Only one will continue on to the NCAA tournament, so the AHC title is doubly important this season.
Some observations from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
The Boys Are Back
After an off week last week, it’d be easy to permit Robert Morris University some swagger. Despite not playing, they reentered the national polls at #20, and their stranglehold on the top spot of the Atlantic Hockey standings went virtually undamaged over the Thanksgiving break.
Well rested, they asserted themselves as the league’s present best team with a resounding sweep over Sacred Heart. On a night where the Pioneers pushed the Colonials to overtime, it took them less than 30 seconds and one shot to pick up a 5-4 victory. The next night, after surrendering the game’s first strike seven minutes into the first period, they responded with five second period goals en route to an 8-4 victory.
It wasn’t a case of Sacred Heart playing poorly; it was simply that Robert Morris is still pistol hot and have been since the season began. Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch registered goals in both games, with Lynch scoring the overtime game winner on Friday. David Friedman had two goals on Saturday with a four point game (giving him five points on the weekend), headlining an RMU line that included three point games by Brady Ferguson and Daniel Leavens. And while Dalton Izyk and Terry Shafer weren’t at the top of their game, RMU became the first Atlantic Hockey team to 10 wins as both collected their respective fifth win.
After an 0-1-2 stretch that put Robert Morris as much under the radar as they could’ve been, they’ve now won three in a row and roll into Mercyhurst next weekend looking to continue their winning ways. The 22nd place team in the Pairwise Rankings, they’ll also look to gain style points on a national level later this month when they host the Three Rivers Classic.
History Made At The JAR
Since reclassifying to Division I at the start of the century, Bentley hasn’t exactly experienced sustained success against Air Force. As mentioned last week, while going 2-1-3 over the last three years, the eastern Falcons only had eight wins overall against the western Falcons, one of which came in the teams’ first meeting back in 1998. At the time, Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist was a sophomore skating for the Falcons as opposed to a 13-year head coach.
Over the course of this history, Air Force had two six-game winning streaks and a five-game winning streak. Bentley had never swept the Falcons – until now.
Bentley picked up a four point weekend over Air Force for the first time, rallying from 1-0 first period deficits on both Friday and Saturday on home ice in Watertown, Mass. On Friday, it was Brett Switzer and Andrew Gladiuk leading the way for a 2-1 victory. On Saturday, Gladiuk, the reigning Atlantic Hockey Player Of The Month, scored his second goal of the weekend, stamping a first period where Max French and Steve Weinstein also struck. Ryan McMurphy put the final nail on the weekend in the second period, and Jayson Argue made 58 saves over two nights to lead the way.
“It’s a league that’s extremely tough to get four points in,” said Soderquist, “and I thought our guys battled extremely hard. For 120 minutes on the weekend, I was extremely pleased with their effort.”
For Soderquist, the weekend stands as a seminal moment for the burgeoning program. “Obviously we’ve taken great strides, and we take great pride in getting better each year,” he said. “Our guys put in the commitment in the offseason to getting better, and it’s great to see their efforts on the ice.”
Bentley heads to American International to wrap up the 2014 portion of their schedule.
Hey I heard you were the wild one
Speaking of AIC, the Yellow Jackets played a wild weekend against Canisius out in Buffalo. In a tale of two games, the team mustered only eight shots between the second and third period (four apiece) but netted a third period goal from Alexander MacMillan in a 3-1 defeat on Friday.
But it was enough to awaken the slumbering offense on Saturday when AIC jumped out a 4-0 lead roughly halfway through the first period. Jason Popek, David Norris, Bryant Christian, and Matt Cassidy all scored, with Popek’s coming on the power play and Cassidy’s coming on a shorthanded attempt.
Unfortunately for AIC, Canisius didn’t go away. Jeff Murray scored his first career goal on the same power play that Cassidy registered his shortie on, stopping the bleeding enough to get the Griffs to locker room after one. That’s when Ralph Cuddemi took over.
Cuddemi scored once in the second period and twice in the third for his second hat trick of the season, tying the game at four. AIC would have their chances in overtime but came away scoreless, earning a point on their trip out to Buffalo.
It might seem like AIC should be disappointed with just a one point weekend but consider this – even though they stand in 10th place, the Yellow Jackets are just three points behind the sixth place tie between Sacred Heart and Army with two games in hand over the Pioneers and an astounding SIX over the Black Knights.
