Despite a poor start to the season, the Black Knights have tied RIT and Robert Morris this month.
On the season:
Dan: 69-49-19 (.573)
Chris: 79-39-19 (.646)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, January 9 and Saturday, January 10
Niagara at Air Force
Dan: Expect a lot of goal scoring. Both teams are working through issues in goal, which normally wins out over the lack of offense they’ve produced over the last month. Add in the desperation for some wins, and you’re looking at an exciting weekend of hockey. Edge to Air Force playing at home. Air Force sweeps.
Chris: Typically, this would be a battle between top four teams. But Air Force is in ninth place and Niagara dead last. They are a combined 0-9-3 in their last 12 games. I’m going with the home team to bounce back. Air Force sweeps.
Holy Cross at Canisius
Dan: 11 AM on a Friday is barely time to have a cup of coffee before stepping on the ice. That said, you could wake up the Holy Cross team at 4 AM on a Wednesday, and they’d either post a shutout or allow one goal. Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: This series features a bizarre Friday start time of 11:00 am. I like the Holy Cross defense to be the difference here. I’d go with a Crusaders win and a tie, but since we don’t pick ties I’m picking a Holy Cross sweep.
Sacred Heart at Mercyhurst
Dan: Get ready for a lot of offense. Edge to Mercyhurst, who rallied from a 6-3 loss last week to push a tie with Ohio State. Mercyhurst sweeps.
Chris: Both these teams can score goals and that could make for some entertaining hockey. I think Mercyhurst will find a way to pick up four points. Lakers sweep.
American International at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: RIT is 24-3-2 all-time against AIC, including a 21-3-2 mark since reclassifying to Division I. They were 15-1-1 all-time at Ritter Arena, and they enter this weekend with a 10-game winning streak against the Yellow Jackets. Across that 10-game streak, the Tigers outscored AIC, 39-12. Since joining D1, RIT is +67 against AIC. Even though AIC could always steal a game from anyone, they’re up against it this weekend. RIT sweeps.
Chris:RIT needs these games against an opponent it has handled pretty well at home. These are must points if the Tigers want to make a run in the second half of the season. That said, AIC has proved it can knock off anyone, anywhere. But I like the Tigers to come out with a sweep.
Bentley at Robert Morris
Dan: This is going to be an exciting weekend with two high-powered offenses taking on better-than-average goalies. We know what Dalton Izyk and Terry Shafer are capable of, but I’m excited to see what happens when Jayson Argue gets his first taste of the defending league champions. In five games, the freshman has a 1.97 GAA and a .934 save percentage. Robert Morris wins on Friday. Bentley wins on Saturday.
Chris:This is the premier series of the weekend, a battle between first and third place. A split wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ve got a gut feeling RMU will prevail. Robert Morris sweeps.
Friday, January 9
Connecticut at Army
Dan: One of the more evenly-played rivalries through the years, UConn holds a 29-28-8 record with West Point dating back to the mid-20th century. The Huskies have struggled in non-conference play, going 2-6-3, and I think Army could steal one here. That said, I’m still thinking the Huskies are a hair ahead of them right now. UConn wins.
Chris: Army is tough at home and UConn is 0-1 against its former league so far (2-0 loss to Sacred Heart). But I think the Huskies even that up with a UConn win.
Tuesday January 13
Canisius at Mercyhurst
Dan: The good news is that the bus scheduled to carry Canisius to Mercyhurst should finally be shoveled out from the snowfall that forced this game’s postponement. I’m calling this one for the Lakers. Mercyhurst wins.
Chris:This is a makeup of a game canceled back in November due to the snowpocalypse that buried Western New York. The teams tied in Buffalo in the first half of what should have been a home and home weekend, but I think the Lakers win on home ice. Mercyhurst wins.
Before I jump into observations (for the record, there’s four) from this past weekend, allow me to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year in 2015. I know I speak for Chris and all of our USCHO family in my sincerity for wishing you all nothing but the best.
