While most Atlantic Hockey players probably enjoyed their time off the ice in late December and early January, some teams looked like they benefited from the down time (which varied from two to almost five weeks). Still others looked a little rusty.
Here’s a quick look at who’s hot and who came back cold:
• Robert Morris was riding a school-record eight-game unbeaten streak into its two-week holiday break, but is 0-2-1 since.
• Niagara is just 0-3-1 since the break, including a sweep at the hands of Connecticut last weekend.
• A long break didn’t change the fortunes of American International, which had lost six in a row before a 31-day layoff. The Yellow Jackets lost 3-1 to Rensselaer on Tuesday.
• Army notched a win over Rensselaer in the consolation game of the UConn Hockey Classic after a three-week break, but got swept by Canisius to go 1-3 since the holidays.
• Sacred Heart didn’t get any relief from its time off, losing a pair of games at Mercyhurst by a combined 12-2 score. The Pioneers have lost six games in a row.
• Air Force came back from a four-week break with an impressive win at Colorado College, but has gone 0-2-1 since.
• Rochester Institute of Technology won the Catamount Cup coming back from a two-week layoff, but dropped both games last weekend at Wisconsin. After a perfect 11-for-11 penalty kill in Vermont, the Tigers allowed four power-play goals to the Badgers. Those goals were the difference in each game (6-3 loss on Friday, 2-1 on Saturday). “Five on five I thought we played [Wisconsin] even,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “But we lost the battle of special teams and that was the difference”.
• Mercyhurst is 4-0 since the break, including a sweep of Sacred Heart last weekend that vaulted the Lakers into first place.
• Canisius dropped a game to ranked Colgate, but came back with a hard-fought road sweep at Army. “It was a great weekend by our seniors, capped by going home with four key points,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith after the Golden Griffins’ 2-1 win on Saturday. “We showed a lot of fight in our game tonight and Army fought hard as well.”
• Bentley, like Canisius, looked a little rusty in a loss to Yale, but rebounded to take three of four points against Robert Morris.
• Holy Cross played well in the Ledyard National Bank Tournament despite a pair of losses and built off that to gain a win and a tie with Air Force last weekend.
• Connecticut made the most of its time off. The Huskies were on a 1-5 skid heading into the break but are 3-1 since, including a tough overtime loss to Massachusetts-Lowell in the finals of the UConn Holiday Classic. Last weekend, UConn swept Niagara to move into a three-way tie for fifth place, just five points out of first.
“The break came at a good time,” said Connecticut coach Bruce Marshall. “We needed it. “Coming into the season we had high expectations as a group, and every loss felt like a four-game losing streak.
“But we beat a good Army team and played a real good Lowell team and that helped set the tone,” said Marshall. “We were able to carry that over to last weekend.”
A pair of sophomores lead the Huskies in scoring, including Cole Schneider, who recorded his second career hat trick in Friday’s 4-2 win over the Purple Eagles. Schneider has 15 points in his last 12 games.
Classmate Brant Harris has 12 goals, tops on the team. He’s already surpassed his goal total of eight last season.
“He’s not the kind of player who’s going to come down the wing and blast it,” said Marshall. “He’s a hard worker that fights to get to the net and that’s where the majority of his goals come from, getting rebounds and banging them home.”
Junior goaltender Garrett Bartus has played every minute of every game so far and Marshall said he has no plans to change things. Bartus is ranked seventh nationally in save percentage (.929) and already has three shutouts this season.
“He definitely wants to play every game,” said Marshall. “We’ve been monitoring his practice time because if it were up to him he’d be on the ice 24 hours a day. Sometimes we’ve got to tell him to go home.”
The Huskies travel to Canisius this weekend for a pair of games. UConn has been in the news recently because the school has hired a consulting firm to do an evaluation of the hockey program, which may point to an eventual application to Hockey East.
“That doesn’t play into anything we’re doing right now, which is to concentrate on the next step, which is Canisius,” said Marshall. “We’ve been able to focus on what we need to do here and now.”
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Cole Schneider, Connecticut
Schneider had his second career hat trick on Friday, leading the Huskies to a 4-2 win over Niagara. Schneider has at least one point in 11 of his last 12 games and leads his team with 22.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Garrett Bartus, Connecticut
Bartus led UConn to a sweep over Niagara last weekend, stopping 67 of 69 shots, including a 38-save shutout on Saturday.
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Daniel Bahntge, Mercyhurst
Bahntge is the fourth Lakers freshman to win rookie of the week honors this season. He had six points (four goals, two assists) in a sweep over Sacred Heart. Bahntge leads the team with 20 points.
Besides Bartus, some other AHA goalies put up excellent numbers last weekend:
• Bentley sophomore Branden Komm stopped 65 of 68 shots to help the Falcons take three of four points against Robert Morris. He’s currently tops in the league with a 1.58 goals-against average.
• Canisius’ Dan Morrison shined in a pair of starts. The senior made 31 saves (4-2 win) and 35 stops (2-1 win) at Army. He’s got the best save percentage in the league at .951. Morrison is 135 saves from the all-time record at Canisius.
• Mercyhurst senior Max Strang was near-perfect in a sweep of Sacred Heart, stopping 51 of 52 shots. Strang is 9-2-2 in conference play.
Strange factoid of the week
RIT was swept by Wisconsin last weekend but not because the Tigers got outworked. In the second period of Saturday’s game, RIT limited Wisconsin to four shot attempts and only two shots on goal. Shot attempts in that period were 26-4 in favor of the Tigers, with each team scoring a goal. The Badgers got the game-winner in the third period.
Tweet of the week
Mercyhurst’s Nick Jones commenting on the Lakers’ ascension to first place in the conference.
Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.