Dear Dad – We Saved The Best For Last
The Riley family is a hockey family. There’s Jack Riley, the longtime Army head coach and leader of the 1960 USA Olympic gold medal team. There’s Rob Riley, Brian’s brother who replaced his dad in 1986 at West Point. There’s Brian himself, an assistant at both Lowell and Army before taking over for his brother in 2004. The next generation, Brian’s son Jack, is in uniform for Mercyhurst, making any game between the two emotional.
Jack Riley lit up the scoreboard against his dad’s team this weekend, scoring two goals and two assists in a 6-3 win over the Black Knights. Even in defeat, the emotion ran rampant at Tate Rink, with Brian clearly proud of his son. At the end of the game, emotional embraces between the two led to a special moment that bridged all defeat and victory and showed the true greatness of the game of hockey.
Before the season, he joked that he wanted to make sure his son was great…except for when they played Army. But as the tweets from the Mercyhurst Lakers account shows, the proud dad couldn’t help but give himself that moment.
Photos from an emotional sweep over Army. pic.twitter.com/t87Yk9Y4Zd
— Mercyhurst Hockey (@HurstMensHockey) December 7, 2014
On the season:
Dan: 53-33-12 (.602)
Chris: 56-30-12 (.633)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6
Mercyhurst at Army
Dan: Army’s had some major issues over its history with the Lakers, but surprisingly none of those issues are at Tate Rink. Mercyhurst’s lost only nine games in its history to the Black Knights – eight of which are in West Point. Call me crazy, but after two games earlier this year, I find it incredibly hard to knock off a team four times in Atlantic Hockey. Mercyhurst wins on Friday. Army wins on Saturday.
Chris: Not crazy at all and I’m thinking along the same lines. Both teams have played better the second night of weekend series, but I’m going with Army at home to be the difference there. Mercyhurst wins on Friday. Army wins on Saturday.
Air Force at Bentley
Dan: Get ready for a good, fun match between two young goalies if Jayson Argue plays for Bentley and goes head-to-head with Air Force sophomore Chris Truehl. Despite Bentley’s successes in Colorado, nobody on the team’s taken more than one point at home. Air Force is slightly ahead of Bentley right now, especially in light of the injuries and scattered lineup in Watertown. So while I think a tie is in order for Friday, I need to pick the team that’ll win on Saturday. Since I can’t pick ties at all for these purposes, I’ll call it an Air Force sweep.
Chris: These teams have played some wild games, especially at Bentley. Games like this. And this. Bentley needs these points at home, because they won’t be back to the JAR until the end of January. I’m picking the Falcons to win each night. Yeah, I mean Bentley on Friday and Air Force on Saturday.
American International at Canisius
Dan: AIC hasn’t won in over a month, compounded by playing only four home games to this point. Two of those home games came against Canisius, who swept the Jackets back in October. Canisius sweeps.
Chris: Canisius got into the winning column at HarborCenter last weekend with a split against Air Force and and I think they’ll have even more success this weekend with a sweep.
Holy Cross at Niagara
Dan: Great test for the Crusaders out in Western New York. Niagara’s suddenly hot, having won three in a row with last week’s sweep of Army. If Holy Cross can end that streak, we’ll know they’re for real. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: This should be a highly competitive series in which I could make a case for zero to four points for both purple-clad squads. As Dan said, Niagara has won three in a row, and Holy Cross has just one loss in its last eight contests. I too have become a believer in the Crusaders, and am going with a Holy Cross sweep.
Sacred Heart at Robert Morris
Dan: #20 RMU enjoyed a weekend off last week, returning to the national polls by not playing. But they come back by drawing a Sacred Heart team battle tested by a 3-1 record in one or two goal games. I like the Pioneers here to take one game. Sacred Heart wins on Friday. RMU wins on Saturday.
Chris: Sacred Heart has been a pretty good road team so far (4-2-1), but RMU has the extra motivation to stay in the Top 20. Robert Morris sweeps.
Three things (four, actually, but they’re small) from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Is Saturday night all right?
There were only seven games involving Atlantic Hockey teams this past Thanksgiving weekend, including a pair of conference series that both ended in splits.
That’s been the story more often than not so far, as evidenced by the logjam in the standings.
Bentley and Army each took two points from the other, as did Canisius and Air Force. The Golden Griffins are examples of the volatility teams have seen from night to night – they are 4-1-2 so far on Fridays, but just 1-5-2 on Saturdays.
