Three things from the first postseason weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
And then there were eight
Only one first round series went the distance, and that also featured the only upset this past weekend. Niagara opened at Holy Cross with a classic road playoff 2-1 win, and then rebounded from a three-overtime loss in Game Two to take the deciding Game Three, 5-3.
Air Force and Sacred Heart swept their first round series to advance, so we have the following quarterfinal matchups in store, all best-of-three series:
No. 11 Niagara at No. 1 Robert Morris
No. 8 Sacred Heart at No. 2 Canisius
No. 7 Air Force at No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology
No. 5 Mercyhurst at No. 4 Bentley
It takes time
There was a lot of bonus college hockey played this weekend, including the marathon on Saturday between Niagara and Holy Cross, which went to three overtimes before the Crusaders’ T.J. Moore’s game winner in the 111th minute of play. The game went into the record books as the longest in Atlantic Hockey history and the eighth longest in Division I history.
Pick your poison
So which of the quarterfinal hosts has the easiest route to Rochester? I don’t think there is an easy out in this round when you consider:
- Air Force thumped American International 6-1 and 10-3 in the first round. Yes, the Falcons have struggled on the road (4-11-3) vs. home (12-6-1) this season but 16 goals is a scary number. Senior Cole Gunner had a six-point weekend, including four goals on Saturday. The Falcons travel to Rochester to try to win the right to return the following weekend.
- Sacred Heart was on a bit of a roll coming into the playoffs and didn’t let up, sweeping Army. The Pioneers have only two losses in their last 11 games. They travel to Buffalo to face a Canisius squad that SHU took three of four points from in the regular season.
- Niagara endured an 18-game winless stretch, but is 4-2-1 in its last seven games and rebounded from that triple-overtime defeat on Saturday to win a tough road series at Holy Cross. Goalie Jackson Teichroeb made 136 saves in the series, including 47 in the deciding game. The Purple Eagles will take on Robert Morris, whom they saw two weeks ago, splitting a series with the Colonials.
- Mercyhurst ended the season on a downturn but the Lakers are still the Lakers, the preseason No. 1 and boasting the third best offense in the conference. They are certainly capable of turning things around in a hurry. Bentley awaits – Mercyhurst was 0-3-1 against the Falcons this season, but every game was decided by a goal or less.
It’s not going out on a limb to predict at least one upset next weekend. Fasten your seatbelts.