their recent run.  Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: I hope I wasn’t think kiss of death for the Yellow Jackets. Since my column on AIC, which was written after the ‘Jackets started conference play 3-0 for the first time ever, they’ve lost two in a row. I don’t think it gets any easier against the Lakers. Mercyhurst sweeps.

Rochester Institute of Technology at Sacred Heart
Dan: Sacred Heart showed a lot of guts in their sweep of Army, but Army in last place is very different from RIT in last place.  RIT is too good to be in 12th place; they know it, and I have a feeling they’re going to want to prove it.  RIT sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers are 5-2-1 in Milford/Bridgeport since joining Atlantic Hockey, including outscoring the Pioneers 13-0 in their last appearances in Southern Connecticut.  I think these games will be much closer, but RIT should pull them out.  RIT sweeps.

Connecticut at Canisius
Dan: Canisius is just good enough for this to be a series where people can start taking UConn seriously with a quality win.  UConn wins on Friday; Canisius wins on Saturday.
Chris: If I wasn’t going to be covering the RIT/SHU series, these are the games I’d most like to see. I think the teams will split a pair of evenly played games. Canisius wins on Friday; Connecticut wins Saturday. 

 

Friday, Nov. 29:
Holy Cross at Boston College
Dan: BC outscored competition 33-10 in going 7-0-1 between defeats prior to losing to Maine last Saturday.  That’s bad news for Holy Cross.  Boston College wins.
Chris: The Crusaders are 0-3 against Hockey East competition so far, and are playing a BC team that’s coming off a stinging loss at Maine last Saturday. I think the Eagles will put things back in order with a convincing win. Boston College wins.

 

Tuesday, Dec. 3
American International at Massachusetts- Lowell
Dan: UMass-Lowell already found out the hard way that championships aren’t won by preseason rankings.  AIC draws them at a tough time; maybe if this were a different time of year, AIC would have a good shot at winning.  But right now?  UMass-Lowell wins.
Chris: The River Hawks have been surprised by an AHA already this season: Sacred Heart took them down in their season opener. But this is a different UML team, coming in on a five-game winning streak including a  sweep of Notre Dame last weekend.  I don’t see them slipping here. Mass-Lowell wins.

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – November 25, 2013

Three things from Atlantic Hockey play in the week at was:

Representing

Atlantic Hockey went 3-4-1 in non-conference games this past week, which doesn’t sound all that impressive at first blush. But in light of the league’s 6-47-4 record coming into the week, it’s pretty darn good. Mercyhurst and Rochester Institute of Technology earned splits with Rensselaer and St. Lawrence, respectively, while Air Force went 1-1-1 in games with Colorado College (win) and Denver (tie and loss).

It helped that five of the nine games were played in AHA rinks, a welcome change of pace. Only 12 of the league’s previous 57 OOC games were played on home ice.

Air Force owns three of the league’s non-conference wins, one more than the Falcons had last year. They’ll finish their OOC schedule Dec. 29-30 at Dartmouth in the Ledyard Bank Classic tournament, taking on Northeastern in the first round and either Providence or the host Big Green.

 

Ups and downs

The roller coaster ride continues for American International. The last unbeaten team in conference play is undefeated no more, falling to Connecticut 8-1 on Saturday.

It was a big win for the Huskies, whom had scored a lone goal in losses to Bentley (3-0) and Boston University (4-1) the weekend before.

Add this one to the wild games AIC has played in already this season, but the Yellow Jackets haven’t cornered the market on entertainment. Sacred Heart erased deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to defeat Army 6-5 on Friday. Drew George got the game-winner with 2:12 to play.

After the dust settled around the league, we’re left with a seven-way tie for third place, and just six points separating the top and bottom teams in the conference. Other than the Big 10, which hasn’t started conference play yet, every other league has at least an 11-point distribution from first to last. It’s early but expect parity.

 

Hockey Hotbed

It’s certainly not Boston or Minneapolis, but Rochester, N.Y.  has produced it fair share of college hockey players. Former Boston College standouts Brian (and Stephen) Gionta and Marty Reasoner hail from Rochester, as do current stars Mark Zengerle (Wisconsin) and Cole Bardeau (Cornell).