Ditto Rochester Institute of Technology, which is 3-1-2 on Fridays and 1-6 on Saturdays following a 2-0 loss at Yale last weekend. Bentley? 4-2-1 on Fridays; 2-4 on Saturdays.
On the other hand, Mercyhurst is a better team on Saturday this season, going 4-1-1 vs. just 1-3-1 on Fridays. Air Force is also better the second night of the weekend, currently 4-3-1 on Saturdays vs. 1-5-1 on Fridays.
Home cooking makes a difference
Atlantic Hockey teams are still struggling in non-conference play, currently 11-33-2 (.261). That’s a higher winning percentage than last season, however (.215). I think that’s due to AHA rinks hosting more non-conference games this season.
With the Big Ten and Hockey East having only 20 and 22 conference games, respectively, teams from those leagues can’t afford to be choosy when lining up non-conference opponents, including being more open to playing them on the road. Couple that with a tweak to the PWR formula that gives greater weight to road wins, and you have schools more willing to play in AHA barns.
So far this season, Atlantic Hockey teams have hosted 20 of the 43 non-conference games they’ve played. The results are dramatic: the league is 8-11-2 at home and just 3-20 on the road.
Getting the hang of this college hockey thing
Speaking of non-conference games, Holy Cross defeated Brown 5-0 at the Hart Center on Sunday, and freshmen led the way for the Crusaders, scoring all five goals. Rookie Ryan Ferrill had a hat-trick, scoring Holy Cross’ first three goals, and classmate TJ Moore lit the lamp twice. In all, 14 of the Crusaders’ 33 goals this season have been scored by freshmen.
But it was a senior who shined in net for Holy Cross. Matt Ginn recorded his third shutout of the season and seventh of his career, setting a new record for career shutouts in the school’s Division I era.
As the calendar turns to December, is it too soon to look at the PairWise Rankings? Perhaps, but it’s clear at this point, about a third of the way into the season, that if Atlantic Hockey hopes to get two teams into the NCAA tournament, Robert Morris is the only AHA squad with a decent shot at finishing in the top 16 in the PWR.
The Colonials are currently 25th in the very volatile PWR, despite having the third best winning percentage in the nation (.792). That’s mostly due to the Colonials’ strength of schedule so far, which is ranked 58 out of 59 Division I teams. If RMU can do well in some non-conference games coming up (Penn State, Bowling Green and either Western Michigan or Colgate), its numbers will improve.
And the Colonials need to keep winning of course. The same goes for the rest of the league. The rising tide will lift everyone’s PWR boat.
On the season:
Dan: 50-29-12 (.615)
Chris: 51-28-12 (.626)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, November 28 and Saturday, November 29
Army at Bentley
Dan: Bentley’s had some problems in back, giving up nine goals over their last two games. They’re also battling the injury bug with Alex Grieve and Ryan McMurphy missing time. As for the Black Knights, Brian Riley likes to joke that his team is better suited to play in the JAR than Tate Rink, and they’ll face minimal noise with students away on Thanksgiving. Army wins on Friday, Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris: The Falcons have had the better of things with Army recently (4-0-1 in their last five meetings, and I’m expecting that to continue. Bentley sweeps.
Air Force at Canisius
Dan: Air Force is in eighth place, but they’ve played the least amount of conference games. They have the third best winning percentage at .583. They’re also 2-1-2 in their last five games overall with their only loss coming to a Denver team that’s a top 10 team nationally. Air Force sweeps
Chris: The Golden Griffins are still looking for their first win at HarborCenter. Air Force has been hot and cold so far this season but I have a feeling the Falcons are on the upswing. Air Force sweeps.
Saturday, November 29
Rochester Institute of Technology at Yale
Dan: Yale’s an interesting case study at 4-2-1 since they’ve played only one game outside of ECAC (their 1-0-1 non-conference record came against fellow Ivy/ECAC member Princeton and UConn in the Liberty Invitational). That said, their goaltending’s been outstanding this year, with Alex Lyon seeing all but 40 minutes of action this season. Lyon carries a 1.87 GAA and .933 save percentage. Yale wins
Chris: These teams have never met, and this game has the subplot of RIT coach Wayne Wilson coaching against his son Stu, who’s a junior forward for the Bulldogs. I think Stu will have bragging rights. Yale wins.
