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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. 

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – November 4, 2013

Easing into league play this weekend within the AHA made sure we didn’t go home disappointed.  Here’s three reasons why, with a little help from my favorite Irish rockers, U2:

Mercyhurst: “Even Better Than the Real Thing”

Let’s run down how the Mercyhurst season has gone to date.  First, it started with the Lakers entering the season as the prohibitive league favorite, returning almost all the key ingredients from a squad that baked up a spot in the league title game.  Their reputation took a hit through the most brutal non-conference stretch of games we’d seen in a while that saw them start 1-5-1.  While there was a thought that Mercyhurst would eventually gel, there was this lingering tension that the Lakers weren’t, maybe, who we thought they were.

Then they smoked Air Force.

Leading 3-1 late in the first, Mercyhurst allowed the Falcons to score late, leading by one after twenty minutes. Then they scored five unanswered goals to crush the visiting service academy, 8-2.  It was a loud statement from a team that needed one, highlighted by Matthew Zay’s 1-2-3 night.  Daniel O’Donoghue and Ryan Misiak each scored twice, Kyle Dutra added two assists, and Randy Cure and Nick Jones both finished with an absurd +4 on the defensive end.  And Jack Riley collected his first collegiate point, which drew the following tweet from his dad (and Army head coach) Brian Riley:

Love the hashtag of #Betteragainstthemthanus, making the tongue-in-cheek reference to the conflicted feelings of a proud father against a coach trying to do his job.

Entering the weekend, a lot of around the AHA scene were wondering  what Air Force’s first league trip east would yield. They shut out RIT 2-0 on Friday  then headed down to Erie for the Saturday game.  A four-point weekend would give Air Force the proverbial solid start out of the blocks in the race for the top seed come playoff time (see also: Niagara, 2012-13).  Mercyhurst, in need of a good showing, took the opportunity take the league’s preeminent power and rudely usher them off center stage by announcing their own arrival.  They got better than that – the Lakers produced a large thunderclap that’s put the rest of the league on notice.

Robert Morris-Penn State’s budding rivalry: “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss me (?), Kill Me”

When people talk about rivalries in college hockey, it inevitably begins with games between Boston College and Boston University, Harvard and Cornell, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Maine and New Hampshire.  While Robert Morris and Penn State surely cannot counter with that type of history, the Keystone State opponents are quickly becoming heated adversaries.  An annual rite of passage is forming where the team’s alternate who plays at home with a second game as the opener to the Three Rivers Classic that started last year in Pittsburgh.

Last year, Robert Morris swept the Nittany Lions in their first year in Division I college hockey.  The former new kid on the block as the most recent school to elevate before Penn State, the Colonials won 3-2 in Happy (Hockey) Valley last year despite being outshot 40-29.  That game featured 16 penalties for 32 minutes.  When they met in the Three Rivers Classic, RMU pasted Penn State, 6-0, in a game featuring 13 penalties for 37 minutes.  The first game had a couple of penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct with some embellishment and boarding thrown in for good measure.  Playing at the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there were a couple of hitting after the whistle penalties and a game misconduct to Penn State’s David Glen for contact to the head.

Fast forward (or rewind) to this weekend.  Penn State picked up its first win over RMU and second win of the year with three second period goals.  Robert Morris, who led 1-0 after one, scored to make it a 3-2 game before the end of the second, then tied the game on a third period penalty shot.  Penn State would pull away, though, with two power play goals.  Ever the competitive squad, the Colonials refused to go quietly into the night, scoring with less than a minute on an extra attacker goal.  Cody Wydo scored all four goals, a silver lining in a loss that featured another 15 penalties for 38 minutes and a cross-checking misconduct.

While it clearly doesn’t have the history, game between Penn State and Robert Morris are fast becoming intense affairs.  And fans can anticipate more of the same when they meet again at the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center after Christmas.