Plenty of local talent was on display this past weekend when RIT hosted St. Lawrence. The visiting Saints featured a pair of freshmen from Rha-Cha-Cha: Woody Hudson and Trevor Hills, the son of RIT associate head coach Brian Hills.

Hailing from RochVegas on the RIT side were a trio of players: sophomore Dan Schuler and rookies Garrett McMullen and Mike Rotolo, who both saw their first collegiate action. Rotolo got his first start and earned his first win in net on Saturday.

 

Where are the turkey tourneys?

It’s been seven years since I moved from national Division III columnist to covering Atlantic Hockey,  but at Thanksgiving time I’m stilling thinking about tournaments, a tradition at the small school level. There are no less than seven on tap for the holiday weekend in men’s Division III hockey, and just one, Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament, scheduled for D-I.

You can’t have enough in-season tournaments, in my opinion. There will be eight D-I Tourneys around New Year’s but the more the merrier. Connecticut is the only Atlantic Hockey team that hosts a tournament (the UConn Holiday Classic, also featuring Massachusetts, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart) and that tradition will leave with the Huskies at the end of the season. Here’s hoping another AHA school or two will get into the game.

Correction: Thanks to the many readers for pointing out my omission of the Three Rivers Classic Tournament hosted by Robert Morris at CONSOL Energy Center. Last year’s inaugural tournament was a big success, and this year’s version on Dec. 27 and 28 features the host Colonials along with Penn State, Bowling Green and Boston College.

 

Atlantic Hockey Picks Nov. 22-26

Last Week:
Dan: 11-2
Chris: 9-4

On the season:
Dan: 56-24-5 (.688)
Chris: 59-21-5 (.724)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Nov. 22 and Saturday, Nov. 23:
Holy Cross at Robert Morris
Dan: Holy Cross has a team that just doesn’t quit.  So does Robert Morris.  A big weekend by either of this team can create some separation between themselves and the lower part of the league.  We predicted RMU to finish middle-to-high.  We said the same with Holy Cross.  They’ll split.  Holy Cross wins Friday; RMU wins on Saturday.
Chris:The season really begins to take shape when you start seeing the two-game series between east and west scheduling pod teams. This is just the second such series played this season, and it’ll be a good one with two teams in the middle of the pack looking to break out. The teams split in the Crusaders’ last visit in 2012 and I think they’ll do it again. Robert Morris wins Friday; Holy Cross wins Saturday.

Rensselaer at Mercyhurst
Dan: RPI got swept last weekend by Union in a series they should’ve taken at least three points in as the preseason league champion.  Mercyhurst is rolling.  But there will be too much Engineers.  RPI sweeps.
Chris: This is the second non-AHA team to visit the Mercyhurst Ice Center this season, a rarity. RPI has never played there, but that disadvantage is offset by that No. 14 ranking. The Engineers are probably still smarting from last weekend’s sweep at the hands of arch-rival Union. I think they rebound here. RPI sweeps.

St. Lawrence at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: RIT is really struggling, and as good as I think they can be, I’m starting to sway against them.  SLU has a dynamic offense that can carry a sometimes-lapse in defense and goaltending.  When I saw them play at Brown earlier this year, their ability to explode out of a zone was pretty amazing.  SLU sweeps.
Chris: The Tigers always seem to give SLU trouble, dating all the way back to RIT’s first season in Division I when they stunned the then 14th ranked Saints at Ritter Arena. Two seasons ago it was an amazing come-from-behind victory for RIT at Blue Cross Arena. The teams played a fairly even series in the North Country last season, splitting the games. But RIT is struggling right now to play a full 60 minutes of hockey, and lapses in almost every game have been costly. SLU dropped out of the Poll this week after a pair of tough losses at home to Colgate and Cornell, but I think are the better team and will rebound here against a desperate Tiger squad. SLU sweeps

Denver vs. Air Force
Dan: Air Force is on fire these days, and I think that might be enough for them to upset the Pioneers at home, as crazy as that might sound.  They’re not winning on Saturday, though.  Air Force on Friday.  Denver on Saturday.
Chris: Denver leads the all-time series 32-3 with the Falcons’ last win coming in 2008. The teams play at The Academy on Friday and then move to Magness Arena on Saturday. Air Force is on a (Rocky Mountain) high after beating cross-town rival Colorado College on Tuesday, but I think will come up short in this series. Denver sweeps.

