Here’s a look back at the weekend that was in Atlantic Hockey. It’s brought to you, today, by the letter “W.”
It always feels like Chris and I talk about a need for non-conference wins. We talk about how teams iron out some of their issues and pick off a win here or there. Everything is indicative of the future, while at the same time remembering that Atlantic Hockey’s postseason race is an 11-car demolition derby fighting for one spot.
In the season’s first couple of weeks, Atlantic Hockey schools are 6-7-5 against non-conference opponents. Of those seven losses, two came against the defending national champions. One of those ties is an unofficial win since Air Force defeated Ohio State in a shootout to win the IceBreaker Tournament.
It’s come at nearly every league’s expense. This past weekend, Union (ECAC) struggled to put away AIC, then tied Sacred Heart. Air Force split with Arizona State (independent). Canisius went to Alaska and beat the Nanooks (WCHA) before dropping a 1-0 loss to Alaska-Anchorage. Holy Cross took down Hockey East’s Providence in overtime, and Bentley tied the defending conference champions before Northeastern rallied for a win at home on Saturday.
I know it’s only mid-October, but it’s incredibly rare to see AHC teams trending the way that they are. With four teams inside the top 20 of the Pairwise Rankings this early, things are almost certainly going to even out. But for now, it’s okay for fans to savor the moment.
Whistle While You Work
Jim Connelly and Paula Weston talked about the added emphasis on officials to call penalties in last week’s edition of TMQ. It piqued my interest, so I kept an eye on the number of calls made.
Officials whistled AIC for 10 penalties against Union, including six hooking calls. That included four in the first period.
Mercyhurst and Penn State took 23 penalties for 65 minutes combined. That included over 40 minutes against the Lakers, who were playing in their first game of the year.
Then there’s Bentley. The Falcons combined with Northeastern for 30 penalties and 79 minutes. Bentley took 19 penalties on their own, including two in overtime. On Saturday, the Falcons took 10 more penalties.
Sacred Heart was last year’s most penalized AHC team, drawing 14.9 minutes per game to rank second nationally, behind only Alaska-Anchorage’s 15.3. Last year’s Pioneers would rank 30th nationally as of Sunday night.
It’s hard to tell how this will shake out, especially since of those series mentioned above, there was only one 5-on-3 goal scored. Three Atlantic Hockey teams are averaging over 30 minutes in the box per game already. Seven of the league’s 11 teams are ahead of that Pioneer pace.
With such a small sample of games, the numbers are going to skew, but at the same time, there’s no questioning its early impact. This past weekend is proof.
West Point’s Brick Wall
Army West Point shut out Sacred Heart this weekend, the second consecutive goose egg posted against the Pioneers. With their two-game series now complete, the Black Knights outscored their opponent by a 7-0 margin. Three games into the season, their 9-2 scoring differential is tied with Holy Cross for seventh nationally.
They’re currently second nationally with a 0.67 goals against average. Parker Gahagen’s .977 save percentage is tied with Bemidji State’s Michael Bitzer for second in the country with two shutouts.
Consider yourselves warned – early returns show Army West Point is for real.
Former Connecticut head coach and current Franklin Pierce head coach Bruce Marshall passed away this weekend at the age of 54. Although the Huskies are now in Hockey East, Marshall served as the head coach when the program transitioned into Division I, leading them through the MAAC/Atlantic Hockey era before he stepped down in 2013.
Please join me in extending condolences to his family, friends, and all those who had the good fortune to come into contact with one of the game’s great ambassadors.