Army: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Army entered the season knowing they’d have some struggles up front on a team featuring only one senior.  The coaching staff made it clear that they had supreme confidence in Rob Tadazak’s ability as a goalie to keep them in games as they began the jelling process with only two games in October.  But even with Tadazak stopping 90% of pucks this year, the Black Knights are 0-4-0 after getting swept by UConn and Bentley this weekend.

But if there’s a positive in a weekend where they were outscored 9-4, it’s that Army was never really truly put away by any of the teams.  UConn jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Black Knights, but they never pulled away.  Army kept the score closer by cutting leads to 2-1 and 3-2 before giving up a final strike.  And against Bentley, they went down 3-0 but were able to score 30 seconds after Max French put Army at rock bottom.

Say what you want about an 0-4-0 start, but Army is better than the record indicates.  They just haven’t been able to find wins.  They get back at it on Friday when they face a pair of Bay State foes, hosting Holy Cross on Friday and heading to Boston College for a Saturday tilt.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Nov. 1-3

Last Week:
Dan: 6-6-3
Chris: 9-3-3

On the season:
Dan: 27-16-5 (.615)
Chris: 31-12-5 (.698)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2:
Canisius at Miami
Dan: Canisius proved they have the capability to upset a team when they took out Denver last week.  The talent is there, and this is a trap weekend for Miami.  If Miami overlooks Canisius, one of these games is going back to Buffalo.  That would be the gutsy pick, and honestly, I’m not sure I want to take it.  The smart pick is Miami, regardless of how close this will be.  Miami sweeps
Chris: Canisius had a big non-conference last weekend and No. 6 Miami has to be careful not to take the Golden Griffins for granted after two tough weekends with North Dakota and Providence to open the season. In four previous meeting the RedHawks have outscored Canisius 23-3. These games will be closer, but I think Miami comes through. Miami sweeps.

Friday, Nov. 1st and Sunday, Nov. 3:
American International at Michigan State
Dan: AIC got pummeled when they played Providence, but they switched up goalies and picked up a conference win against Sacred Heart.  Even if Ty Reichenbach plays over Ryan Kerpan, I think MSU is looking at this with a sense of urgency to reestablish what they hope they can be.  Michigan State sweeps.
Chris: This series takes a break on Saturday thanks to the Michigan-Michigan State football game. These are must-games for the Spartans, who are 1-3. Their first five games of the season are all against teams from Massachusetts, and  I think they’ll even their record here. Michigan State sweeps.

 

Friday, Nov. 1:
Sacred Heart at Holy Cross
Dan: This is one of those weird games where it’s going to be hard to predict.  Holy Cross hasn’t won a game, but everyone they’ve played is nationally ranked.  Of course Sacred Heart is 2-3, but they a) got beaten handily by RPI and b) just lost to AIC.  I’ll leave it up to my trusty Magic 8 Ball.  Holy Cross wins.
Chris: I wouldn’t have thought that the Pioneers (2-3) would have two more wins than the Crusaders (0-5) at this point. If the Crusaders aren’t motivated for this one, they’ll be in trouble. I like them to get their first victory of the season. Holy Cross wins.

Air Force at Rochester Institute of Technology
Dan: This is going to be one of my fun highlighted games of the week.  Air Force and RIT is a rivalry that I usually circle on the calendar just because of the history when these two teams both ranked at the top of the league.  RIT will be up for this, but Air Force is clicking early.  Later this year, I’ll have RIT splitting in Colorado, but this is a game Air Force wins.
Chris: These teams always play each other close, and the home team wins the majority of the time, especially the Falcons. That’s the pressure on RIT – the other two meeting between these squads will be in Colorado Springs, where the Tigers have won just once in conference play. But the Falcons are playing great hockey already. I wish I could pick a tie, but I’ll go with the home team. RIT wins.

