Three things from last weekend in Atlantic Hockey:
Farewell, old friend
On Saturday, Bentley University played its last game in the John A Ryan Skating Arena, affectionately known (well, maybe not “affectionately” by visiting teams) as the JAR.
It’s been the Falcons’ home for over 40 years, but Bentley is opening a new, on-campus rink next weekend.
Bentley hosted Air Force in it final home stand at the JAR, winning 2-0 on Friday behind Jayson Argue’s second career shutout. On Saturday, it looked like Bentley was going to put a final win on the scoreboard, leading 2-0 after the first period.
But Air Force spoiled the party, scoring four unanswered goals to close the book on the JAR with a 4-2 win. Brady Tomlak’s empty net goal with 12 seconds left sealed the deal.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore’s postgame comments recalled some college basketball history.
“I remember the great John Thompson went into Syracuse when (the Orange) won something like 50 games in a row at their old building,” he said. “When Georgetown beat Syracuse, he said, ‘(Manley Field House) is officially closed.’ So I get the distinction of saying the JAR is officially closed. As silly as it seems, it’s a big moment, and to win the last game here in the way that we did was kind of cool.”
The Air Force Falcons will stay in New England and face off against Sacred Heart on Tuesday at Quinnipiac, making up a game postponed from Jan. 20 due to a government shutdown.
Bentley will christen its new building this weekend, hosting Army West Point.
Reversal of fortune vs. more of the same
As I said in my predictions for this past weekend’s games, Rochester Institute of Technology’s series at Robert Morris was a classic case of teams moving in opposite directions. The Tigers had lost three of their last four, including being swept at home by Bentley the week before, while Robert Morris was on a roll, going 5-1-1 in its last seven coming into its series with the Tigers.
But the Tigers threw both those trends in reverse with a 4-3, 6-2 sweep of the Colonials.
On Friday, RIT used three second period goals to build a 4-1 lead and then withstood an RMU comeback attempt. Abbott Girduckis had a goal and an assist for the Tigers, while Eric Israel had three assists for the Colonials. RIT goaltender Christian Short, making his first appearance since Jan. 13, made 25 saves for the win.
Short again started on Saturday, making 17 stops in a 6-2 RIT win. Gabe Valenzuela had two goals and an assist for the Tigers.
“I thought we really worked hard and used a strong team effort to get the win tonight,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson after Saturday’s game. “I thought we got stronger and took over as the game wore on.”
Unfortunately for Niagara, it was not able to reverse its downswing. Instead, it was more of the same as the Purple Eagles were swept at home by Sacred Heart, 5-3 and 7-1. Niagara has just one win in its last 12 games, and has fallen from first place to a three way tie for sixth.
SHU’s Jackson Barliant had three goals in the series, while teammates Marc Johnstone and Kory Kennedy potted two each.
Niagara, which has a bye next weekend, was missing starting goaltender Brian Wilson, who’s suffering from a lower body injury. He’s expected to return for the Purple Eagles’ final series of the regular season against Canisius.
Here come the Lakers
On Monday, the teams tied for the longest unbeaten streak in the nation will both be in action. Boston University, unbeaten in nine games (7-0-2), will take on Northeastern in the Beanpot final. But there’s also some non-Beanpot college hockey on the slate when Merchurst, also on a nine game unbeaten streak (7-0-2), hosts RIT.
The nine game streak is the longest for Rick Gotkin’s team since 2002.
Like RIT, the Lakers are coming off a weekend sweep, defeating Holy Cross, 6-5 and 4-0. Saturday’s shutout was the third of the season for Mercyhurst goaltender Brandon Wildung and sixth of his career.
Junior Derek Barach had a pair of goals on Saturday to reach the century mark for career points.
Mercyhurst moved into a tie with Holy Cross for second place in the standings, just two points behind Canisius with a game in hand.