In our preseason conference preview, Chris Lerch and I tabbed AIC and Niagara as two of our bottom three teams. A little over one month into the season, we’re being proven, once again, to know virtually to absolutely nothing. Such is life in Atlantic Hockey.
AIC swept Sacred Heart one weekend after the Pioneers played a complete series against Canisius, scoring 10 goals in the process. Niagara, meanwhile, split a weekend series with Army West Point – one of the league’s favored teams. Add it all together, and you’ve got yourself two Cinderella stories waiting to bust out.
Let’s start with the Yellow Jackets.
AIC beat Sacred Heart at home by outscoring the Pioneers 10-3. It trailed 1-0 after the first period on Friday night, then scored twice in three minutes in the middle of the second to take a 2-1 lead after two. The Yellow Jackets then piled up goals, scoring four times in seven minutes in the third to run away from their opponent. The next night, the Yellow Jackets scored two in the first, then pulled away in the third after allowing a second period goal to win, 4-1.
The wins were a statement in the making for head coach Eric Lang. AIC started the season 0-5-1, but the overtime win at Penn State kicked off what’s now a 4-1-1 stretch. The Yellow Jackets are riding a three-game win streak and are right in the thick of the Atlantic Hockey standings.
There’s a lot of hockey left to play, but this weekend only proved that the league is getting substantially tougher from top to bottom, starting in Springfield.
Purple is the color of royalty
AIC’s feel-good story might be topped only by Niagara. The Purple Eagles improved to 5-1-1 in league play despite suffering their first conference loss on Friday. On Saturday, they rebounded, never trailing in a 3-2 victory over Army West Point. The two teams traded goals within 30 seconds of each other in the second period’s first two minutes but settled in for the long haul more indicative of the scoreless first period.
Tanner Lomasnes scored at the 7:55 mark of the third to pick up the eventual game-winner for Niagara. It was his eighth goal of the system and tied him for fifth nationally in goals scored. Only Robert Morris forward Luke Lynch has more goals with nine, and only Army’s Michael Wilson has as many.
The split sends Niagara essentially into a first place tie in the conference. The Black Knights have one more point but have played three more games at this point. RIT has one less point than Niagara and a better winning percentage, but the difference is a solo tie in the extra game played.
Again, there’s a lot of hockey left to play, but when you’re looking at the standings, this league is only getting even more packed, thanks to the campus across the street from the Canadian border.
Four Point Weekend
Speaking of RIT, the Tigers swept Robert Morris for the league’s other four-point weekend. Showcasing an offensive explosion helped; RIT scored 10 goals with back-to-back five-goal games, winning 5-3 and 5-2 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Tigers look to have recaptured some of the old Ritter Magic this year at the Polisseni Center. The Tigers are 3-1 on home ice this year after going 5-9 last year and 5-7-2 the year before. That’s a pretty interesting note that Chris pointed out in our weekly picks (re: RIT’s struggles at home recently) because the Tigers went 7-4-3 in its first year in the new building.