American International at Dartmouth
Dan: Since beating Niagara, AIC’s allowed an average of 5.8 goals per game. That’s going to be a problem against a Dartmouth team that dropped six on a struggling Brown squad and defeated Union earlier this year. Dartmouth wins
Chris:Dartmouth has had a tough schedule out of the gate, and has to be careful not to look past AIC to a game against Boston University the following day. But I think the Big Green will manage. Dartmouth wins.
Sunday, November 30
Brown at Holy Cross
Dan: Holy Cross picked up a win in the first leg of their Rubin Gauntlet on Tuesday by beating Bentley, 4-2. Now they draw my older brother Mike (Brown graduate of the class of 2000 and the Bears’ radio voice) while looking for a clean sweep of the family. This is a must win for the Bears, who’ve been struggling with injuries on defense and a power outage up front in losing six straight. That said, “must win” situations are when Brendan Whittet has his team at their most dangerous. Brown wins
Chris: Brown is off to a rough start and Holy Cross is tough at home. I’m going with the Crusaders. Holy Cross wins.
Three things from the weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
What a difference day makes
Friday’s action saw some dramatic results, including a 7-0 thumping delivered by Denver over Air Force, a convincing 5-1 win by Rochester Institute of Technology over Sacred Heart, and a wild 5-5 tie between Robert Morris and American International that saw the Colonials erase three deficits to earn a point.
Saturday was a different story. Air Force rebounded to defeat Colorado College 3-1 to claim the Pikes Peak Trophy and local bragging rights in Colorado Springs.
“We played a much better game tonight and our puck management was better,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore after the game. “This was a huge win for our guys, for our fans and for our self-esteem.”
At AIC, Robert Morris looked more like a ranked team with a 6-0 win over the Yellow Jackets. David Friedmann had a hat-trick for the Colonials and goaltender Terry Shafer recorded his fourth career shutout.
Sacred Heart gained a split with RIT with a 2-1 win on Saturday. This…
Having their number
…win by the Pioneers snapped a 10 game winless streak for Sacred Heart over RIT. The Tigers were 9-0-1 in their last ten meetings with Sacred Heart dating back to 2010.
While SHU was able to end a frustrating streak, it was more of the same for Bentley, which was defeated by Harvard for the third year in a row. Each time, Bentley fans came out in droves to Bright Hockey Center only to see their Falcons denied. In 2012, Harvard won 5-0. Last season, it was 3-0 for the Crimson. This time around, a 5-1 win.
On an individual level, Canisius junior forward Ralph Cuddemi had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 3-3 tie with Mercyhurst. Culdemi has 11 points including eight goals in nine career games against the Lakers. One third of his collegiate goals have come against Mercyhurst.
How weird are the Atlantic Hockey standings right now?
Robert Morris continues to have a fairly large lead – currently five points separate the Colonials from second-place Holy Cross and Sacred Heart.
But less than that, just four points, separate second place from last.
On the season:
Dan: 43-26-10 (.608)
Chris: 44-25-10 (.620)
This Week’s Picks:
NOTE: Dan Rubin, away on his honeymoon, sent me his picks before his wedding. He asked me to write “some awesomely funny comments for me”. Uhuh. Plus we have some bonus picks due to pair of games on Tuesday.
Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22
Canisius vs. Mercyhurst
Chris:Friday’s game at Mercyhurst has been postponed due to a snowmaggedon that hit the area between Buffalo and Erie hard. At the time this is published, Saturday’s game in Buffalo is still on. I usually go with the home team in these home-and-home series, but I’ve been burned a lot using this method so far this season. Plus I think Mercyhurst is the better team right now so I am picking the Lakers to keep the Golden Griffins winless at HARBORCENTER.
Dan: Dan might make some crack about how HARBORCENTER is now all in caps in the school’s and league’s press releases. Is it supposed to be an acronym? Have fun making some up. Anyway, Dan likes Canisius at home on Saturday.
Robert Morris at American International
Chris: The Colonials suffered their first defeat last Saturday at home to Air Force and look to rebound on the road. AIC has the reputation of stinging teams ahead of them in the standings but I think RMU gets it rolling against a struggling Yellow Jackets defense. Robert Morris sweeps.
Dan: Dan has been saying for the past couple of seasons that when he picks against RMU, they win and vise versa. Sorry, Sons of Schooley, but he’s picking an RMU sweep.