Sacred Heart vs Army
Dan: Both teams are extremely Jekyll and Hyde.  They’ll play well for swaths of a game, then shoot themselves in the foot.  As an editorial, playing each other for points now is going to come back and haunt both teams if they’re in a playoff race later in the year.  SHU wins on Friday.  Army wins on Saturday.
Chris: These squads are getting their season series over quickly – they just played back on Nov. 11 with the Black Knights coming out on top 6-2. Their second and third (and final) meetings see Army hosting on Friday and he action shifting to Milford on Saturday. I’m picking the Black Knights to sweep this weekend and the season series. Army sweeps.

 

Friday, Nov. 22:
Niagara at Michigan
Dan: Michigan is ranked #5 in the nation.  With the way the AHA has played in non-conference games this year, it’s not if the Wolverines will win, it’s by how much.  Michigan wins.
Chris: Niagara has played a tough non-conference schedule (Clarkson, Denver, Ohio State) and it doesn’t get any easier with the No. 5 Wolverines. Michigan wins.

 

Saturday, Nov. 23:
Connecticut at American International
Dan: For the early part of the year, this is the eastern pod’s showcase game of the first half right now.  If AIC wins, they’re going to be a serious contender.  If UConn wins, AIC is still a contender, but the noise will come out of the woodwork if their run is starting to plateau.  Right now, this game is a little bit more important to UConn because of the loss last week.  AIC is in this for the long haul, but I think there’s too much goalie in Storrs for the plucky AIC offense.  UConn wins.
Chris: UConn needs a win to re-establish itself as one of the top teams in the AHA, while the Yellow Jackets can add to their record-setting start in conference play. At the beginning of the season I wouldn’t have called this game a tossup, but it’s a tough one to call with UConn having a slight edge. Connecticut wins.

 

Tuesday, Nov. 26
Army at American International
Dan: See below.  AIC wins.
Chris:After what I predict to be a loss on Saturday, I expect the Yellow Jackets to rebound here. AIC wins.

Niagara at Cornell
Dan: Going to Cornell is something everyone should do once in their life.  But I mean that as a fan, not as an opponent.  Cornell wins.
Chris: Another game, another ranked opponent for the Purple Eagles, who travel to Ithaca to face the No. 18 Big Red. Unfortunately, I think Niagara’s non-conference schedule concludes with a loss. Cornell wins.

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – November 18, 2013

Another week in the books in the college hockey universe, and another week of solid play across Atlantic Hockey.  Here’s three things to chew on as you reflect on your weekend, with a little help from some of our favorite superheroes:

AIC Yellow Jackets – The Dark Knight

Chris will get more in depth this week when he crosses over and discusses the Yellow Jackets as part of the “This Week” series, but I have to state the obvious about this team.  They’re the last perfect team in the AHA in conference play, and the retained that title on Friday by virtue of a 1-0 victory against Holy Cross.  It was a stark contrast to their 8-7 win over Bentley the week prior, but it made them 2-1 in one-goal games this year.

Absolutely nobody could predict that AIC would build on last year’s success.  Given their program’s history, more prognostications had them as an 11th place team given the graduation of Ben Meisner, Adam Pleskach, and arguably their best senior class ever.  But their team has only gotten stronger, bolstered by a solid recruiting class.  They’re playing timely hockey, and they’re showing marked improvements each time they’re on the ice.  There’s a long way to go with the season barely a month over, but the Yellow Jackets are starting to break away from the pack by taking control of their own destiny.  After a big matchup with the Crusaders this past weekend, they’ll play another one-game series this weekend when they take on Connecticut.  To say that game will be huge is an understatement; there will be major effects on the league table depending on who wins.

