As mentioned in Monday’s recap of the first full weekend of play for Atlantic Hockey teams, there was marked improvement for the league, going 4-8-2 in non-conference play compared to 1-14 last season (with that one win coming in a non-conference matchup between two AHA teams). All the games were on the road or at neutral sites.
Just as important as getting some wins, including two against ranked teams, was that it wasn’t just the top of the league that had success. The wins were spread around. Rochester Institute of Technology (picked tied for fourth in the preseason poll) defeated No. 3 Michigan, Robert Morris (eighth) beat No. 18 Quinnipiac, Canisius (ninth) took out Alaska, and American International (11th) spoiled Penn State’s first NCAA game with a 3-2 overtime win.
Air Force, picked to win the league, earned ties against Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage as well, and Army (10th) played well in the Icebreaker Tournament, narrowly falling to No. 20 Maine.
“It’s great for the league,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder, whose Purple Eagles play at Michigan State this weekend. “It’s good to see wins coming from a lot of different teams. I hope we can keep it going this weekend.”
Big non-conference games against ranked teams loom again with Bentley traveling to Michigan, Mercyhurst at Ferris State, Canisius at Western Michigan and Air Force taking on Denver and Colorado College. Only Air Force is at home, and only for the Colorado College game. Just like last weekend, AHA teams will have to be road warriors.
Players of the week
From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:
Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Jeff Smith, RIT
The senior forward from Spokane, Wash., had two goals and added two assists to help RIT to a split at Michigan. Smith had 10 points in 28 games last season, so he’s off to a fast start.
Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Eric Levine, Robert Morris
Levine recorded a 48-save shutout of No. 18 Quinnipiac and made 33 more stops in a 4-0 loss as the Colonials earned a road split.
Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Keegan Asmundson, Canisius
The 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman stopped 33 of 34 shots in a 3-1 win against Alaska in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage. He was named to the all-tournament team.
There should have been co-goalies of the week in the AHA, because American International’s Ben Meisner had a game for the ages against Penn State in the Nittany Lions’ Division I debut.
The senior stopped 61 shots, an Atlantic Hockey record, in a 3-2 overtime win in Happy Valley.
“It was like a dream come true,” Meisner told MassLive.com. “I had been in so many games where I made over 50 saves, and had never won [one of those] before.”
The young season has been a roller coaster so far for Niagara, which tied Bowling Green on a last-minute goal, got blown out at Colgate 10-2 and then rebounded to win a hard-fought conference game against Mercyhurst 2-1.
“Coming off a really spirited effort [on a Saturday] against Bowling Green at home, a physical game, and then playing the next Tuesday, nothing went well for us,” Burkholder said. “Our hats are off to Colgate. We needed to forget that game and forget it in a hurry with Mercyhurst coming up. Conference games are life and death. Points are so important.
“We told the guys, ‘Hey, this happens once every five or six seasons where we get spanked like that so don’t let it define us or the season.’ They really responded well.”
Junior Carsen Chubak was in net for the Bowling Green and Mercyhurst games, allowing just three goals and making 59 saves.
“Carsen’s been the best goalie in camp,” Burkholder said. “We’ve been voting on a daily basis, and it’s usually been him. We gave him the Bowling Green game and he played well, but coming right back on Tuesday we gave him the night off. He was back in net for Mercyhurst as planned.”
Air Force forward Tony Thomas scored 10 goals in 77 games his first two seasons but already has two this year, scoring a goal in each game to help the Falcons to ties against Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage. He was named to the all-tournament team.
Another “pumpkin convention”
When Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena is full of orange-clad RIT fans, Air Force coach Frank Serratore has likened it to “a pumpkin convention.” Penn State will get to experience that as the Nittany Lions take on the Tigers on Saturday in a contest that was sold out by Tuesday.
Unless they find a way to cram another body or two into the arena, RIT will tie the Atlantic Hockey record for attendance (10,566) for the third year in a row, and sellouts will again be expected for BCA games featuring the Tigers against Michigan (2013) and Boston College (2014).
Glimpse of the future
When Connecticut played at Massachusetts last Friday in front of 7,123 at the Mullins Center, it was the shape of things to come. The Huskies will depart Atlantic Hockey for Hockey East beginning with the 2014-15 season.
“Maybe for the guys, the younger guys, it was in the back of their minds this is what the future will look like,” UConn coach Bruce Marshall said. “But that’s a long way off. We’re in Atlantic Hockey for the next two years, and that presents enough of a challenge for us. We’re used to playing good teams.”
Marshall’s team will be ramping up on scholarships to eventually get to the NCAA maximum of 18. Atlantic Hockey caps the number of scholarships at 12; UConn has not offered athletic scholarships for hockey in the past.
“[In terms of recruiting] it doesn’t affect this year’s team,” Marshall said. “We were already set when the announcement came out in June. But we got players with [the move to Hockey East] in mind. And since the announcement, we’ve definitely got a little more mettle when we’re on the road [recruiting].”
A win beats two ties
Canisius and Air Force participated in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage last weekend, with the Golden Griffins earning the runner-up designation.
Canisius defeated Alaska 3-1 and dropped a game to host Alaska-Anchorage 2-0. Air Force played both Alaska schools to 3-3 ties. Based on the tiebreaker of goals allowed, Canisius finished second in the tournament with Air Force third.
Tweet of the week
Former RIT goaltender and current Nazareth assistant coach Jared DeMichiel on his alma mater’s upset of Michigan.
Division III Nazareth plays its first game on Thursday, hosting Geneseo. The Golden Flyers are coached by former Clarkson and Oswego coach George Roll. Ex-Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer is also on the coaching staff, so I bet there was some ribbing between ex-goalies after RIT’s upset and Michigan’s 7-2 win the following evening.
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