Atlantic Hockey Picks, Feb. 28-March 1

Last Week:
Dan: 5-6-1
Chris: 6-5-1

On the season:
Dan: 139-72-22 (.644)
Chris: 140-71-22 (.648)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March. 1:

American International vs. Bentley
Dan: This is going to be a highly emotional series for AIC and Bentley, two Northeast-10 rivals who have an immense and intense respect for one another.  Bentley is in position to wrap up a bye with a win on their senior day, in which they’ll honor the most celebrated class in program history.  This team is hungry, and they’ve answered the bell nearly every time they’ve needed to.  That said, does anyone forget last year’s overtime, short-handed, empty net goal by AIC on the last day to get the ninth seed?  This is going to be fun.   Bentley sweeps.
Chris: AIC played spoiler for Bentley when the two teams closed out last season, knocking the Falcons out of a home ice spot. The Yellow Jackets can again cause problems for the Falcons, who are among four teams vying for three available first round byes. I don’t know what to make of Bentley, who has the tools to win it all this season but was swept last weekend by Sacred Heart. I think this series will go a long way in determining which Bentley team we see in the playoffs. I’m going with a gut pick of a Falcons sweep.

Rochester Institute of Technology vs. Canisius
Dan: There’s going to be a lot more nostalgia on Saturday than on Friday as RIT and Canisius close their respective buildings.  I think Canisius is better suited to win games, but there is absolutely no way RIT ends the Ritter era with a loss.  There’s going to be something magical for the Corner Crew that night.  That said, I can’t wait for them to close the doors on that house of horrors (wink wink).  Canisius wins at home on Friday.  RIT wins on Saturday.
Chris:  The Tigers used to dominate their Thruway rivals but the Golden Griffins have beaten RIT four times in a row . In terms of standings, neither team has much to play for since Canisius knows it is hosting a first round series and the Tigers know they are on the road in the first round. There’s a pretty good chance they may square of against each other in the playoffs the following weekend. But each team is playing its final regular season game ever in its respective buildings – Canisius moves from Buffalo State to nicer digs at the downtown HarborCenter, which is under construction. Also under construction is the Polisseni Center at RIT, which will be the Tigers’ new home next season after 46 years at Ritter Arena. I”m going with a sentimental pick of the home team winning each game. Canisius wins Friday; RIT wins Saturday.

Army vs. Holy Cross
Dan: Let’s flash back to last week for a second when I said the following: “I think Army is good enough to win a game and mark it down – they’re winning one of their last four.  But I can’t take them logically.  So I’ll just wait for them to prove me wrong and then use 20-20 hindsight to say, “Told you so.””  They wasted no time by winning on Friday, so here you go -  told you so.  I think they can get a point off of Holy Cross on Saturday, but the Crusaders are going for that home series on Friday (all they need is a point).  Since I can’t pick ties, I’m picking Army for an upset after the Crusaders wrap it up.  Holy Cross wins on Friday; ARMY wins on Saturday.
Chris: The Black Knights can also play spoiler. They are locked into last place but Holy Cross needs a single point to wrap up a first round home series. Army got a confidence boost by beating Connecticut last Friday to snap a 13-game winless streak but I think Holy Cross will earn at least a point on Friday at home. If the Crusaders do clinch on Friday, they could be due for a letdown on Saturday but I think I’ll stick with Holy Cross to sweep.

Robert Morris vs. Mercyhurst
Dan: Mercyhurst has nothing left to play for in the regular season, having wrapped up the regular season championship.  Robert Morris needs one point and a one-point slip up from Air Force in order at minimum to take a bye.  There’s no reason for the Lakers to play hard when they can take the extra rest.  That said, two weeks rest could tighten them up, so I think the Lakers play hard on one night and rest up the other.  I’m also calling for the Colonials to get a bye and Air Force to end up hosting Army next week, even though I think RMU ends up hosting the Knights next week.  Mercyhurst wins on Friday.  RMU wins on Saturday.
Chris: The Lakers have the top seed wrapped up and RMU is in a dogfight with Bentley, Air Force and Connecticut for the final three first round byes.   Mercyhurst wants to finish strong going into a bye week and I think it will prevail despite these games being more important to the Colonials. Mercyhurst sweeps.

Air Force at Niagara
Dan: Air Force enters the final weekend potentially not holding any tie break scenarios over anyone.  They can’t win the head-to-head with Bentley or Air Force, and if they tie with Connecticut, there’s a chance they lose the 2nd tie break scenario on league wins.  I also think they have what might be the toughest matchup with a hungry Niagara team fighting for the sixth seed.  If Air Force is the odd team out, Army heads to the academy for a playoff series that will be an instant classic given how they play one another.  With all of that riding against them, that’s exactly when the cadets become toughest to beat.  Air Force sweeps.
Chris: Air Force has more motivation in this series because the Falcons are in the running for a first round bye and can guarantee that with a sweep. Niagara is locked into a sixth-ninth finish. I’m counting on the usual Air Force late season run to carry them to a road sweep.

Connecticut vs. Sacred Heart
Dan: It’s fitting that UConn’s last weekend of AHA regular season games comes in its home state against a Nutmeg State rival.  The X factor to this series is how SHU can play; their attitude is different this year in a sense that if they get a 3-0 lead and start to blow it, they get tough.  Last year, a 3-0 lead would turn into 3-2 leads which in turn would become 6-3 deficits.  Now, 3-0 becomes 3-2 becomes 5-3 wins.  That said, SHU needs a miracle to get the home series in the first round – an Army sweep of Holy Cross plus a sweep for themselves of the Huskies.  I just don’t see that happening with UConn looking for a bye.  UConn sweeps.
Chris: The Pioneers showed last weekend that they can be a dangerous team in the postseason, sweeping Bentley. UConn’s chances to lock up a bye last weekend were derailed by a loss to last-place Army. I think that will serve as a wake-up call to the Huskies, whom I think will get a pair of wins in their final regular season Atlantic Hockey weekend.  UConn sweeps.