In the eastern pod, maybe AIC isn’t the breakaway team everyone wants (given their national ranking as pretty much dead last in attendance), but they could be the breakaway team everyone needs (demonstrating the parity and growth within the AHA).

Bentley – Man of Steel

Coming off their one-goal loss in the wild home game against AIC, the Falcons faced questions about their consistency (or lack thereof).  But they bounced back this weekend with authority, overcoming two teams that were kryptonite to them a year ago.  They shut out Connecticut on Freitas Forum turf on Friday with an overall dominant performance that was the most complete game Bentley played to that point; last year, Bentley lost at Connecticut, 9-0.

On Saturday, they returned home to play Holy Cross, a team considered a chief rival but one that had won the previous three season series.  After blowing a 1-0 lead, Bentley rallied from down 2-1 to tie the game in the third and win on the power play in overtime.  Last year, they blew a 1-0 lead and lost by that 2-1 margin in a game that sent their season into a tailspin.

The wins catapulted Bentley back into the top of the AHA’s ever-shifting tectonic plate.  But it made up for the two losses to Sacred Heart and AIC, teams the Falcons were expected to defeat.  They’re now right where they should be in many’s eyes, and the resilience they showed in overcoming two teams perceived as historically better than them will give Bentley momentum heading into their bye week.  They’ll next head to Air Force for Thanksgiving, a place they scored three points two years ago, before wrapping up their AHA first half with Robert Morris.  As the eastern division heads into interdivisional play, the Falcons are positioning themselves as the team able to leap arenas in a single bound, but the pressure will be on them to prove that right.

Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Army – Blankman

For those of you who have no idea who Blankman is, it’s a terrible movie starring Damon Wayans.  It’s one of those awesomely bad flicks that strangely sucks you in when it’s on television, but at the same time, you’ll never know why someone actually paid the rights to watch it.

Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Army combined this weekend to go 0-6 after Army defeated Sacred Heart on Tuesday.  The Huskies had beaten Holy Cross on Tuesday, but the three schools, forced to play nine games in four days time combined, were clearly tired and running on fumes by the time the weekend ended.  Army had to follow up a road trip to SHU with a trip up to Niagara, where they were outscored 13-3 in two losses.  Holy Cross was shutout by AIC, then lost in overtime to Bentley.  And Connecticut lost to Bentley before losing a non-conference game at Boston University on Sunday, 4-1.  That last game was especially hurtful given that the game was supposed to be a litmus test for the Huskies entry into Hockey East next year.

UConn is now four points behind Air Force for first and a full game behind both Bentley and AIC in the early goings of a division they were supposed to run away with.  Holy Cross is now sub-.500 in league play, and Army is 1-5-0, staring up at the rest of the league.  Ultimately, for these teams, this weekend won’t define their season, just like watching “Blankman” won’t define anyone’s taste in movies.  But this weekend will be one that fans will look back on and wonder what happened.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Nov. 15-19

Last Week:
Dan: 7-5
Chris: 8-4

On the season:
Dan: 45-22-5 (.660)
Chris: 50-17-5 (.729)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16:
Canisius at Ohio State
Dan: Canisius got the train back on the tracks with a big win last week against Robert Morris.  But despite raising their championship banner, last year’s 7th place team finished the regular season under .500 and is 2-5-0 to start this year, which was one of my preseason concerns.  Ohio State sweeps.
Chris: Canisius coach Dave Smith returns to his Alma Mater for a weekend series, the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Buckeyes swept Niagara last weekend but I think the Golden Griffins can earn a split. Ohio State wins Friday; Canisius wins Saturday.

Army at Niagara
Dan: There’s a wide chasm between the league’s top teams and the league’s bottom teams.  Niagara might be down compared to last year, but Army’s only win has come against a Sacred Heart team that’s come back to earth at times since beating UMass-Lowell.  Niagara sweeps.
Chris: Army is coming off a crazy week that saw the Black Knights lose 11-0 on Sunday at Boston College but win convincingly, 6-2 at Sacred Heart on Tuesday. Saturday’s game sold out early in the week and Friday might be a sellout as well. Niagara leads the all-time series 9-1 and I think will take both games. Niagara sweeps.

