Down to the wire
The 2017-18 Atlantic Hockey regular season is in the books. It was the closest race in league history, and when the dust had settled, Mercyhurst claimed its second regular season title and first since 2014.
Picked to finish eighth by the coaches at the start of the season, the Lakers were 6-9-2 in late December before finding their groove and going 12-2-2 after the calendar turned to January.
Things culminated in a pair of 4-3, come-from behind road wins against Rochester Institute of Technology to close out the regular season.
“This was a tough weekend,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “We earned every inch of ice, earned two quality wins.”
Here are the seedings for this year’s Atlantic Hockey Tournament:
3. Holy Cross
4. Army West Point
5. Air Force
6. Rochester Institute of Technology
7. Robert Morris
8. American International
11. Sacred Heart
First round matchups are (best-of-three series)
Sacred Heart at RIT
Bentley at Robert Morris
Niagara at American International
Taking chances and making history
Robert Morris and Air Force battled to a 2-2 tie on Saturday that had some added drama because a single additional point for Air Force would be the difference between a third and fifth seed for the Falcons.
So Air Force coach Frank Serratore elected to go for the win in the extra period, pulling goaltender Billy Christopolous with 1:20 left in overtime.
Neither the Falcons nor the Colonials were able to capitalize on the opportunity. That meant that Air Force would end in a three-way tie for third with Holy Cross and Army West Point. Due to tiebreakers, the Falcons ended up in fifth and will get a first-round bye but travel to Army West Point in two weeks.
Even though it didn’t pan out, pulling the goalie was a smart play. If Air Force had lost that game, it would have wound up as the fifth seed anyway.
“The biggest thing for us was getting the week off and we did,” said Serratore after the game. “Army is a heckuva hockey team and this will be a great series. Our games with Army are always hard-fought battles and this should be a classic series.”
If Robert Morris had been able to score on the empty net, the Colonials would have finished as the sixth rather than seventh seed.
Another result of note on Saturday was American International’s 3-2 win at Bentley.
Nicolas Luka’s goal at 7:58 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and was the eventual game-winner. The Yellow Jackets finished as the eighth seed and will host a playoff series for the first time in the school’s Division I era. AIC hosts tenth-seeded Niagara at the MassMutual Center this weekend.
A pair of school records fell on Saturday:
Robert Morris senior Brady Ferguson became the school’s all-time career points leader, scoring a goal and an assist in the Colonials’ 2-2 tie with Air Force.
Ferguson now has 158 career points, passing the mark of 156 set by Zac Lynch ’16.
RIT’s Erik Brown scored his 27th and 28th goals of the season in the Tigers’ 4-3 loss to Mercyhurst. That set a new single season program record. The old mark was 27 by Matt Smith in 2007-2008.
Brown, who has 11 goals in his last four games, trails Northeastern’s Adam Gaudette by a goal for the national lead.