I have this perfect hypothetical situation in my head.
It’s late August, and Atlantic Hockey’s coaches are meeting in a dark room under a hockey rink somewhere. It’s dimly lit, and they all pass note cards around a table coming up with what they all want to say at the beginning of the season. They all write down notes, and they spend the next month putting their own take on the notes so they can perfect their own flavor by the beginning of the season. Then the season begins, and when the games all start, they all can say a variation of exactly the same thing.
“This is the closest the league has ever been,” the note card says. “Any team on any given night can win, and points are always important. Points in October matter because one point is the difference by the end of the year.”
It’s a hypothetical situation because every AHC coach says the same thing. But you know what? They’re absolutely right.
Where else can Sacred Heart beat the No. 5-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a non-conference game only to return home this weekend and lose to Niagara? Where else can Army West Point, a clear-cut favorite, lose at home to an RIT team coming off back-to-back blowout losses against Union and RPI? Where else can Air Force and Canisius, last year’s runaway top two teams, split a pair of one-goal games? Where else can Mercyhurst and Bentley combine for 131 shots in two games but come within .01 seconds of also recording two one-goal games?
It sounds cliche, and it doesn’t create bulletin board material. But it’s absolutely true. Any team can beat any opponent on any given night in Atlantic Hockey. Every game is worth watching, and every point matters. A one-goal loss in October doesn’t seem like much, but trust me when I say this: the race for playoff positioning and the “Road to Rochester” is already well underway.
B1G Time Goalies
Francis Marotte left left little doubt in his ability to compete with the Big Ten’s brass this weekend. He posted 40 saves in a 5-3 loss on Friday, including 19 saves in the third period, helping the Colonials take a one-goal lead early on against Ohio State. On Saturday, he came back and kept the game as a scoreless shutout through two periods as the Buckeyes held a 22-9 shot advantage.
It was Andrew Pickul’s turn on Saturday. Ohio State pounded the net with a 40-15 shot advantage, increasing the pressure through each period. But Pikul only surrendered one goal through the game’s first 57 minutes.
Goaltending tandems can be lethal in AHC play because it allows teams to ride hot hands and keep players fresh when minutes start logging on tired legs. For RMU, knowing a capable goaltender is behind one of the league’s best is something it can brag about among its peers.
Then you sit two minutes by yourself…
I always felt that penalties don’t happen by intention. A player gets hung up in the wrong spot, winds up with an awkward angle that compromises basic hockey fundamentals. A stick gets hung up or held, and players battling hard untangle because someone tripped someone else. There’s always situations where something’s committed because of a mental mistake and intention, but the number of unintentional penalties usually outweigh those in a given game.
As a result, a good power play can alter everything about a game. An elite power play makes teams pay for taking ticky-tack or borderline calls, and it can actually alter how close to the edge an enforcer or physical player can play.
I state this because Mercyhurst’s power play is Exhibit A as proof. The Lakers rank second in the nation with 11 power play goals, just one behind Miami University. They rank third overall in Division I percentage with a 32.4% conversion rate, a number that probably counts as No. 2 because the top team – Princeton – is only 1-for-2 on the year.
After scoring a power play goal on Friday night, Mercyhurst beat Bentley, 2-0 with two power play goals on Saturday. The second one came with .01 left in the period and an empty net, but it still counts in the record books.
It should be noted that Bentley did have three power play goals in its own right on Friday.