 
Friday, Nov. 15:
American International at Holy Cross
Dan: You know what?  I’m buying on AIC.  Their offense is explosive, and they can score goals.  I think they might be for real in the east.  But they struggled to stop shots, and their defense is suspect.  They’re going to be good this year, but Holy Cross is still a little better.  Holy Cross wins.
Chris: AIC has been involved in some high scoring games so far this season but I expect this one to be a little less run-and-gun. The Yellow Jackets are off to a great 2-0 start in league play, but I like the Crusaders on home ice. Holy Cross wins.

Bentley at Connecticut
Dan: There’s no way Bentley’s defense plays as badly as it did against AIC.  I also think revenge is a dish best served cold after they were blown out at Freitas Forum last year, 9-0.  Bentley wins.
Chris: This one’s a tossup. UConn has more momentum right now, and I think they’ll have the edge on home ice. UConn wins.

 
Saturday, Nov. 16:
Robert Morris at Air Force
Dan: Chris and I will probably have the same reasoning, which is that RMU has to fly west for one game.  That’s a long way to go for a couple of hours.  Air Force wins.
Chris: Meetings between these old CHA foes are always entertaining. It’s tough for visiting teams to go out to Colorado Springs for a single game. Air Force wins.

Sacred Heart at Yale
Dan: It won’t be an upset if Sacred Heart wins in my book.  CJ Marottolo used to be an assistant for Keith Allain, knows his system like a book, and I’m sure would love to beat his old boss on his own home ice.  I’m rooting for SHU big time, but my head is telling me otherwise.  Yale wins.
Chris: It’s a short trip for the Pioneers but a tall order to knock of the defending national champs. Yale wins.

Holy Cross at Bentley
Dan: This is a budding rivalry, and it’s the only time they’ll play at Ryan Arena since the other Bentley “home game” is at Fenway Park later this year.  It’s a series that usually goes to Holy Cross, but I really think Bentley is going to have a compete level through the roof for this.  Bentley wins.
Chris:I don’t think this will be the kind of game the Falcons saw in their first contest at the JAR (a wild 8-7 loss to AIC). A big difference will be a Bentley win this time out. Bentley wins.

 
Sunday, Nov. 17:
Connecticut at Boston University
Dan: A lot of Hockey East is watching this game.  They want to know what they’re getting when UConn comes into the league.  BU can’t be taking this team lightly, especially with their own growing pains under David Quinn.  I was actually on the fence on this one to the point where I had to consult with my hockey expert on who would win – my future wife.  Boston University wins.
Chris: This game will be a great measuring stick for the Huskies for their transition to Hockey East. I think BU wins a close one. Boston University wins.

 
Tuesday, Nov. 12:
Rochester Institute of Technology at Canisius
Dan: RIT is off to back-to-back bad starts to a season, going 1-5-2 this year after going 2-5-1 last year through its first eight games.  They struggled with Canisius last year.  Canisius wins.
Chris: RIT used to own Canisius but the Golden Griffins won all three meetings last year. The Tigers will be rested while Canisius is coming off a weekend series in Columbus. I think that will be the difference. RIT wins.

Niagara at Mercyhurst
Dan: Like last week, this is a game that Mercyhurst needs to win to establish themselves atop the league table.  They rose to the occasion last week, and I think they do it again this week.  Mercyhurst wins.
Chris: I expect both these teams to finish in the top four this season, so this is a key game for both teams. I’m picking the Lakers on home ice. Mercyhurst wins.

Air Force at Colorado College
Dan: Colorado College is 1-6-1, but that’s because they’re 1-4-1 in the NCHC.  They were swept by Clarkson, who’s a lot better than people thought.  I’m thinking they’re going to be better than the stats indicate when the teams meet at World Arena.  Colorado College wins.
Chris: This is my upset special, if you can call a win over a 1-6-1 team an upset. Air Force wins.

