While not quite the halfway point of the season, the holiday break affords an opportunity to look back on the first part of the Atlantic Hockey campaign.
The Year of the Goalie
We’ll give goalies and defenses the credit for the lack of scoring so far this season. Last year at this time, 429 goals had been scored in league play; this year only 363 goals have been tallied. Scoring per game per team is down from an average of 3.20 goals to 2.71. Four teams have starting goalies with GAAs below 2.0; nine are below 2.5.
“Last year every team had a couple of guys that put up some big numbers,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “Some years it’s the year of the forward; this year might be a year of the goalie.”
Who’s up, who’s down
Let’s take a look at USCHO.com’s preseason predictions vs. where we are at this point in the season. Because teams have played an uneven number of games so far, I’m listing them based on winning percentage.
Actual USCHO.com Prediction
1. Air Force 1. Air Force
T2. Mercyhurst 2. RIT
T2. Robert Morris 3. Holy Cross
4. RIT 4. Niagara
T5. Bentley 5. Connecticut
T5. Holy Cross 6. Robert Morris
7. Niagara 7. Canisius
8. Canisius 8. Mercyhurst
9. UConn 9. Army
10. AIC 10. Sacred Heart
11. Army 11. Bentley
12. Sacred Heart 12. AIC
– Mercyhurst lost a boatload of talent to graduation and transfer, but has opened strong thanks to the emergence of senior goaltender Max Strang and a talented group of rookies that includes Nardo Nagtzaam, who leads the team in scoring. Four of the Lakers top five scorers are freshman.
– Bentley is tied with Holy Cross for the top record in the eastern pod and fifth overall. The Falcons are getting top-notch goaltending from sophomore Branden Komm and have at least one game in hand on four of the five teams above them in the standings.
– Robert Morris was expected to finish out of the top four this season due to the loss of a couple of high-scoring seniors. But others have picked up the slack and the Colonials are second in the league in offense and have the best penalty kill in Division I.
The top player in Atlantic Hockey at this point of the season has to be Air Force junior forward Kyle De Laurell. He has 22 points so far (11 goals, 11 assists) and is averaging 1.45 points per game in league play.
This was a tough call with so many talented freshman to chose from. I’m going with Robert Morris forward Cody Wydo. His seven goals so far include three game winners. Honorable mentions to Wdyo’s classmate Scott Jacklin and Air Force rookie Cole Gunner.
Hey now, you’re an…
Here your mid-season AHA all-stars:
Kyle De Laurell, jr., Air Force
Cole Schneider, so., Connecticut
Brett Gensler, so., Bentley
Alex Gerke, Connecticut
Tim Kirby, Air Force
Max Strang, sr., Mercyhurst
Three fun stats from the first half:
– Robert Morris has killed off 46 of 48 power play attempts so far this season, and have two shorthanded goals, meaning they are a net zero on penalties taken so far this season.
– Team “A” has scored 16 of its 30 goals in league play in the third period. Team “B” has allowed 13 of 27 goals against in league play in the third period. Normally, a team with a strong third period is a winning team. In this case, not so much. Team “A” is Sacred Heart, which is 0-10-1 in the AHA so far. Team “B” is RIT, which is 7-4-2.
– There is no third fun stat. Feel free to add your own in the comments.