Atlantic Hockey Picks, March 7-9 (Playoffs: First Round)

Last Week:
Dan: 5-6-1
Chris: 7-4-1

On the season:
Dan: 144-78-23 (.635)
Chris: 147-75-23 (.647)

This Week’s Picks

Friday, March 7 – Sunday, March 9 (Best of three series):

No. 12 Army at No. 5 Robert Morris
Dan: My problem with this series is that it’s ripe conditions for a trap series for RMU. Army is picking up steam, and Robert Morris is suddenly vulnerable after playing themselves out of a shot at a bye. If this were the regular season, I’d have no problem saying Army wins a game. But it’s the playoffs, and that counts for something. Robert Morris wins in two.
Chris: Army is playing some of its best hockey of the season right now, picking up two of its five wins over the past two weekends. But I think Robert Morris wins this series with the main question being if rookie goaltender Parker Gahagen can steal a game for the Black Knights. I’m leaning towards “no”, so I’m going with Robert Morris in two. 

No. 11 American International at No. 6 Niagara
Dan: In their two prior games this season, AIC creamed Niagara and Niagara creamed AIC. That means both of these games should be relatively close. AIC will be a force to be reckoned with when they have a couple more recruiting classes, but, unfortunately, the Niagara offense will be too much for their young, inexperienced goalie. Niagara in two.
Chris:  Neither team comes into this series on a hot streak – AIC lost four in a row to close out the regular season while the Purple Eagles went 1-3-1 in their last five. The Yellow Jackets have the better special teams but Niagara leads in every other category, so I’m picking the Purps to regain some of the home ice magic they’ve had the past few years. Niagara in two.

No. 10 Sacred Heart at No. 7 Canisius
Dan: The popular pick is going to be Canisius in this series because they’re heading into the playoffs looking much like the team that won it all last year. Here’s my thing – I wasn’t sold on Canisius this year because I felt they just got a run that was epic and unprecedented. It’s virtually impossible to catch lightning in a bottle. And there’s something about Sacred Heart that calls for an upset in this. They can score when it counts, and they can stop teams when it counts. Expect a couple of 5-3 or 5-4 games in this series. Statistics be damned, Sacred Heart with a three-game upset.
Chris: Canisius came from the seven seed last season to win this tournament last season, but the Griffs are limping into the playoffs this year, going just 2-5-1 in the month of February. The Pioneers have shown vast improvement over last season, going from two wins in 2012-13 to 12 this season, including some impressive upsets. This series is going three games, and I’m going with a gut pick for the more experienced Golden Griffins to prevail. Canisius in three. 

No. 9 Rochester Institute of Technology at No. 8 Holy Cross
Dan: This is a stark contrast matchup. RIT is high-risk, high-reward; they can be great on any night or lay a complete stinker. Holy Cross is more of a sure thing; we know what we’re getting night in and night out, even though it might not be spectacular. I think RIT is able to ride a hot hand into the second round on the basis of their special teams. Holy Cross is also 3-8-2 at home. Their three wins? Sacred Heart, Sacred Heart, and AIC. RIT wins in three.
Chris: RIT has obvious upset potential. The Tigers are finally healthy and have won three in a row  coming into this series. But the Crusaders matched RIT, also going 3-1 in their last four. For Holy Cross to win, it needs to avoid a special teams battle with the Tigers, who have a much better power play and penalty kill. The Crusaders have also not been strong at the Hart Center, winning just three times there this season. But I think this series will go the distance, and that the Crusaders will pull it out in a trio of close games. Holy Cross in three.