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – November 10, 2013

Three things from Atlantic Hockey action this past weekend:

Nothing decided

A quartet of western scheduling pod games this past weekend may be an indicator of things to come in Atlantic Hockey. Canisius, Mercyhurst, Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert Morris all went 1-1 in round robin play. The details:

  • On Friday, Robert Morris defeated Canisius 6-1 for its first conference victory and first win overall this season. Junior forward Cody Wydo was again the story (more on him later) with his second hat-trick in as many games.
  • Also on Friday, Mercyhurst edged Rochester Institute of Technology 3-2 for its second straight win. The Lakers erased a 2-1 deficit in the second period to defeat the Tigers on home ice for just the second time in 12 attempts dating back to when RIT joined the league in 2006.
  • On Saturday, roles reversed. RIT earned its first win and first conference points with a 4-2 victory at Robeert Morris. The Tigers have now won two games in a row at 84 Lumber Arena after going winless in their first six attempts.
  • And finally, Canisius defeated Mercyhurst 4-3 in a rematch of last season’s title game. The Golden Griffins unveiled their AHA Championship and NCAA Tournament banners prior to the contest.

 

Four teams, four wins, four losses. A closed loop with nothing decided.

 

Hard to ignore

Cody Wydo sailed under the radar his first two seasons at Robert Morris despite scoring 34 goals, including 21 last season.

Colonials’ coach Derek Schooley told me this before the start of this season: “…He’s ready to take the next step. He hasn’t gotten any Atlantic Hockey accolades. I think this might be the year you see Cody really break out and become a notable name in Atlantic Hockey.”

I had selected Wydo for my all-rookie team in 2012 and had him making the all-AHA third team last season, but he didn’t get the recognition that counted, shut out of the official league awards.

Wydo has been impossible to ignore so far this season, though. He has ten goals so far, including seven over a two game stretch. Wydo had four goals in a 5-4 loss to Penn State on Nov. 2, and followed that with a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Canisius on Friday.

RIT was able to hold Wydo to a single assist on Saturday.

His 10 goals lead the league and place him second overall in Division I.

 

Not exactly a goaltender’s duel

Fifteen goals in one game. Ya gotta love college hockey.

American International spoiled Bentley’s first home game of the season with a wild 8-7 win on Friday.

Bentley had opened a 4-1 lead just seventeen minutes into the contest, but AIC scored the next five goals and never trailed after that. The Yellow Jackets were outshot 42-28, but went 3-4 on the power play.

AICs “Killer P’s” (I’m not sure if anyone actually calls them that, but they should): seniors Jon Puskar and Blake Peak and juniors Chris Porter and Jason Popek, combined for three goals and seven points overall. Junior forward Alexander MacMillan had a game-high five points for AIC.

Seven different players scored goals for Bentley, which lost a wild 4-3 overtime thriller to AIC in their final regular season contest last year.

MacMillan’s five point evening gives him seven points in four games so far this season, good for fifth nationally in points per game.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Nov. 8-12

Last Week:
Dan: 11-1
Chris: 11-1

On the season:
Dan: 38-17-5 (.675)
Chris: 42-13-5 (.742)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Nov. 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9:
Niagara at Ohio State
Dan: This is a game that Niagara would’ve won last year.  But Niagara’s lost some of what made them who they were last year, and the league is so abysmal in non-conference play that I’m pretty sure the rest of the NCAA put a hex on them.  Ohio State sweeps.
Chris: Ohio State is coming off a nice win over Minnesota-Duluth and is 3-1 in its last four games. I think that and the home ice advantage favors the Buckeyes. Ohio State sweeps.

 
Friday, Nov. 8:
Holy Cross at Army
Dan: This is one of those “impossible to predict” games.  Army is better than their record would indicate, and Rob Tadazak could go out and win this game (not steal.  Win.).  I might be crazy, but I really think Army can pull this one off.  Army wins.
Chris: These teams are a combined 1-9 so far, but I expect a good game. I think the Crusaders pull out a narrow victory. Holy Cross wins.