Atlantic Hockey, Party of One
Facing an already uphill battle in order to get back into the race for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Robert Morris University Colonials traveled west to Ohio to take on Bowling Green with a last ditch chance at cracking into the top 16 of the Pairwise Rankings. While not a given to get into the tournament, wins over the sixth-ranked team in the rankings would’ve done wonders to get an Atlantic Hockey team closer to a locked slot in the national field.
On Saturday, down 2-0 going into the third period in an outdoor game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Greg Gibson and Brady Ferguson scored to tie the game at 2-2. They had the only two shots on goal in the extra overtime but couldn’t crack undefeated, 5-0 goalie Chris Neil. It was still good enough to score a tie and ruin Neil’s previously unblemished record.
On Sunday, Scott Jacklin scored just about 90 ticks into the game to stake RMU to a 1-0 lead. Even though Kevin Dufour scored to even the battle at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes, the Colonials entered the second with a solid chance at taking a win and pushing themselves up from 25th in the Pairwise Rankings.
But Bowling Green scored three unanswered goals, including two in the third period, and Robert Morris lost, 4-1. At 12-4-4, RMU still has one of the ten best winning percentages (even better than teams like Boston University and Yale), but unless all hell breaks loose in college hockey, only one team will get into the national tournament – the conference champion.
Series of the Year?
American International and Army turned in what might have been the best weekend of hockey played to date. Playing a home-and-home, the Yellow Jackets won on the road at West Point in overtime on Friday in a game featuring 76 shots. Down 2-1 after two periods, Johno May scored his third goal of the season to tie the game at 2-2. That’s where AIC struck again, feeding Austin Orszulak for a game winning goal just 18 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory.
The next night, we got more thrills from the two clubs. Army ripped off 15 shots in the first period, scoring four goals. Tyler Pham, Zak Zaremba, CJ Reuschlin, and Joe Kozlak all scored in the game’s first 14 minutes, staking the Black Knights to a 4-0 lead and chasing goalie Hunter Leisner from net a night after he made 43 saves.
Amazingly, AIC rallied back, scoring once off the stick of May with 15 seconds left in the period. That little bit kept the door open for a Nathan Sliwinski power play goal in the second period and a David Gandara goal in the third. Off the bench, Alex Murray stopped 22 shots.
Best part about this weekend is that it’s not the last we’ll see of these two against each other. AIC and Army duel again on the season’s last games when playoff seeding will undoubtedly come into play.
Up For The Challenge
Two teams in Atlantic Hockey produced big time bounce back performances after first game struggles.
Let’s start with Mercyhurst. Ohio State came into the Erie Insurance Arena and dominated Friday night’s game against the Lakers, outshooting them 43-18. The Buckeyes scored three goals in the first period and a fourth in under three minutes to start the second period en route to a 6-3 victory. On Saturday, though, the Lakers bounced back, taking a 1-0 late in the first period when Jack Riley scored. They turned it into a quick 2-0 lead in the second period’s first 90 seconds. Though Ohio State scored and ended the game with a 2-2 tie, it wasn’t without having to work for the extra decision.
Then there’s RIT. UMass-Lowell crushed the Tigers on Friday afternoon in the first game of the Mariucci Classic out at Minnesota, taking a 4-0 lead and cruising to a 7-3 victory that relegated the loser to the consolation game. As Minnesota took the ice to play Merrimack, prognosticators assumed the Gophers would handle the Warriors and set up the championship game at 7 PM on Saturday against the River Hawks.
Too bad Merrimack didn’t get the memo. The Warriors beat the Gophers, 3-2, meaning RIT’s consolation prize was a game before 10,000 fans in the “State of Hockey.” RIT, though, rose to the challenge, rallying from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 while being outshot 49-21. They took eighth-ranked Minnesota to overtime, where Kyle Rau scored at the 2:34 mark. Mike Rotolo saved 46 shots while absorbing the loss.
