Three Things: December 7, 2014

Some observations from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:

The Boys Are Back

After an off week last week, it’d be easy to permit Robert Morris University some swagger. Despite not playing, they reentered the national polls at #20, and their stranglehold on the top spot of the Atlantic Hockey standings went virtually undamaged over the Thanksgiving break.

Well rested, they asserted themselves as the league’s present best team with a resounding sweep over Sacred Heart. On a night where the Pioneers pushed the Colonials to overtime, it took them less than 30 seconds and one shot to pick up a 5-4 victory. The next night, after surrendering the game’s first strike seven minutes into the first period, they responded with five second period goals en route to an 8-4 victory.

It wasn’t a case of Sacred Heart playing poorly; it was simply that Robert Morris is still pistol hot and have been since the season began. Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch registered goals in both games, with Lynch scoring the overtime game winner on Friday. David Friedman had two goals on Saturday with a four point game (giving him five points on the weekend), headlining an RMU line that included three point games by Brady Ferguson and Daniel Leavens. And while Dalton Izyk and Terry Shafer weren’t at the top of their game, RMU became the first Atlantic Hockey team to 10 wins as both collected their respective fifth win.

After an 0-1-2 stretch that put Robert Morris as much under the radar as they could’ve been, they’ve now won three in a row and roll into Mercyhurst next weekend looking to continue their winning ways. The 22nd place team in the Pairwise Rankings, they’ll also look to gain style points on a national level later this month when they host the Three Rivers Classic.

History Made At The JAR

Since reclassifying to Division I at the start of the century, Bentley hasn’t exactly experienced sustained success against Air Force. As mentioned last week, while going 2-1-3 over the last three years, the eastern Falcons only had eight wins overall against the western Falcons, one of which came in the teams’ first meeting back in 1998. At the time, Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist was a sophomore skating for the Falcons as opposed to a 13-year head coach.

Over the course of this history, Air Force had two six-game winning streaks and a five-game winning streak. Bentley had never swept the Falcons – until now.

Bentley picked up a four point weekend over Air Force for the first time, rallying from 1-0 first period deficits on both Friday and Saturday on home ice in Watertown, Mass. On Friday, it was Brett Switzer and Andrew Gladiuk leading the way for a 2-1 victory. On Saturday, Gladiuk, the reigning Atlantic Hockey Player Of The Month, scored his second goal of the weekend, stamping a first period where Max French and Steve Weinstein also struck. Ryan McMurphy put the final nail on the weekend in the second period, and Jayson Argue made 58 saves over two nights to lead the way.

“It’s a league that’s extremely tough to get four points in,” said Soderquist, “and I thought our guys battled extremely hard. For 120 minutes on the weekend, I was extremely pleased with their effort.”

For Soderquist, the weekend stands as a seminal moment for the burgeoning program. “Obviously we’ve taken great strides, and we take great pride in getting better each year,” he said. “Our guys put in the commitment in the offseason to getting better, and it’s great to see their efforts on the ice.”

Bentley heads to American International to wrap up the 2014 portion of their schedule.

Hey I heard you were the wild one

Speaking of AIC, the Yellow Jackets played a wild weekend against Canisius out in Buffalo. In a tale of two games, the team mustered only eight shots between the second and third period (four apiece) but netted a third period goal from Alexander MacMillan in a 3-1 defeat on Friday.

But it was enough to awaken the slumbering offense on Saturday when AIC jumped out a 4-0 lead roughly halfway through the first period. Jason Popek, David Norris, Bryant Christian, and Matt Cassidy all scored, with Popek’s coming on the power play and Cassidy’s coming on a shorthanded attempt.

Unfortunately for AIC, Canisius didn’t go away. Jeff Murray scored his first career goal on the same power play that Cassidy registered his shortie on, stopping the bleeding enough to get the Griffs to locker room after one. That’s when Ralph Cuddemi took over.

Cuddemi scored once in the second period and twice in the third for his second hat trick of the season, tying the game at four. AIC would have their chances in overtime but came away scoreless, earning a point on their trip out to Buffalo.

It might seem like AIC should be disappointed with just a one point weekend but consider this – even though they stand in 10th place, the Yellow Jackets are just three points behind the sixth place tie between Sacred Heart and Army with two games in hand over the Pioneers and an astounding SIX over the Black Knights.

Dear Dad – We Saved The Best For Last

The Riley family is a hockey family. There’s Jack Riley, the longtime Army head coach and leader of the 1960 USA Olympic gold medal team. There’s Rob Riley, Brian’s brother who replaced his dad in 1986 at West Point. There’s Brian himself, an assistant at both Lowell and Army before taking over for his brother in 2004. The next generation, Brian’s son Jack, is in uniform for Mercyhurst, making any game between the two emotional.

Jack Riley lit up the scoreboard against his dad’s team this weekend, scoring two goals and two assists in a 6-3 win over the Black Knights. Even in defeat, the emotion ran rampant at Tate Rink, with Brian clearly proud of his son. At the end of the game, emotional embraces between the two led to a special moment that bridged all defeat and victory and showed the true greatness of the game of hockey.

Before the season, he joked that he wanted to make sure his son was great…except for when they played Army. But as the tweets from the Mercyhurst Lakers account shows, the proud dad couldn’t help but give himself that moment.