Bentley at Merrimack
Dan: The Bentley offense had its best showing since the win over UNO when they threw the kitchen sink at Harvard.  The problem?  They ran into a goalie that they just couldn’t beat and got shut out.  The Falcons haven’t started 1-6 since 2001-2002, but with Army on Saturday, this game is in a really tough spot.  It’ll be close because Bentley’s defense is vastly improved, but Merrimack wins.
Chris: Another tough non-conference test for Bentley. Despite being just 30 miles apart, this is the first meeting of the teams in their respective Division I eras. After putting up six goals in their season opening win over Nebraska-Omaha, the Falcons have scored just seven times since over a five game stretch. Merrimack is a good defensive team, and that gives the Warriors the edge. Merrimack wins. 

Army at Connecticut
Dan: Even though Matt Grogan was absolutely fantastic in the comeback tie against Union, my attention is on the UConn offense against Army goalie Rob Tadazak.  He’s very quietly holding his own among some elite company in the AHA.  I think Tadazak has the potential to keep this one very close, so don’t sleep on the Black Knights.  UConn wins, though.
Chris: Army has played just two games so far, and struggled to score goals as expected. Huskies goalie Matt Grogan was sensational last weekend, making 47 saves in a 2-2 tie with Union. I think he’ll shut down the Black Knights. UConn wins. 

Penn State at Robert Morris
Dan: This one will get nasty.  Penn State is quickly gaining a reputation of a team that plays physical-to-the-point-it’s-on-the-edge.  Robert Morris has a compete level that’s always through the roof.  Sparks are gonna fly.  Robert Morris wins.
Chris: This is shaping up to be a nice rivalry between Keystone State programs. Robert Morris is tough at home, but if Penn State can learn to stay out of the box, I think they’ll win this game. So assuming less penalties, Penn State wins. 

 

Saturday, Nov. 2:
Bentley at Army
Dan: Brian Riley and Ryan Soderquist joke every time they play each other that they’re suited for each other’s home rink.  Army’s disciplined, physical style is good for the small Bentley ice, and Bentley’s fast, athletic style is good for the large Tate Rink ice.  This is in Army, so I’m taking Bentley to get off the schneid.  Bentley wins.
Chris: Army is a usually a better team at home, but I like Bentley to get its first league points of the season. Bentley wins.

Air Force at Mercyhurst
Dan: Mercyhurst’s schedule is designed for this game.  They had a rough start with brutal opponents, and they did so with the intent of being battle-hardened for the league slate.  They’re the preseason favorite to unseat Niagara/Air Force at the top.  If they want to head towards that company, they better win this game.  There’s more to prove for them than Air Force.  Mercyhurst wins.
Chris: I think this is the game of the weekend in Atlantic Hockey. Both teams are expected to finish at or near the top of the standings. It’s a bigger game for Mercyhurst for the same reason RIT needs to take points against the Falcons on Friday – the other two games between the Lakers and Falcons are at Air Force. Mercyhurst has Friday off and Air Force does not. That and home ice give the Lakers a slight edge. Mercyhurst wins. 

Sacred Heart at Connecticut
Dan: UConn should start clicking soon, and as they warm up, teams will start catching up to the faster yet weird start to the season.  Things will even out by the time Christmas hits.  I love Sacred Heart, I really do.  But as teams get settled into their seasons, they’re going to find that they’re not quite there.  They’ll beat teams in their division, but that’ll come later in the year.  Right now, though, there’s too much talent in Storrs to keep up.  UConn wins.
Chris: In a battle of Nutmeg State teams, I like a deeper Huskies squad on home ice. UConn wins. 

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – October 28, 2013

Three (O.K. four) things from Atlantic Hockey action this past weekend:

Canisius delivers a solitary blow

Atlantic Hockey continued to struggle in non-conference games. The league went 1-8-1 out of conference to bring its record to date to a lowly 6-33-4.

The single victory was a dramatic one, however, as Canisius knocked off No. 16 Dever 4-1 at Magness Arena. In the first ever meeting between the schools, the Golden Griffins scored power play, shorthanded and even strength goals to open a 3-0 and never looked back.

“We got great goaltending and had goals from our power-play unit, penalty kill, empty net and 5-on-5,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. We were very hard to play against tonight, which is the recipe for us to win.”

