The race for the top of Atlantic Hockey is really heating up. Canisius managed to stay in first despite splitting the weekend with Army, but Mercyhurst – with two wins and an OT loss, and Holy Cross, who lost twice this weekend, are nipping at their heels.
The Griffs are now 15-13-2 overall on the season, while the Lakers are 15-11-4. The Crusaders are 12-13-7.
Robert Morris’ Brady Ferguson continues to lead the conference in scoring, with 42 points (15-27) in 30 games. Canisius’ Dylan McLaughlin has 39 points in 29 games, and RMU’s Alex Tonge has 35 points (12-23) in 30 games. Holy Cross’ Scott Pooley is also averaging a point-per-game with just two weeks left in the regular season.
Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of February 13, following the noontime Air Force vs. Sacred Heart game, with each team’s number of remaining games:
- Canisius (4)
- Mercyhurst (4)
- Holy Cross (2)
- Robert Morris (4)
- RIT (4)
- Army (4)
- Air Force (4)
- Niagara (2)
- AIC (3)
- Bentley (3)
- Sacred Heart (4)
Tigers Top Mercyhurst in OT Thriller
As RIT and Mercyhurst met for a rare Monday night game – a makeup of an earlier postponed game – the stakes were high for the Lakers. A win would have helped them move up in the standings, and with just a few games left, every point counts.
A back-and-forth game that saw the Lakers tie it with just 12 seconds to play would, in the end, result in a thrilling win for the Tigers, who came out victorious 6-5.
RIT came out strong with two goals in the opening five minutes thanks to Erik Brown and Jordan Peacock. Mercyhurst got on the board a short time later before the Tigers made it 3-1. Before the first period ended, however, the Lakers would once again make it a one-goal game.
Just 47 seconds into the second period, Brown scored his second goal of the night to give his team the further edge. But the Lakers weren’t giving up, scoring late in the period and then 8:03 into the third to tie the game at 4 aside.
More than halfway through the third period, the score remained tied, until Brown completed the hat trick, on the power play, with 9:02 to play. The Tigers held tight to the lead until Jonathan Charbonneau tallied his second of the night with just 12 seconds to play to force the extra time.
Despite the late rally, the Lakers fell on an overtime goal by Alden Dupuis – his second of the game – just 1:59 into the extra period.
It also makes for an interesting end to the season, as these two teams still have to meet twice more in the c0ming weeks.
Top Teams Taking Advantage… or Not
Mercyhurst won two of its three games between Friday and Monday, which has certainly helped them in the standings. They’re just two points out of the top spot in the conference and are setting themselves up for a strong finish at the end here.
Holy Cross, on the other hand, not so much. When the Lakers and Crusaders battled it out this weekend, Holy Cross fell flat twice. They managed five goals in Friday’s game, but it just wasn’t enough. They then followed up that loss by getting shut out on Saturday, which is definitely not the sort of game you’re looking for this late in the season.
At this point, the Crusaders only have two games left on the season, which puts them in a tight spot in the standings. Even if they win both of those games, it seems unlikely (but of course, is not impossible) that Canisius would lose the rest of their games. The same can be said for Mercyhurst, who, with four games left, is also in a good spot to vie for first place.
What Lies Ahead
The regular season in Atlantic Hockey wraps up on February 24, just 11 days from today. Each team has at least two games left, while most have four games remaining. These last few games are going to be critical (in some cases) for the standings.
Here’s a quick glance at each team and who they face in the last weeks of the season:
- Canisius – Air Force (x2), Niagara (x2)
- Mercyhurst – Robert Morris (x2), RIT (x2)
- Holy Cross – AIC (x2)
- Robert Morris – Mercyhurst (x2), Air Force (x2)
- RIT – Sacred Heart (x2), Mercyhurst (x2)
- Army – Bentley (x2), Sacred Heart (x2)
- Air Force – Canisius (x2), Robert Morris (x2)
- Niagara – Canisius (x2)
- AIC – Holy Cross (x2), Bentley
- Bentley – Army (x2), AIC
- Sacred Heart – RIT (x2), Army (x2)
Every game is one to watch, especially for those top three or four teams, but the RMU/Mercyhurst series could make the difference in the standings. It’s a shame the Purple Eagles aren’t higher in the standings, or the final Battle of the Bridge meetings of the season would *really* be a hoot.
Following playoffs, the Atlantic Hockey Tournament will be held March 16-17 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. The winner will receive the Jack Riley Memorial Trophy, new this year, named in honor of the Army coach.