The Lakers host Sacred Heart this weekend, while RIT hosts American International.
Purple People Eaters
Believe it or not, Robert Morris is not pulling away with first place in Atlantic Hockey. Holy Cross continues to remain very much in the equation after taking three points from Air Force. On Friday, in a 1-1 tie, the Crusaders held Air Force to just 23 shots. On Saturday, the defense did even more, holding Air Force to just 10 shots through two periods before Matt Ginn did Matt Ginn things by stopping 15 of 16 shots in the third period.
Call this a major contrast of styles. Robert Morris is the fourth best offense in the nation, scoring well over three goals per game. Holy Cross is 13th best in the nation on defense, easily the best in back in Atlantic Hockey.
They meet in three weeks. While Holy Cross still has to go through Canisius and Mercyhurst on the road first, Robert Morris has to get through Bentley and American International at home. Still, the possibility of a potential grudge match weekend between the two is enough to make us start circling our calendars even more than we already were.
On the season:
Dan: 66-42-15 (.598)
Chris: 74-34-15 (.663)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, January 2 and Saturday, January 3
American International vs. Army
Dan: Army enters this game after really showing some guts against the Russian Red Stars. Down 2-0 after one, Zak Zaremba scored twice to help West Point stake a 3-2 lead. Maksim Nikolaev scored to tie it late, but I think the game will really help Army get back on their legs before the start of the season. AIC is coming off an incredibly long road trip to Clarkson, where they lost the game late, 4-3. This is going to be a fun weekend, and I’m calling for a split with the home team winning each night. Friday’s in West Point, with Saturday in Springfield.Army wins on Friday. AIC wins on Saturday.
Chris: Both teams are coming off good efforts, and I too am thinking split, in the same order. Army wins on Friday; AIC on Saturday.
Air Force at Holy Cross
Dan: Huge weekend matchup as Air Force attempts to put the bad taste of the first half to bed against the league’s second best team. The Falcons’ high powered offense sputtered against Bentley last month, and they cannot have that happen against a Holy Cross defense that’s downright nasty.Holy Cross sweeps.
Chris: Air Force is really struggling and Holy Cross is coming off a penalty-filled loss to Yale. Falcons coach Frank Serratore has told me that the Hart Center is one of the toughest places in the league to play, and I think that will be the case this weekend. Holy Cross sweeps.
Niagara at Sacred Heart
Dan: I’m very high on the Pioneers, but I also think Niagara is much better than their last place record indicates. This series starts six in a row on the road for a Niagara team that has to go to Connecticut, Colorado, and North Dakota in consecutive weekends. They win this weekend, but that’s a lot of travel to be wary of later this month.Niagara sweeps.
Chris: This is a tough series to pick. It’s cliche’ to say that both teams are better than their records, but I think either is capable of taking four points this weekend. I think it will be a split, with Niagara winning on Friday and SHU coming back on Saturday.
Canisius at Maine
Dan: Maine has been less than expected this year, going 4-13-1 and winning only once since the calendar turned to November. A big part of their problem is goaltending, which isn’t good news since Canisius averaged three goals per game over their last four games before the break. Over that time, the Griffs went 2-1-1. I think they go up to Orono and take this weekend.Canisius sweeps.
Chris: I think these games are more important to Maine, who is struggling and will be under a lot of pressure to win at home before returning to conference play. Maine sweeps.
Ohio State at Mercyhurst
Dan: Mercyhurst went into the break on absolute fire, going 6-2-2 after November 1st. Along the way, they beat Colgate and Robert Morris while tying Bentley and Canisius. But it’s hard to judge how they’ll do against Ohio State, a team hovering around .500 but with a decidedly tougher schedule. Both of these games will be played at the Erie Insurance Arena to benefit The Warming Center for the Mental Health Center of Northwest Pennsylvania. Mercyhurst wins on Friday. Buckeyes win on Saturday.
Chris: Hopefully this series will draw well and games at the downtown rink will become an annual event. I too like a split with Mercyhurst winning on Friday and Ohio State on Saturday.
