This Week in Atlantic Hockey: RIT hoping recent 4-1 run leads to playoff momentum

Logan Drackett (30 - RIT) and Chase Norrish (8 - RIT) (2017 Omar Phillips)
Logan Drackett and Chase Norrish celebrate an RIT goal earlier this season against Robert Morris (photo: Omar Phillips).

Like every team in Atlantic Hockey, it’s been an up-and-down season for the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The Tigers (14-16-2) opened the season 0-2-1, then went 5-1 in their next six games before winning just five more between mid-November and early February.

The Tigers have flipped the script recently, going 4-1 in a grueling stretch that saw Wayne Wilson’s team play five road games in ten days.

“Planes, trains and automobiles,” said Wilson. “Three different opponents in four different rinks.”

The Tigers opened the stretch with 4-3 and 6-2 wins in a road sweep of Robert Morris in Pittsburgh, then stopped in Erie, Pa., for a rare Monday night contest against Mercyhurst, a makeup game that had to be rescheduled from late December due to inclement weather. The Tigers came away with a 6-5 overtime win.

And last Saturday and Sunday, the Tigers traveled to Connecticut to tangle with Sacred Heart, beating the Pioneers 5-0 in Bridgeport before falling 5-3 to SHU at Yale’s Ingalls Rink.

“The way this season has gone for us and for most teams in our league, is win one, lose one,” said Wilson. “Splits are the norm. So it was good to come away with four wins.”

Leading the way has been junior Erik Brown, who posted eight goals in his last three games, including consecutive hat-tricks against Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart. His 25 goals are second in the nation.

“He’s obviously been a great player for us,” said Wilson. “That line with him and (Gabe) Valenzuela and (Abbott) Girduckis have been really contributing.”

Also contributing has been senior Myles Powell, whose 33 points are second to Brown’s 35. Powell is one of a set of forwards who are having career years.

“It’s what you hope to see,” said Wilson. “Players improving though their time here. Gabe (30 points) is having a career year. Girduckis (24 points) is having a career year. Jordan Peacock (14 points) is improving over last year.”

In net, Christian Short won the starting job, posting a 2.80 GAA in his last five games. But Wilson says he has three capable goaltenders.

“Christian is the guy right now,” he said. “We’re taking it game by game.”

RIT hosts Mercyhurst in its final weekend of the regular season with lots on the line. While the first-place Lakers have clinched a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals, the Tigers can finish anywhere from second to ninth.

“Right now, our goal is a bye,” said Wilson. “Not for the rest, but to avoid an upset in the first round. It would be an upset in name only because of the standings. Everyone is so close that it’s possible for the last-place team to beat the first-place team.”

Playoff possibilities

With one week left in the regular season, there’s a ridiculous amount still to be decided. Just 10 points separate first place and last place in the conference.

Here is my analysis of where teams stand, based on their current placement in the standings as well as what is mathematically possible based on their remaining games:

1st Mercyhurst (conference record: 14-8-4)
Current points: 32
Maximum possible points: 36
Remaining games: at RIT (2)
Holds Tiebreaker with: Holy Cross, Army West Point, Niagara, AIC, Bentley, Sacred Heart
Can finish: 1st-4th

2nd Canisius (15-11)
Current points: 30
Maximum possible points: 34
Remaining games: Niagara, at Niagara
Holds Tiebreaker with: Holy Cross, Army West Point, AIC, Bentley, Sacred Heart, Robert Morris, Niagara
Can finish: 1st-5th

3rd Holy Cross (11-10-6)
Current points: 28
Maximum possible points: 30
Remaining games: AIC
Holds Tiebreaker with: Army West Point, Air Force, Bentley, Sacred Heart
Can finish: 2nd-8th

T4th RIT (13-12-1)
Current points: 27
Maximum possible points: 31
Remaining games: Mercyhurst (2)
Hold Tiebreaker with: Robert Morris, Army West Point, Holy Cross, AIC, Sacred Heart
Can finish: 2nd-9th

T4th Air Force (12-11-3)
Current points: 27
Maximum possible points: 31
Remaining games: at Robert Morris (2)
Hold Tiebreaker with: RIT, AIC, Canisius, Bentley
Can finish: 2nd-9th

T6th Robert Morris (12-12-2)
Current points: 26
Maximum possible points: 30
Remaining games: Air Force (2)
Hold Tiebreaker with: Holy Cross, AIC, Sacred Heart
Can finish: 2nd-9th

T6th Army West Point (10-10-6)
Current points: 26
Maximum possible points: 30
Remaining games: Sacred Heart (2)
Hold Tiebreaker with: Air Force, Niagara, AIC, Bentley
Can finish: 3rd-10th