It was the first time in school history that Canisus had defeated a ranked non-conference team.

There were few bright spots elsewhere. Mercyhurst and Rochester Institute of Technology managed comeback ties at Alaska and Penn State, respectively. The night before, Mercyhurst lost a 4-1 lead to the Nanooks and fell 5-4, surrendering the clinching goal with a minute and a half to play.

History repeated itself for Bentley, which fell 3-0 to Harvard. Just like the game played almost a year ago to the day (10/27/12) , the Falcons had a large Bentley fan contingent make the short trip to Bright Hockey Center to see their team shut out. Last year it was a 5-0 loss.

How they stack up

Here’s a summary of non-conference records so far:
Air Force: 2-2, 5 games left
Niagara: 0-3, 4 games left
American International: 0-1, 6 games left
Sacred Heart: 1-2, 4 games left (including a NC game with Connecticut)
Robert Morris 0-4, 3 games left
Army: 0-2, 2 games left
Bentley: 1-5, 1 game left
Canisius: 1-0, 6 games left
Connecticut: 0-2-1, 4 games left (including a NC game with Sacred Heart)
Holy Cross: 0-5, 2 games left
Mercyhurst: 1-5-1, 4 games left
Rochester Institute of Technology: 0-3-2, 2 games left

In case you’re wondering why the number of non-league games played isn’t the same for all teams, games in Alaska and some tournaments, like the Ice Breaker, are exempted from the 34-game limit. Mercyhurst plays in four extra games this season, so the Lakers have 11 non-conference games. The typical number of OOC games for an AHA team is seven since each plays 27 conference games. Army is playing only 31 NCAA games this season.

 

Frontrunners

It’s very early in the season, but Air Force has already set the tone with home victories over defending champion Canisius (3-2) and defending regular-season champs Niagara (7-4) this past weekend.

On Friday against the Golden Griffins, the Falcons erased a two-goal deficit with three tallies of their own in a 2: 28 span midway through the second period.

Sunday was a wild affair that saw Air Force and Niagara combine for six first period goals. The 7-4 final featured power play, shorthanded, extra attacker and empty net goals.

“We have not been a very dominant team at home the last couple years, but this group wants to change that,” said coach Frank Serratore.” We are off to a good start with four straight wins at home.”

The Falcons lost practice time due to the government shutdown and struggled their first weekend, but have won four in a row since. They’ll plow through the rest of their first games with fellow Western Pod schools over the next two weekends, traveling to RIT and Mercyhurst this weekend and hosting Robert Morris on Nov. 16.

 

When is a win not a win?

When it comes in a shootout. RIT and Penn State skated to a 3-3 tie at sold out (6,221) Peluga Arena Friday night, and under Big Ten rules a shootout ensued.

In non-conference games the shootout is for bragging rights only. Points are on the line in Big Ten league contests, but the NCAA doesn’t recognize the shootout as a way to settle things, so games using it are considered ties.

It was the first shootout RIT has been involved in a shootout in the 51 year history of the program.

“It was fun,” said coach Wayne Wilson. “We talked about the possibility and picked some guys that had been doing well in practice.”

Rookie defenseman Alex Perron-Fontaine and senior Mike Colavecchia were successful in RIT’s first two attempts, and goalie Jordan Ruby stopped the first two Penn State shooters, negating the need for a third shootout round.

Atlantic Hockey Picks Oct. 25-27

Last Week:
Dan: 9-4-2
Chris: 8-5-2

On the season:
Dan 21-10-2 (.667)
Chris 22-9-2 (.697)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, October 25th and Saturday October 26th:
Robert Morris vs. Ohio State
Dan: I find it hard to believe that RMU could be winless to this point.  I feel the same way about Ohio State.  Before I ever picked this, I knew Chris and I would say something similar.  Robert Morris on Friday; Ohio State on Saturday
Chris: Both teams are looking for their first win of the season. I think they’ll each get that.   Ohio State wins Friday; Robert Morris Saturday.