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: UMass-Lowell enters the Mariucci Classic up in Minnesota at 12-3-3 overall, fourth in the nation in scoring offense. They were ninth in the nation in the last USCHO.com poll. Even if RIT’s defense can hold the River Hawks at bay, I don’t think their 32nd ranked offense can keep pace. UML wins.
Chris: The Tigers return to the scene of one of their program-defining wins, defeating the Gophers in the first round of this tournament in 2007, just RIT’s third year at the D-I level. I don’t think they will fare as well this time around. Lowell wins.
Saturday, January 3
Rochester Institute of Technology vs. Merrimack/Minnesota
Dan: Pick your poison for the Tigers here – either they get the nation’s sixth best offense in Minnesota or they draw the ninth best defense in Merrimack. If it’s Merrimack, look out for the Ruby-Tirronen goalie matchup; it’ll be a great watch. That said, this is a much tougher tournament now than it looked back in September. RIT loses regardless of opponent.
Chris: RIT is the only non-ranked team in the field and I’m going with the odds here. RIT loses to either Minnesota or Merrimack.
Saturday January 3 and Sunday, January 4
Robert Morris vs. Bowling Green
Dan: If you’re not a fan of the outdoor game, look away. I’m pretty excited to see what happens outside in Toledo on Saturday, especially since RMU has an outside chance still at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. They absolutely can’t lose another non-conference game, though. I predicted the computers wouldn’t fall in their favor, though, which means a loss here contributes to the debate. Bowling Green wins on Saturday. RMU wins on Sunday.
Chris: Saturday’s game will be outdoors at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo. Sunday the action will shift to RMU’s 84 lumber Arena. I’m going with a split with the home team coming out on top. Bowling Green wins Saturday, Robert Morris on Sunday.
On the season:
Dan: 61-39-15 (.596)
Chris: 67-33-15 (.648)
This Week’s Picks:
Saturday, December 27
Sacred Heart vs. Massachusetts-Lowell
Dan: This will be a game between two very balanced teams. There’s a slight edge here to the River Hawks defensively with a couple of really solid two-way player guys, but if the entire Pioneer unit can rise to the occasion, they’ll pick off a win here. I wouldn’t put a win coming out to the side of red and white, but for now, I’m going to pick UML to win.
Chris:The last times these teams met (Oct. 11, 2013),Lowell was the No. 1 team in the country and SHU was coming off a 2-30-4 season. The Pioneers, of course, won 2-1. Despite Sacred Heart showing steady improvement, I think the River Hawks win this round. Mass-Lowell wins.
Sunday, December 28
Sacred Heart vs. Union/Connecticut
Dan: If it’s Union, I’m taking the Dutchmen, but there’s something about the in-state rivalry that’ll have the Pioneers juiced up. Union/Sacred Heart wins.
Chris:Sacred Heart defeated UConn in this tournament last year, but I think both the Huskies or the Dutchmen will prevail. Union/UConn wins.
Air Force at Vermont
Dan:Air Force entered the break listless, losing three out of four games. After a 22-day layoff, they have to hope their team skates better together in order to compete with a Vermont team that played the best hockey of their season heading into the holidays. The Catamounts haven’t lost since November 21st. Vermont wins.
Chris:Is it time for the Falcons to begin their annual second-half surge? Not yet, I think against the host Catamounts. Vermont wins.
Monday, December 29
Air Force vs. Massachusetts
Dan:I’m with Chris in this one. UMass isn’t a very good hockey team, getting absolutely throttled in their last three games before break. A loss here will ratchet up the heat on head coach John Micheletto’s seat just a little bit. Air Force wins.
Chris:This tournament has a predetermined schedule, which means win or lose Air Force gets the Minutemen in the second game. And I like them to win this one. Air Force wins.