8th American International (10-12-4)
Current points: 24
Maximum possible points: 28
Remaining games: at Holy Cross, at Bentley
Hold Tiebreaker with: Sacred Heart, Holy Cross
Can finish: 4th-11th

T9th Niagara (10-13-3)
Current points: 23
Maximum possible points: 27
Remaining games: at Canisius, Canisius
Hold Tiebreaker with: RIT, Bentley
Can finish: 5th-11th

T9th Bentley (9-13-5)
Current points: 23
Maximum possible points: 25
Remaining games: AIC
Hold Tiebreaker with: Robert Morris, RIT
Can finish: 8th-11th

11th Sacred Heart (9-13-4)
Current points: 22
Maximum possible points: 36
Remaining games: at Army West Point (2)
Hold Tiebreaker with: Bentley, Air Force
Can finish: 7th-11th

Here are the tiebreakers, because you know we’ll be consulting these often:
1. Winning percentage head-to-head
2. Conference wins
3. Goal differential in head-to-head competitions
4. Goals allowed in head-to-head competitions
5. Winning percentage head-to-head against conference teams, from No. 1 seed down to the No. 11 seed.
6. Goal differential in games against teams from No. 1 seed down to the No. 11 seed

By my calcuations, Mercyhurst and Canisius have clinched byes, while Bentley and Sacred Heart will be playing in the first round. All 11 teams are still in the running for a home ice playoff series, either in the first round or quarterfinals.

The swing for some teams can be seven or even eight places based on this weekend’s results. It’s going to be a wild finish.


The final weeks of the season are often a time when career milestones are achieved. For players, 100 points in a career is the gold standard of achievement. Similarly, 100 games for a goaltender is a rare achievement.

Here’s who’s moving in on the century mark, and who’s already there:

Brady Ferguson, senior, Robert Morris — Ferguson was the lone player in the league to come into this season with over 100 career points (118). He’s at 156 right now, tied with Zac Lynch (’16) for the most career points.

Kyle Schmidt, senior, Bentley — Schmidt currently has 116 career points and counting. He hit the century mark back on Nov. 25 against Robert Morris.

Ryan Schmelzer, senior, Canisius — Schmelzer scored his 100th career point on Jan. 19 vs. RIT. He’s currently at 105 and counting.

T.J. Moore, senior, Holy Cross — Moore currently has 103 career points. His 100th came on Feb. 2 vs. Canisius.

Derek Barach, senior, Mercyhurst — Barach reached the 100 point plateau on Feb. 10 vs. Holy Cross. He currently has 102 career points.

Dylan McLaughlin, junior, Canisius — A rare junior to already hit the century mark, McLaughlin is the leading scorer in Atlantic Hockey this season (42 points so far). Last weekend against Air Force, he became the 12th player in school history to score 100 career points. He’s at 101 now.

Several players are oh-so-close:

Myles Powell, senior, RIT (99 points)
Jack Riley, senior, Mercyhurst (99 points)
Scott Pooley, senior, Holy Cross (97 points)
Connor Andrle, senior Army West Point (95 points)
Jonathan Charbonneau, senior, Mercyhurst (95 points)
Tyler Pham, senior, Army West Point (94 points)

Holy Cross senior Paul Berrafato is the only active AHC goalie with more than 100 games played (111). Mercyhurst’s Brandon Wildung has played in 98 career games to date.

Weekly Awards

Here’s what the league came up with this week:

Player of the Week — Erik Brown, RIT:
Brown had eight goals in three games, including three in a 6-5 overtime win at Mercyhurst on Monday and four in a 5-0 win at Sacred Heart on Saturday. That tied two school records: most goals in a single game (4) and most consecutive hat-tricks (2). Brown now has 25 goals, second nationally.

Goalie of the Week — Stefano Durante, AIC:
The freshman stopped all 23 shots he faced in a 1-0 blanking of Holy Cross. His second shutout of the season improved on his league-best 2.23 GAA.

Defensive Player of the Week — Alex Wilkinson, Army West Point:
The sophomore blueliner had a four-point weekend to help the Black Knights to a split at Bentley. On Friday he recorded a pair of goals and an assist in a 5-1 win, and also chipped in an assist in a 4-2 loss on Saturday. Wilkinson now has 20 points on the season, tops among AWP defensemen.

Rookie of the Week — Zack Mirageas, Air Force:
Mirageas had three points last weekend, the most among all rookies in Atlantic Hockey. He assisted on both game-winning goals to help the Falcons to a home sweep of Canisius.