Every season, Atlantic Hockey has one of the most tightly-packed, logjammed races throughout the college hockey universe. There’s constant parity, and even though coaches say they want to play their best hockey in March, games in November inevitably shape the landscape. This season, there is once again little to no breakout from the early parts of the season. Teams with points in the standings will be dealing later on this year with teams making up games in hand.
With their weekend sweep of Sacred Heart, Robert Morris went from a one-point deficit to a three-point advantage for first place in the AHC standings. But Mercyhurst, who they passed, has two games in hand, which they’ll make up to start the January portion of the schedule. The Lakers also have a game in hand over Holy Cross, who swept Niagara at home. The Crusaders, though, have a game left to make up on the Colonials.
That’s the easy part.
Five points separate second place from eighth. Three teams have seven points and are tied for sixth, though all have played varying degrees of games. Even the bottom three teams are jammed, with Army West Point’s six points positioning them in ninth place but Niagara, in last place, holding four games in hand over them.
The bottom line is that this season isn’t warming up yet, but games played now are going to have a major impact when opponents start picking up ground and using up those games in hand.
Thanksgiving weekend is always an interesting date for scheduling games. Teams needing to travel long distances typically are forced on the road on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) with games played at a time on campuses when students mass exodus facilities and dorms.
This year’s Thanksgiving home teams went 5-4-1 overall but went 4-1-1 in league play. Army West Point took three points on the road from Canisius, but the other home teams – Holy Cross and Robert Morris – held serve in their own barns. All matchups featured teams from the old scheduling pods traveling to a school that would’ve been in the other scheduling pod (i.e. “east-vs-west” matchups).
For those of you wondering about non-conference competition, Air Force split a home-and-home with Colorado College with the home team winning each game; Bentley lost at New Hampshire, and RIT lost at Boston College.
This weekend, Bentley traveled up to Durham, N.H., to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats in their final nonconference game of the season. The Falcons played well against the Wildcats (outshot 47-15 at Boston University last Tuesday, Bentley was nearly even with UNH, outshot 37-34) and traded the lead back and forth in a wild affair at the Whittemore Center.
An underlying storyline came from a connection between the two schools; Bentley defenseman Billy Eiserman suited up against his brother, Shane, a forward for UNH. Billy helped start the scoring between the two teams, registering the primary assist on Derek Bacon’s game-opening goal at the 5:03 point of the first period.
But Shane got the last laugh, providing the first assist on Maxim Gaudreault’s game-winning goal in the third period of a 5-4 Wildcat victory. Billy had somewhat of a silver lining, having finished with a plus-1 rating compared to his brother’s even strength zero.