Quinnipiac vs. Holy Cross
Dan: Quinnipiac outshot Bentley by a 50-13 margin, but they only won by one.  I hope Rand Pecknold is a fan of The Who, because They Won’t Be Fooled AgainQuinnipiac sweeps
Chris: Holy Cross hasn’t beaten the Bobcats since 2005 and I don’t think it will happen this weekend. Quinnipiac sweeps.

Mercyhurst at Alaska
Dan: This Laker team is too good to be 1-4, but Fairbanks jet lag has to count for at least one loss.  Alaska wins on Friday; Mercyhurst on Saturday
Chris: The road warrior Lakers are at it again. Mercyhurst is 0-5 all-time against the Nanooks, but I’m picking them to win the second game. Alaska wins Friday; Mercyhurst Saturday.

 

Friday, October 25:
Rochester Institute of Technology at Penn State
Dan: Penn State struggled with Air Force last weekend.  This game, with less emotion than the opener against Army, will be similar to that now that RIT can be just another game.  RIT wins.
Chris: Penn State spoiled RIT’s homecoming last season, and they’re a better team this year. RIT may be as well, but not enough to get the victory. Penn State wins.

Canisius at Air Force
Dan: Not only is this a chance for revenge after being swept out of the playoffs last year, but this is also a chance for Air Force to remind Canisius who’s top dog in the AHA.  Air Force wins.
Chris: Canisius usually plays well at the Academy, including a sweep in last year’s quarterfinals. But The Falcons are playing well and I think they get some revenge. Air Force wins.

Niagara at Denver
Dan: I think Denver is a team that will compete for the NCHC’s inaugural title.  The AHA has really struggled stepping out of the league this year, too.  Denver wins.
Chris: The Pioneers are smarting from a pair of tough losses last weekend in Alaska, and I think home cooking carries them this weekend. Denver wins.

Union at Connecticut
Dan: UConn is on the rise, and Union is a little bit down.  Their paths haven’t intersected yet though.  It’ll be close, but I think Union wins.
Chris: Union is another squad coming off a tough weekend, but so are the Huskies. I think UConn takes its home opener. UConn wins.

 

Saturday, October 26th:
Sacred Heart at American International
Dan: This is going to boil down to goaltending.  Granted there’s only one game on AIC’s docket and it was against a team expected to contend in Hockey East, but SHU is vastly improved in the back.  Sacred Heart wins.
Chris: The Pioneers are an improved team and AIC gave up ten goals in a loss to Providence last Saturday, but I think the Yellow Jackets will rebound. AIC wins.

Canisius at Denver
Dan: See also: Niagara at Denver.  Denver wins.
Chris: I’m predicting more of the same for Denver in a home sweep of AHA teams. Denver wins.

Bentley at Harvard
Dan: After pasting the Falcons to open their season last year, Harvard fell off badly.  They graduated three of their top five scorers, and their defense has questions.  Bentley is dealing with injuries, but despite bad shot discrepancies, they haven’t been blown out.  They’re screaming for a break through.  Bentley wins.
Chris: Bentley had hundreds of fans at last year’s meeting at Bright Center, but went home disappointed as Harvard rolled, 5-0. But I I think Bentley breaks through this time. Bentley wins.

Army at Merrimack
Dan: Merrimack is sorely underrated with a packed top tier of Hockey East.  This game is almost completely sold out, too, save for about 50 standing room tickets as of press time.  Merrimack wins.
Chris: Army has an unusual early schedule, playing its first game on 10/11 at Penn State, and then off for over two weeks. Merrimack has four games under its belt including a split last with Mercyhurst last weekend. Merrimack wins.

 

Sunday, October 27:
Niagara at Air Force
Dan: The AHA has a funny way of correcting itself so nobody ever really pulls too far away.  Adrian Ignani will continue to assert himself among the league’s elite.  Niagara wins.
Chris: This should be an entertaining matchup, as Niagara looks to erase the memory of a pair of lopsided losses in the last weekend of 2012-13  regular season. But I think the Falcons are poised for a four-point weekend. Air Force wins.