Robert Morris vs. Penn State
Dan:Absolutely nothing beats a game between these two in Pittsburgh. Last year, over 8,500 fans witnessed a third period Penn State comeback for a 3-2 win. The year before, 11,663 watched RMU destroy a team in its first year as a Division I program. Emotions will run high, a rivalry will be renewed, and RMU will win.
Chris:Both teams are ranked and playing very well at the moment. I’m going with the Colonials to pull out a close but high-scoring game. RMU wins.
Tuesday, December 30
American International at Clarkson
Dan:The drive back from Clarkson is so long, AIC might not make it back by 2015 if they hit an infamous WNY snowstorm. The losing streak (currently at 10) will end soon because the Yellow Jackets played well before the break, but it won’t be here. Clarkson wins.
Chris: Potsdam, N.Y. is a long way to go for a single game, and I don’t think it will be worth the trip for the Yellow Jackets. Clarkson wins at home.
Yale at Holy Cross
Dan:This game could boil down to special teams. Yale might be a top-15 penalty killing unit, but it’s because the refs never actually call any penalties on them (least penalized team in the nation at 6.7 minutes per game). Their power play, on the other hand, is under 10%, one of the worst in the nation. Compare that to Holy Cross, a top five team in penalty killing while ranking in the top 20 in power play scoring. Holy Cross wins.
Chris:I’ve seen both these teams this season and they remind me of each other – tough team defense, a good forecheck and great goaltending. But I think Yale is deeper, so I’m going with the Bulldogs to pull this one out on the road. Yale wins.
Robert Morris vs. Western Michigan/Colgate
Dan:This is going to turn into a must-win game for an RMU team currently ranked 21st in the Pairwise Rankings. They need these victories to drive towards an at-large bid. Any out-of-conference loss all but assures the AHA of one team and one team only in the big dance. That’s a situation calling for RMU’s well-documented compete level. RMU wins regardless of opponent.
Chris:I’m going to split on this one. I think RMU will prevail against Western but would fall to Colgate should they meet. So I’m going with RMU to defeat WMU or RMU to lose to the Raiders.
Three things from this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
One streak snapped; one goes on
On Friday, Rochester Institute of Technology accomplished something it had not in 20 previous meetings with Niagara: defeated the Purple Eagles during the regular season. Niagara was 12-1-7 against the Tigers dating back to 2005 when RIT made the move to Division I, with the Tigers only win coming in the 2012 playoffs.
On Friday, Matt Garbowsky had a pair of goals to lead RIT to a 4-1 win at the Polisseni Center.
But on Saturday, another streak lived on. Niagara has never lost to RIT at Dwyer Arena, and the Purple Eagles kept it that way with a 1-1 tie to move to 9-0-5 all-time there against the Tigers. Both goals in the game were scored in a 49 second span late in the first period.
The teams will play another home-and-home weekend on Feb. 6 and 7.
Scorers, we got ‘em
Speaking of Garbowsky, he scored RIT’s only goal on Saturday as well, giving him three on the weekend to briefly lead all of Division I with 14 goals on the season.
But the following afternoon, Bentley’s Andrew Gladiuk pulled even with Garbowsky, scoring his 14th of the season in a 5-2 win at American International. Gladiuk added two assists to go into the holiday break with 27 points, tied with Boston University’s Jack Eichel for most in the nation.
Four of the five national leaders in points are from Atlantic Hockey: Gladiuk (27), Cody Wydo From Robert Morris (25), Max French from Bentley (24) and Garbowsky (23).
Robert Morris and Mercyhurst battled to a split in their only meetings of the regular season with the Colonials jumping out to an early lead on Saturday and rolling to a 7-4 win. RMU got goals from seven different players, with Wydo chipping in a goal and three assists.
Mercyhrust relied on senior goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant on Sunday in a 3-0 win to earn the split. Robert Morris outshot Mercyhurst 41-17 but could not solve Sarjeant, who recorded his second shutout of the season and third in his career.