Army at Niagara
Chris:Niagara got its first win on Nov. 8, 3-2 in overtime at Bentley, and then was off last weekend. The Purple Eagles have several of their injured players back, and I think this weekend marks the return of a little of the Dwyer magic that made NU almost unbeatable at home prior to last season. Niagara Sweeps.
Dan: I (Chris) thought I was making a gutsy call as one could easily make a case for Army to be the favored team, but Dan is also picking Niagara to sweep. Now I don’t feel so intrepid.
Sacred Heart at Rochester Institute of Technology
Chris: RIT has owned Sacred Heart since joining Atlantic Hockey: 16-4 all time and unbeaten (8-0-1) in its last nine games with the Pioneers. But this is an improving SHU team that knocked off UConn last weekend and has beaten Bentley and Canisius. I’m going with a split. Sacred Heart wins on Friday; RIT wins on Saturday.
Dan: Sacred Heart has had some success against Bentley the past couple of seasons, and Dan sees a lot of Bentley games, so I can understand why he picks Sacred Heart to sweep.
Friday, November 21
Air Force at Denver
Chris: The Falcons are coming off a good weekend at Robert Morris and came with seconds of knocking off (then) third-ranked North Dakota a couple of weeks back. But I think No. 10 Denver gets it done at home.
Dan: Dan deems Denver desirable to deliver. Pioneers win.
Bentley at Harvard
Dan: Dan is going to tell you that the third time will be charm for the Falcons, who for two straight seasons have brought 500 fans to the Bright Hockey Center to see their team shut out (5-0 in 2012 and 3-0 in 2013). He’s picking (cough, homer, cough) Bentley to win.
Chris: History repeats. Harvard wins.
Saturday, November 22
Colorado College at Air Force
Chris: Air Force hasn’t had much success at home so far this season (2-3-1) but Colorado College is 2-7 and has scored two goals in its last three games. I’m predicting an Air Force victory.
Dan: Dan fails to see the superiority of my logic and picks CC to win.
Tuesday, November 25
Bentley at Holy Cross
Dan: Dan’s going with the home team here in a game he would probably be broadcasting if he didn’t decide to GET MARRIED IN THE MIDDLE OF HOCKEY SEASON. He thinks Holy Cross will win.
Chris: I will definitely be catching this one on atlantichockey.tv. These teams have a nice little rivalry going and I expect this to be an entertaining contest. I like Bentley to pull out a win on the road.
Army at Providence
Chris: Providence has tumbled down the polls but has had a tough schedule so far and I think still has the ability to defeat an improving Army squad. PC wins.
Dan: Dan is also picking Providence. Wait, can I change my pick?
Three (actually four) things from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Undefeated no more
Robert Morris’ rookies experienced a first on Saturday: what it feels like to lose a college hockey game. The Colonials entered the day as one of only three undefeated Division I programs (Harvard and Michigan Tech were the others – Harvard also lost).
RMU (7-1-2) had come from behind to earn a 3-3 tie with Air Force on Friday, and again on Saturday to force overtime, but the magic ran out on a Scott Holm goal 29 seconds into the extra session to giver Air Force the win. Falcons goaltender Chris Truehl made 44 saves for the win. Robert Morris outshot Air Force 45-25 in the contest.
“Hats off to (Air Force),” said RMU coach Derek Schooley after the game. “I thought the better team did not win the hockey game. If we play the way we played this weekend, we’re going to get rewarded more often than not.”
We all know that parity reigns in Atlantic Hockey, and Friday was a perfect example, with all four conference games going to overtime. Rochester Institute of Technology/Canisius, Mercyhurst/Bentley, and Air Force/Robert Morris all settled for ties, while Army defeated Holy Cross 5-4 thanks to a goal by Conor Andrle with ten seconds left in the extra session.
It was almost the same story on Saturday, with three of the four league contests needing an extra period. Bentley and Air Force both notched wins in OT, while Holy Cross and Army ended scoreless after 65 minutes.
After the dust settled, just two points separate places three through eight in the standings.
Like old times
Connecticut has had some success in its inaugural season in Hockey East with a win over Boston College and a tie against Boston University. Throw in a win against state rival Quinnipac and the Huskies were flying high coming into their game on Friday with former AHA rival Sacred Heart, played at a neutral location with proceeds going to the family of Jason Pagni, who was killed in an auto accident in January and was a close friend of Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo.
