Three things I learned from the first round of the Atlantic Hockey tournament:
– For the second straight playoff weekend, the higher seeds all advanced. But it wasn’t without a struggle as Air Force, Rochester Institute of Technology and Mercyhurst were all pushed to the limit. As a result, Niagara will be making its first visit to Blue Cross Arena, and Mercyhurst its first since 2009. Air Force and RIT extended their streaks of getting to the semifinals in Rochester every season they have been eligible (six times for the Falcons, five for the Tigers).
“Our guys just kept battling, said Air Force coach Frank Serratore after his team had to come from behind twice to beat Connecticut in the third and deciding game Sunday night. “At times it looked like this wasn’t going to be our night, but the hockey gods were with us. We had to come from behind twice tonight. This was nothing but guts for us tonight. Give UConn a lot of credit. Nothing but guts from them as well. I am just so happy for our guys that they will be able to go back to Rochester.”
– In the nine-year history of the league, only twice has a team come back from a 0-1 deficit to win a three game series. Both times it was RIT, which defeated Bentley last weekend with wins on Saturday and Sunday. The Tigers did the same thing to Holy Cross in 2009.
– In victory or defeat, the goaltending in the quarterfinal round was outstanding. Some examples:
– Benley’s Branden Komm made 134 saves over the three games, including a school-record 58 in a 5-4 double overtime loss on Saturday.
– Connecticut’s Garrett Bartus had 117 saves in the Huskies’ three-game series with Air Force, including 46 in a 3-1 win on Saturday.
– Niagara goalie Chris Noonan allowed just one goal in a sweep of Robert Morris, stopping 48 of 49 shots.
– Max Strang of Mercyhurst stopped 41 of 42 shots against Holy Cross in Sunday’s deciding game. The Lakers were outshot 42-27.
– RIT’s Shanne Madolora pitched a 3-0 shutout of Bentley in the deciding game on Sunday for his school-record 13th shutout and seventh of the season, tying him for first in Division I.
The Semifinal pairings are:
No. 4 Mercyhurst vs. No. 1 Air Force
No. 3 RIT vs. No. 2 Niagara
Just two points separated these four teams in the regular season.
Getting my vote
Here’s my ballot for Monday’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll
1. Boston College
5. Ferris State
6. Boston University
9. North Dakota
14. Western Michigan
16. Michigan State
18. Notre Dame
19. Colorado College