Another week in the books in the college hockey universe, and another week of solid play across Atlantic Hockey. Here’s three things to chew on as you reflect on your weekend, with a little help from some of our favorite superheroes:
AIC Yellow Jackets – The Dark Knight
Chris will get more in depth this week when he crosses over and discusses the Yellow Jackets as part of the “This Week” series, but I have to state the obvious about this team. They’re the last perfect team in the AHA in conference play, and the retained that title on Friday by virtue of a 1-0 victory against Holy Cross. It was a stark contrast to their 8-7 win over Bentley the week prior, but it made them 2-1 in one-goal games this year.
Absolutely nobody could predict that AIC would build on last year’s success. Given their program’s history, more prognostications had them as an 11th place team given the graduation of Ben Meisner, Adam Pleskach, and arguably their best senior class ever. But their team has only gotten stronger, bolstered by a solid recruiting class. They’re playing timely hockey, and they’re showing marked improvements each time they’re on the ice. There’s a long way to go with the season barely a month over, but the Yellow Jackets are starting to break away from the pack by taking control of their own destiny. After a big matchup with the Crusaders this past weekend, they’ll play another one-game series this weekend when they take on Connecticut. To say that game will be huge is an understatement; there will be major effects on the league table depending on who wins.
In the eastern pod, maybe AIC isn’t the breakaway team everyone wants (given their national ranking as pretty much dead last in attendance), but they could be the breakaway team everyone needs (demonstrating the parity and growth within the AHA).
Bentley – Man of Steel
Coming off their one-goal loss in the wild home game against AIC, the Falcons faced questions about their consistency (or lack thereof). But they bounced back this weekend with authority, overcoming two teams that were kryptonite to them a year ago. They shut out Connecticut on Freitas Forum turf on Friday with an overall dominant performance that was the most complete game Bentley played to that point; last year, Bentley lost at Connecticut, 9-0.
On Saturday, they returned home to play Holy Cross, a team considered a chief rival but one that had won the previous three season series. After blowing a 1-0 lead, Bentley rallied from down 2-1 to tie the game in the third and win on the power play in overtime. Last year, they blew a 1-0 lead and lost by that 2-1 margin in a game that sent their season into a tailspin.
The wins catapulted Bentley back into the top of the AHA’s ever-shifting tectonic plate. But it made up for the two losses to Sacred Heart and AIC, teams the Falcons were expected to defeat. They’re now right where they should be in many’s eyes, and the resilience they showed in overcoming two teams perceived as historically better than them will give Bentley momentum heading into their bye week. They’ll next head to Air Force for Thanksgiving, a place they scored three points two years ago, before wrapping up their AHA first half with Robert Morris. As the eastern division heads into interdivisional play, the Falcons are positioning themselves as the team able to leap arenas in a single bound, but the pressure will be on them to prove that right.
Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Army – Blankman
For those of you who have no idea who Blankman is, it’s a terrible movie starring Damon Wayans. It’s one of those awesomely bad flicks that strangely sucks you in when it’s on television, but at the same time, you’ll never know why someone actually paid the rights to watch it.
Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Army combined this weekend to go 0-6 after Army defeated Sacred Heart on Tuesday. The Huskies had beaten Holy Cross on Tuesday, but the three schools, forced to play nine games in four days time combined, were clearly tired and running on fumes by the time the weekend ended. Army had to follow up a road trip to SHU with a trip up to Niagara, where they were outscored 13-3 in two losses. Holy Cross was shutout by AIC, then lost in overtime to Bentley. And Connecticut lost to Bentley before losing a non-conference game at Boston University on Sunday, 4-1. That last game was especially hurtful given that the game was supposed to be a litmus test for the Huskies entry into Hockey East next year.
UConn is now four points behind Air Force for first and a full game behind both Bentley and AIC in the early goings of a division they were supposed to run away with. Holy Cross is now sub-.500 in league play, and Army is 1-5-0, staring up at the rest of the league. Ultimately, for these teams, this weekend won’t define their season, just like watching “Blankman” won’t define anyone’s taste in movies. But this weekend will be one that fans will look back on and wonder what happened.