Here’s a look back at three things from the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey:
Let’s Cut Right To The Chase (For Playoff Positioning)
With only a couple of weeks left in the regular season, let’s take a look what the playoffs would look like if the season ended today:
-Robert Morris, Bentley, Mercyhurst, and Canisius would have a first round bye and home ice in the second round of the playoffs. RIT would receive a bye as the fifth place team and would travel to Canisius for the second round.
-#11 Niagara would travel to #6 Air Force in the first round, with #10 AIC heading to #7 Holy Cross, and #9 Army heading to #8 Sacred Heart.
-AIC and Niagara are assured of a first round road series, while Army’s hopes at home ice can be eliminated with two points by the Pioneers.
-Two points separate fifth place RIT from seventh place Holy Cross with five points between the Tigers and eighth place Sacred Heart. Reshuffle your favorite team and think about what might happen if Holy Cross is able to get a bye and Air Force drops to seventh. That would send Niagara to RIT, AIC to Air Force, and Holy Cross to Canisius if the bottom three don’t shift at all. There’s A LOT of bus mileage at play the next couple of weeks.
-That said, the whole thing can reshuffle if the weekends break the right way. Second place Bentley could still finish as low as seventh in the right scenario.
-Upwards of seven playoff positions could shuffle this weekend.
Tight Games All Around
Of the nine Atlantic Hockey games played this year, six ended with results of a two-goals-or-less differential. None used an empty net goal. Bentley beat Sacred Heart, 3-1; Holy Cross and RIT split 3-1 and 2-0 results with the Tigers winning via shutout; Army beat Canisius in the only one-goal game (2-1), then lost the next night by a 3-1 score. A night after losing 9-3, AIC fought Air Force to a 1-1 tie through two periods before giving up two third-period goals.
The only series that did not feature a two-goals-or-less decision was the one between Mercyhurst and Niagara; the Lakers won a pair of three-goal games.
Coming down the stretch, everyone is playing some great hockey, which is going to make this weekend’s games that much more interesting.
Home, Home On The Range
Home teams held serve in a big way this weekend, going 7-2 in the last batch of “crossover game” between the former scheduling pods. Heading into this weekend, home teams are now 58-51-23 on the year.
Two teams, Niagara and AIC, combined for a 2-13-5 record at home. If we remove them from the equation, home teams went a combined 56-34-18 on the season. Teams leading the way for home ice mastery include first place Robert Morris at 9-2-2, and the two teams tied for second place – Bentley and Mercyhurst. Bentley is 8-4-1 at home, while Mercyhurst is 9-4. Bentley’s only tie at home? A 4-4 decision on November 14th with the Lakers.
Looking at road records, only Robert Morris was able to win consistently on the road, going 8-1-2 to this point. RIT is second with seven wins to this point, but they also lost five and are done with road games for the regular season. With the exception of RIT, teams currently placed second through seventh in the league table all won between four and six road games. Bentley and Canisius have six, Mercyhurst has five, and Air Force and Holy Cross both have four.
Bentley is 3-1-1 against eastern teams with three of their four games left at Army (twice) and at Sacred Heart. Mercyhurst is virtually the same; the Lakers are 3-1-1 against western teams with three of their four games left on the road. They’ll play Canisius at home before turning around for a return match with the Griffs, then finish with two at RIT.
AIC, meanwhile, has only one more chance to win its first home game of the year against Army in a couple of weeks.
Bottom line, the road to home ice is going to be that much more important because of what playing at home meant this season. For some teams, that translates to one mentality: the playoffs are already starting.