When the dust settled, Robert Morris remained in first place by five points over Bentley and Holy Cross, while Mercyhurst sits tied for fourth, but with at least two games in hand on the teams above it in the standings.
On the season:
Dan: 58-37-13 (.597)
Chris: 63-2-13 (.645)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13
Niagara vs. Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: Chris will tell you about the problems RIT’s has winning in general against Niagara, having never beaten them at either team’s home rink. While I don’t see Wayne Wilson as the kind of guy who would really care about history the same way we do, I also see the trend continuing through this weekend. Niagara is starting to heat up, and that has me thinking they’re starting to get the wheels moving. Niagara sweeps.
Chris:Niagara has owned RIT since the Tigers moved to Division I: 12-1-7 including 9-0-4 at Dwyer Arena, where Saturday’s game will be held. Friday’s contest will be at the new Polisseni Center, and maybe the change of venue will do the Tigers some good – they were 0-3-3 against Niagara at Ritter Arena (the lone RIT win in the series came at Blue Cross Arena in the 2012 semifinals). So I’m going with RIT on Friday and Niagara on Saturday.
Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14
Robert Morris at Mercyhurst
Dan: Virtually everyone should have this series circled on their calendar given the two teams proximity and talent levels. Simply put – this could be the weekend of the year in Atlantic Hockey. That said, I’m going to boil this weekend down to goaltending- Dalton Izyk and Terry Shafer have been solid enough to get RMU into the national rankings, and Mercyhurst’s normally sound netminders haven’t been posting the same type of statistics we’ve grown accustomed to. At present? I’m taking RMU. In the playoffs? We’ll see. RMU sweeps.
Chris:This is another series with a short trip for the visiting team as the Western Pennsylvania rivals clash. These teams were picked No. 1 (Mercyhurst)and No. 2 (RMU) in the preseason standings, and while the 17th-ranked Colonials are off to a great start (8-1-3, good for first place), the Lakers are five points behind in fifth place but have three games in hand. It’s a chance for Robert Morris to put some distance between a close competitor, of for ‘Hurst to pull the Colonials back to the pack. This will be a fantastic series, and I’m going with my gut and a Mercyhurst sweep.
Bentley at American International
Dan: I seem to love harping on goaltending and defense, so indulge me another weekend of focus. Jayson Argue is turning heads with a .947 save percentage and a 1.51 goals against average in his first four games. If he qualified for the national stats by playing in 33% of his team minutes with those stats, he’d be ranked fourth in Division I in save percentage. That said, he gets his first taste of an AIC team that seems to always play the Falcons tough, going 3-3 over the past two seasons against their Northeast-10 Conference rivals. They’ll play twice this year thanks to Atlantic Hockey scheduling, which makes these games even more “high stakes.” That said, edge right now to Bentley. Bentley sweeps.
Chris: AIC always seems to give the Falcons fits but even though I think the talent/depth gap continues to narrow between the two squads, I”m looking for Bentley to put together a four-point road weekend. Goaltending was Bentley’s biggest question coming into this season, and they may have found the answer in Jason Argue. Bentley sweeps.
Sunday, December 14
Sacred Heart at Dartmouth
Dan: Sick of me talking defense yet? Let’s break this down a little bit – James Kruger is playing nearly every minute for Dartmouth this season and rocks a 1.87 GAA and .932 save percentage. Naysayers will point to Sacred Heart’s struggles last week stopping Robert Morris, but I truly believe those are outliers. Whoever plays for the Pioneers will prove me right since anyone watching those games saw a team that wasn’t overmatched at all. That said, Kruger is in another stratosphere right now, including the 12th best save percentage in the land. Dartmouth wins in a very low-scoring game.
Chris: This is a great opportunity for Sacred Heart to steal a game. The Pioneers gave Robert Morris all they could handle last weekend, and have rarely been out of any game so far. However, I like Dartmouth as a dark horse in the ECAC this season, and they’ve already knocked off Union, Boston University and tied Harvard. I’m going with Dartmouth in a close one.
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.