 

Three Things: Atlantic Hockey – October 21, 2013

A look back at the lessons learned in the world of Atlantic Hockey this past weekend.

Non-conference struggles continue.

Last week, the only wins for the AHA in non-conference play came in a big way, as Sacred Heart defeated #1-ranked UMass-Lowell and Bentley defeated Nebraska-Omaha.  Despite those highs, the league went 2-14.  A week later, the struggles continued as Sacred Heart was blown out by RPI for the second time in two weeks, 7-1.  Despite taking a 1-0 lead and tying Providence College 1-1 through the first period (and despite trailing by only one over halfway through the second period), AIC gave up five third period goals and lost, 10-4.  UConn absorbed two losses to Minnesota State in Mankato, and Holy Cross took two losses in a home-and-home with Northeastern.  The only bright spots were a 0-1-1 weekend by RIT, a split by Mercyhurst at Merrimack, and a sweep in Colorado by Air Force of Penn State.  Earlier in the week, Mercyhurst lost at home against Ferris State, leaving the league with a 4-25-1 record in non-conference play.

It won’t get any easier this week, either, with Bentley taking on Quinnipiac and Harvard; Holy Cross will also Quinnipiac; Niagara plays Denver before continuing conference play with Air Force; Robert Morris has a home-and-home with Ohio State; Mercyhurst heads to Fairbanks to play Alaska; RIT plays Penn State; and Connecticut hosts Union.  There’s going to be substantial work left to do if the AHA wants to come close to its 25 non-conference wins from a year ago.

Bentley turns back the clock, for better and for worse.

Bentley gave Red Gendron and his Maine Black Bears all they could handle in their first home game of the season, losing 2-1 and displaying flashes of a stingy and physical defense that became the team’s hallmark over the past five years.  But while the defense has started to bear down by displaying a new attitude after last year’s horrible finish, the team’s highly-touted offense has struggled, especially on the power play which was only 11% two years ago before last year’s breakout.  Bentley failed on multiple 5-on-3 opportunities in the second period and on two power plays in the last five minutes of the third (including one with under two minutes to play), dropping to 3-for-21 along the way.  Part of the team’s problem is that its top returning scorer, Brett Gensler, has just one assist with no goals and is -2 since registering two goals and a +1 against Nebraska-Omaha on the season’s opening night.

“We’re right there,” said Ryan Soderquist following the loss on Saturday in Orono, “but we always seem to be missing that one thing that can tie it all together.  That starts at the top with our power play and our top line.   Instead of standing and looking for a pass, we need to be able to move without the puck and get into position for that pass and that good look on net.  There’s been too much standing around (over the first four games).  Once we get that figured out, we’ll be an exciting team that can compete at a high level.”

CHA Rivalry Renewed in Big Way

Game of the week honors have to be considered for the conference game turned in by Niagara and Robert Morris in Pittsburgh on Saturday.  The teams combined for 77 shots (39 for Niagara, 38 for RMU) and traded the lead by scoring one goal apiece in each period.  The Purple Eagles struck first at the 5:35 mark of the first period, but Robert Morris responded less than three minutes later.  The Colonials then took the lead on the power play to start the second period, striking at 10:10 off the stick of Ben Robillard, but Niagara tied the game with a man-up strike of their own from Tyler Akeson with less than a minute to go in the second frame.  Robert Morris took the lead back when David Friedmann scored at 6:49 on the power play, but Niagara tied it when Mike Conderman found Isaac Kohls with 9:15 to go.  Adrian Ignani and Terry Shafer were tremendous in net for both teams, with Ignani saving 35 shots for Niagara and RMU’s Shafer stopping 36.

This marked another weekend of solid conference play for Niagara, once again illustrating the parity and competitiveness within the league ranks seen throughout the past week.  Robert Morris will see Niagara next on Valentine’s Day weekend in February.

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