Played in front of a packed house at the Taft School, the game was a nail biter with an early goal by the Pioneers’ Drew George standing up as the lone tally in a 1-0 win, the first career shutout for SHU senior goaltender Andrew Bodnarchuk.
(Almost a) One man band
Tuesday morning the league will announce its player of the week, and I have a feeling that RIT’s Matt Garbowsky will get some serious consideration.
The senior tallied four goals and an assist in a pair of games at Canisius, including all three RIT goals in a 3-3 tie on Friday and a goal and an assist in a 3-0 victory on Saturday.
Tigers coach Wayne Wilson called out the rest of his squad on Friday in a sarcasm-filled post game interview, accusing everyone not named Garbowsky of being “spectators”.
On Saturday, Garbowsky got some help in a more balanced effort, according to Wilson.
“I thought we played a better game than we did last night,” he said. “I thought we competed hard. I thought it showed up defensively. We created a lot of turnovers, made it very difficult for them to come up the ice. Overall, a better team effort for us tonight than last night.”
On the season:
Dan: 39-23-6 (.618)
Chris: 42-20-6 (.662)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, November 14 and Saturday, November 15
Holy Cross at Army
Dan: David Berard enlightened me to the Holy Cross team concept of strong defense last week. To be honest, I’m pretty high on the Crusaders right now. I said at the beginning of the year that this team will go as far as its defense. With Matt Ginn playing at a high level, that’s pretty darn high. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: I haven’t been doing very well picking against Holy Cross, and after seeing them in person last weekend, I’m sold. The Crusaders are getting scoring from their rookies and play great team defense. Of course, the exact same thing can be said of Army. Still, I’m not going to get burned again so I’m going with a Holy Cross sweep.
Mercyhurst at Bentley
Dan: For the first time in seven years, there’s going to be a brand spanking new face calling a Bentley home game thanks to upcoming nuptials. At the same time, though, this has the makings of everything I want in a jinxable scenario. A) It’s my wedding weekend, which is awesome except for the decision to get married during hockey season (clearly her fault!). B) I already said Mercyhurst is my foil for the season, meaning I could jinx them with my good vibrations. C) At the same time, I could jinx Bentley by overconfidently picking them. So I’m taking a split with absolutely no hockey analysis whatsoever. Best of luck to Jefferson Mills on the call this weekend; you should have a good one. Bentley wins on Friday, Mercyhurst wins on Saturday.
Chris: This is going to be a great series between two teams that like to score in bunches. Too bad Dan won’t be broadcasting these – I hear he has other plans. Priorities, Dan! Anyway, I think this will be a split and am going with Bentley on Friday and Mercyhurst on Saturday.
Rochester Institute of Technology at Canisius
Dan: I think RIT is the only place west of Albany not owned or built by Terry Pegula in some capacity. RIT sweeps.
Chris: These will be the 78th and 79th all-time meetings between the WNY rivals. They’re the first league home games for the Golden Griffins at their new diggs, downtown Buffalo’s HarborCenter. It’s the only two games between the schools this season, so both look to make the most of it, but I like Canisius to sweep on home ice.
Air Force at Robert Morris
Dan: This is one of those series where anything can happen. RMU is coming in piping hot, even though they were off last week, and Air Force is going to have a compete level through the roof given their loss last week to Alabama-Huntsville. I love the coaching matchup between two guys synonymous with “compete level.” Slight edge to Robert Morris right now, but I still think Air Force gets a win. Air Force wins on Friday. Robert Morris wins on Saturday.
Chris: Games between the two former CHA rivals are usually close and entertaining. Will a week off cool RMU’s hot streak? Air Force is coming off a forgettable weekend at home against Alabama-Huntsville (loss and a tie), and I think the break in RMU’s momentum will be brief as they sweep at home.
American International at Michigan
Dan: AIC is coming off a forgettable game against UMass. I think they’ll struggle to win this weekend with a very talented Michigan team, but don’t be shocked if they don’t put a scare into the Wolverines. There should be some great atmosphere as well since Michigan football is on a bye and Michigan basketball doesn’t open up until Monday. Michigan sweeps.
Chris: This series features the two longest-tenured coaches in Division I. Both Michigan’s Red Berenson and AIC’s Gary Wright are in the 31st seasons at their respective schools. The teams also sport similar records coming into the weekend: AIC is 2-5-1 while Michigan is 2-5. But the Wolverines are much deeper and are looking to open a long homestand in style. Michigan sweeps.
