This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Nov. 19, 2009

Playoff Atmosphere

It’s less than one third of the way into the Atlantic Hockey season, but there’s already a playoff intensity. Last weekend saw three ties and and five one-goal games — that’s eight out of 10 games decided by a goal or less. It’s said that defense and goaltending win championships, and there was plenty on display with only 38 goals scored in the 10 games.

Only RIT was able to take four points, thanks to a pair of one-goal wins at Mercyhurst.

“[Mercyhurst] is a very talented team and we were fortunate to come away with four points,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “Both games could have gone either way. Mercyhurst was playing desperate hockey, needing these games at home. And we were playing desperate hockey, too. We hadn’t won on the road this season.”

Air Force, which is tied with RIT for first place, was able to take three points at Connecticut despite scoring only three goals on the weekend. On Friday, Andrew Volkening made 29 saves in a 1-0 win, and the teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Saturday. The Falcons scored all their goals in the third period of the two games.

“This series was a street fight all weekend,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “A lot of times, low-scoring games are snoozers, but these two games were not.”

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for Nov. 16, 2009
Andrew Favot — RIT

The senior forward had a hand in all five RIT goals last weekend, with a goal and four assists. Favot has scored at least one point in nine straight games and leads the AHA with 15 points in league play.

Goalie of the Week for Nov. 16, 2009
Andrew Volkening — Air Force

The senior allowed just two goals on 59 shots to help the Falcons to a win and a tie last weekend at Holy Cross. The Crusaders’ first goal of the weekend came during the second period on Saturday, snapping a shutout streak for Volkening of 183 minutes.

Rookie of the Week for Nov. 16, 2009
Ben Meisner — AIC

The freshman stopped all 35 shots he faced on Saturday to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 2-0 win over Army. Meisner also picked up an assist on the game-winning goal. He already has two shutouts this season.

Staying Hot

AIC’s Adam Pleskach started his collegiate career with a bang, picking up six points in his first three games. The freshman has yet to cool off. He factored in both Yellow Jackets goals on Saturday and leads the team with seven goals and three assists through nine games. Last season, the top goal scorer for AIC (Chad Richardson) had just nine goals in 35 games.

Milestones

Two AHA players hit the career century mark for points last weekend. Air Force forward Jeff Hajner reached the milestone on Saturday with an assist, and RIT’s Dan Ringwald had his 100th career point with an assist on Friday. Ringwald becomes the first defenseman in RIT’s Division I era to record 100 points.

In the “almost there” category, Canisius’ Josh Heidinger is at 99 points and counting. One more assist for Heidinger will also tie a school record (70).

At the other end of the ice, Air Force’s Volkening recorded his 13th career shutout on Friday, a school record.

Hornet’s Nest

It’s only two games, but AIC is working on a nice home-ice advantage. The Yellow Jackets are 2-0 at home and have yet to allow a goal at the Olympia Ice Center. AIC will try to continue the streak this Friday when it hosts Canisius. AIC’s next four games are at home.

The Secret’s Out

Thanks to a visit by CBS College Sports analyst and sometimes USCHO.com contributor Dave Starman, the secret’s out on RIT’s Ritter Arena, which Tiger fans have long claimed was one of the best places to watch a college hockey game, dating back to the Tigers’ Division III days.

Starman saw a game at the Ritter recently, and called it one of the top five places to see a college hockey game.

If you’re a USCHO.com Extra subscriber, you can read all about it here.

If you’re not, here’s a brief excerpt:

Sold out Friday night for a visit from Army, the place is exactly what college hockey is about. Full to the rafters and standing two to three deep behind the railing above the seating area, the atmosphere is electric. … Between the pep band, the small size of the arena (2,100), and perhaps the best public address announcer in college hockey, the RIT Tigers have created a buzz on campus that more people should see on a national broadcast.

Maybe Dave can pull some strings at CBS and get a third AHA game televised this season.

First Person Accounts

Some AHA players are blogging about the season. You can read about the experiences of:
Canisus’ Chris Forsman
RIT’s Mike Janda and Jared DeMichiel.

I’ll keep adding more as I find them.

Saturday Night’s Not Alright?

An interesting trend is developing concerning the AHA schedule — more and more afternoon games. This season there are 14 matinees on the docket. Last year there were 12. The season before that, eight.

Some are due to scheduling constraints — Canisius, for example, plays some afternoon games because it is not the main tenant in its home rink (Buffalo State). Others have to do with travel — some teams would like to get a jump start back on what can be an eight- or nine-hour bus ride.

Some Division III leagues like the NESCAC and ECAC East have long played their Saturday games in the afternoon because they say it benefits getting the student athletes more time on their campus and less time in a hotel.

But the numbers show that attendance is well down for afternoon games when compared to night games. I’m willing to bet that RIT, which is averaging about 1,900 fans per game will not come close to that on Saturday, when the Tigers will play their first afternoon game since 2001.

A few matinees thrown in here and there are fine, but I’m concerned to see the league continue add more and more of these each season.

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