American International at Bentley
Dan: Ryan Soderquist went for broke last year when he pulled his goalie with under a minute left in overtime.  It made headlines for all the wrong reasons because AIC won the faceoff, iced the puck, scored, and won the 9th seed while sending Bentley to Canisius for the first round (instead of playing at home).  Coupel revenge with their offense breaking out.  Plus it’s the Falcon home opener.  Bentley wins.
Chris: The Falcons will be looking for a bit of revenge against the Yellow Jackets, who swept them on the final weekend of the regular season, stealing away the final home ice playoff spot. I think Bentley gets a win here in its home ice opener. Bentley wins.

Rochester Institute of Technology at Mercyhurst
Dan: All signs are pointing to Mercyhurst winning this one.  Nobody wants a potential trap game against RIT, which is exactly what this is.  RIT wins.
Chris: The Tigers are 9-1-1 at the Mercyhurst Ice center in their last 11 visits, and are desperate for a win. But I’m going with the Lakers, who should have confidence after blasting Air Force 8-2 on home ice last weekend. Mercyhurst wins.

Canisius at Robert Morris
Dan: With traditional powers like Air Force and RIT, last year’s big dog in Niagara, and the flavor of the month in Canisius and Mercyhurst, people are forgetting that RMU was a solid team last year that won 20 and went 11-5-4 at home.  RMU wins.
Chris: This is a tough call, but I think it will come down to goaltending, and I give the Golden Griffins the advantage there. Canisius wins. 

Sacred Heart at Penn State
Dan: Sacred Heart’s improved, but so is Penn State.  Transitive property said that Penn State will win this one.  Penn State wins.
Chris: The Nittany Lions pulled out a wild game at Robert Morris last weekend, and should have an easier time with the Pioneers on home ice. Penn State wins. 

 
Saturday, Nov. 9:
Mercyhurst at Canisius
Dan:  Canisius has the latest home opener in Division I, and it’ll save the best for last when it raises a conference championship and NCAA tournament banner in the face of the team they beat to get there.  This one’s going to be wild and emotionally charged.  But I think, at the end of the day, Mercyhurst has too much.  Mercyhurst wins.
Chris:This will be the 114th meeting between the two schools, tops on the list for both teams. It’s also a rematch of last season’s AHA title game. I’m going with the Lakers to get a road win. Mercyhurst wins.

Rochester Institute of Technology at Robert Morris
Dan: RIT gave up a lot of goals to RMU last year in losing two of their three meetings.  It’s also a weird bus trip for the Tigers, who will have to go back through Erie to get home from Pittsburgh.  RMU wins.
Chris: In their last meeting at 84 Lumber Arena, the Tigers finally won after coming up short in six previous attempts. But I think that trend will be short-lived. RMU wins.

 
Sunday, Nov. 10:
Army at Boston College
Dan: A plus for Army is that BC is playing at Agganis on Friday, which means there’s going to be a substantial amount of banged up bodies.  That’s immediately counteracted by BC’s ridiculous depth, which includes two solid goalies in Brian Billett and Thatcher Demko.  My heart’s with Army, but my brain’s telling me this one might get ugly.  Boston College wins.
Chris: This could be a trap game for BC, having played BU on Friday.  But I have to go with the eighth-ranked Eagles. Boston College wins. 

 
Tuesday, Nov. 12:
Army at Sacred Heart
Dan: After playing two games in all of October, Army gets three in a work week.  Then again, the only “fatigue” Army ever knows is the ones they wear to work.  Army wins.
Chris: Army will be playing its third game in five days, but I still like the Black Knights to pull out a close game. Army wins.

Holy Cross at Connecticut
Dan: I can’t wait to see Holy Cross’s offense go head-to-head with the pound-for-pound best goalie in the AHA on a fast sheet of ice in Storrs.  I’m taking UConn, but get ready for some great fireworks.  UConn wins.
Chris: I wish I could be at this game, because I think it’s going to be highly entertaining. I’m giving the nod to the Huskies at home.  UConn wins. 

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