Friday, November 14
Sacred Heart vs. Connecticut
Dan: I’m not even gone yet and already everything goes to hell. Chris and I forgot this through our first run through the picks. I blame Chris. Anyways, gotta love old friends dueling on neutral ice in the Nutmeg State. I’m excited to see what happens here and excited to see a good goaltending matchup. Slight edge defensively to UConn, slight edge everywhere else to Sacred Heart in net and up front. SHU wins.
Chris: Yep. My bad. I left this out despite Tweeting about it this week. The game is being played at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut with proceeds going to the family of Jason Pagni, who was killed in an automobile accident the past January, leaving a wife and two kids. He was known for his many contributions to hockey in the Nutmeg State. The game is already sold out. I have to disagree with Dan based on the way UConn has already made an impact in Hockey East. UConn wins.
A look through the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Just under half of the institutions in Atlantic Hockey have roots in the Catholic Church. At the conclusion of this past weekend, four are in early season positioning for a first round bye under the new AHA format. Highlighting that run are Holy Cross and Sacred Heart, both of which gained monster three-point weekends.
Although a team not known for their offensive prowess, Holy Cross went pound for pound with RIT, scoring five goals and rallying after blowing leads on both nights. On Friday, the Crusaders built a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Danny Lopez and TJ Moore. RIT, however, tied it up with a second period goal from Brady Norrish and a third period goal from Andrew Miller. Holy Cross was able to grab a lead two minutes after the Tigers tied it up, but an empty net, extra attacker goal forced a 3-3 tie. On Saturday, RIT outshot Holy Cross, 2-1, but again the Crusaders built a lead, lost the lead, and scored a go-ahead goal. This time, it held up.
As for Sacred Heart, they continued their run of strong hockey by taking three points at home from Canisius. Down 2-1 in the second period on Friday, the Pioneers scored twice in four minutes in the late stages of the frame, including once on the power play. Andrew Bodnarchuk then held on with a strong third period to preserve the victory. After the team’s skated to a tie on Saturday night, the Pioneers found themselves in third place with eight points, undefeated in their last three games, three points back of idle first place Robert Morris.
Coaches, along with media members and fans, always talk about how it’s not where you start but where you finish. That said, fast starts are always a big help, and with an unbalanced schedule providing more east/west matchups, it’s good to see more parity coming down the pipeline with stronger eastern pod victories.
Holy Cross heads to Army next weekend, while Sacred Heart has a one game, non-conference tilt against UConn at the Taft School in Watertown, CT.
Wild Weekend In Erie
A great indicator of the crazy brand of hockey we all enjoy in Atlantic Hockey came from Mercyhurst-Army this past weekend. The series ended up as the highest-scored series with 14 goals scored over two nights, but what’s more amazing is that it came after the Lakers beat the Black Knights, 2-0, on Friday. That said, even that game provided some wildness, and no, I’m not talking about penalties.
Friday featured fantastic goaltending on both sides of the ice, highlighted by Jimmy Sarjeant’s 39-save shutout. But he was matched nearly stop-for-stop by Parker Gahagen, and Mercyhurst won the game based on goals 44 seconds apart. It was one of those games where a fan of good defensive hockey went home completely satisfied. Highlights are available by clicking here.
And then there was Saturday. I’m not sure if both teams used up all of their goaltending on Friday night, but it took the night off in the second game. They combined for six goals in the second period alone after a 1-1 first, including a penalty shot for Army scored by Tyler Pham. Mercyhurst rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3-3, then rallied from down 4-3 to tie things up at 4-4……..all in the same period. Army took a 5-4 lead, but the Lakers finished things off by scoring twice and adding an empty net goal for a 7-5 victory.
Consider this. A night after he went toe-to-toe with arguably the league’s best goalie, Parker Gahagen gave up six goals and still made 34 saves. On the flip side, Sarjeant made 39 saves to shut out Army on Friday, but he didn’t finish the game on Saturday and picked up a no-decision as Spencer Bacon came off the bench, made 12 saves, and received his first career victory in just his second career appearance.
The Lakers head east for the first time this season to take on Bentley next weekend while Army wraps up nine of 11 at home to start the year against Holy Cross.
Niagara off the schneid
If you remember back to last season, I repeatedly said over and over how I didn’t think Robert Morris was as bad as their infamous record portrayed them. At one point, they were 0-5-1, then 1-8-1, then 2-12-2 as the calendar year turned over. This year, I said the same thing about Niagara.
Niagara lost on Friday night to Bentley, 6-0, which made them 0-8 on the season. Watching the Purple Eagles sure as heck didn’t feel like a team that was 0-8, and for the most part, it was just a case of something bad happening right as it felt like things were turning around. As they battled back, things just snowballed and went to worse, and the Falcons capitalized in their own building in a big way. It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort or talent. It just was it was.
But give credit where credit’s due. With players sidelined by injury, Niagara’s hung very tough, and it showed on Saturday night. They never trailed and prevented Bentley from scoring an even-strength goal in a 3-2 overtime victory. Coach Dave Burkholder’s team looked solid defensively all night, and Jackson Teichroeb made 28 saves to pick up the team’s first victory.
Ironically enough, Niagara outshot Bentley 31-30 with the 31st shot being Isaac Kohls’ overtime winner. It was the only shot in overtime.
The Purple Eagles now receive a much needed bye weekend to rest up their banged up roster before playing five of their next six games at home. It starts in two weeks against Army.
On the season:
Dan: 34-20-3 (.623)
Chris: 38-18-3 (.693)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, November 7 and Saturday, November 8
Niagara at Bentley
Dan: This is an intriguing matchup between a Niagara team better than a winless record and a Bentley team that lost its only home game this year. The Falcons have been coming together over the past couple of weeks, which I think propels them this week. I think Niagara gets at least a point, but I can’t pick ties, and I hate picking splits. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: The Purple Eagles are winless so far, and Bentley is home for just the second time this season. The Falcons lost their lone home game at the JAR, but I don’t think that happens this time. Bentley sweeps.
Army at Mercyhurst
Dan: The last time Army won at Mercyhurst, John F. Kennedy was president. I love Army, but I have a hard time picking against the Lakers in their own barn. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: This series has a nice subplot of Laker sophomore Jack Riley going up against his dad, Army coach Brian Riley. Mercyhurst is coming off a huge win at Colgate last weekend and I think will earn a hard-fought sweep.
Holy Cross at RIT
Dan: This is the first of teams probably glad the games aren’t in Ritter Arena; the Tigers went 9-2-4 at the old barn against the Crusaders. A new slate and a new day for Holy Cross, a team slowly winning me over after I predicted them in the bottom two of the league. And yes, I realize I said I hate picking splits. RIT wins on Friday, Holy Cross wins on Saturday
Chris: RIT has dominated this series, but Holy Cross has come on as of late, including a wild win in last year’s best-of-three playoff series. But I think the Tigers are due for a good weekend at home. RIT sweeps.
Canisius at Sacred Heart
Dan: Having seen Sacred Heart in person, I can tell you they’re a team that will make you a believer. Sacred Heart sweeps.
Chris:This is a tough one to call as both teams have been up-and-down so far. But Canisius is 8-1-1 against SHU in their previous ten meetings, and I’m going with that trend. Canisius sweeps.
Alabama-Huntsville at Air Force
Dan: Alabama-Huntsville will eventually be much better than they are, and they’re a team now fighting for a potential playoff spot in the WCHA with Alaska suspended from postseason play. That said, this is a non-conference game, a very long road trip, and an Air Force team still hungry after narrowly defeated North Dakota last week. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: This is a matchup of former CHA teams, and a homecome of sorts for UAH coach Mike Corbett, who spent ten years as an assistant at Air Force. The Falcons are coming off a tough lost last Saturday at North Dakota, a game they were seconds away from winning. I think they rebound here. Air Force sweeps.
Friday, November 7
American International at Massachusetts
Dan: UMass fans can call this personal for me, but I’m calling it strictly business. AIC rolls into the Mullins Center and gets it done behind strong third period goaltending. I’m on board with the idea of moving this game to Springfield and making it a thing. Perhaps a trophy is in order? AIC wins.
Chris: The Yellow Jackets are coming off a sweep at Niagara, while the Minutemen lost a pair of close games to Maine last weekend. If AIC rookie goaltender Alex Murray can keep things rolling, the Yellow Jackets will prevail. But I have a hunch UMass will find a way to get it done. UMass wins.