As Atlantic Hockey continued its action this past weekend, it was exciting to see the conference’s top two teams – Army and Niagara – face off in a pair of games. In the end, they split the weekend, with Army remaining atop the conference standings.
Meanwhile, RIT won twice to make its way up to third in the conference, and Canisius’ Dylan McLaughlin had himself quite a weekend to earn honors in the conference and NCAA.
Army West Point opened the month of November strong in Atlantic Hockey action, sweeping Air Force and taking the top spot in the conference standings. Holy Cross, meanwhile, opened the month with a tie and a loss; every other team in the conference earned at least one win over the weekend.
You win some, you lose some. While several Atlantic Hockey teams had solid weekends – including Niagara and RIT, who each picked up a pair of wins, others found nothing but defeat.
Niagara, who was ranked 11th in preseason polls, closes out the month of October as the top-ranked team in Atlantic Hockey. Meanwhile, RIT jumped from last-place in the conference standings to fourth after a pair of victories.
First wins, first goals, non-conference victories and more filled the week for Atlantic Hockey. Each team in the conference played at least one game, with AIC and Bentley each playing three times.
Army remains atop the conference standings after splitting the weekend with Robert Morris. Meanwhile, Holy Cross jumped two spots in the standings thanks to a pair of wins over Bentley. Air Force, Sacred Heart and RIT are all still awaiting their first conference games but have been tested early by strong non-conference competition in teams like Notre Dame, RPI and Bemidji State.
Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:
(After the jump: plenty of non-conference action keeping us busy.)
The Atlantic Hockey season is well underway, with each team having hit the ice at least once in game action. While several teams are still waiting on their first conference action, there are already a few standouts in the standings and statistics just a few short weeks in.
It’s obviously still early, but Army sits atop the Atlantic Hockey standings after winning a pair over AIC. Air Force, the 2017 conference champions, are awaiting their first conference game.
AIC announced today that it plans to play all of its hockey games at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, Mass.
That’s a big step for an AIC program that, until recently, looked like it was on life support.
In just the past few months, AIC has hired former Army assistant coach Eric Lang, an AIC alum, to lead the program after Gary Wright stepped down. Now the Yellow Jackets are moving on from the outdated Olympia Arena and into state-of-the-art facilities in a renovated arena in Springfield, where they will share the ice with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
Even better, the MassMutual Center is only a little more than one mile from AIC’s campus.
The new home should help AIC’s recruiting efforts immensely. In prior seasons, AIC generally went the entire season without a single commit on its list, instead recruiting mostly scraps from the rest of Division I once the season was over. The result was teams that routinely finished at or near the bottom of the RPI. AIC’s last season with a winning percentage above .500 was 1994, a mere 22 years ago.
The recruiting strategy started to change, thanks mostly to the efforts of assistant coaches Mike Towns and Stephen Wiedler, both of whom Lang has retained on his coaching staff. This season AIC had a handful of commits before the end of the season, and I suspect that Lang is going to have his staff be more active in recruiting moving forward.
In Wright’s defense, it also seems like the college is more invested in the program now than it ever was during his tenure.
At a time where RIT and Canisius have built new buildings, and Bentley has a new arena on the way, this is a necessary move for a program like AIC if it is serious about competing in Atlantic Hockey. It’s also a good move for college hockey. AIC should be able to attract more non-conference opponents for home games now that they are at an adequate facility. With many Hockey East schools in the region, there are a lot of natural non-conference opponents for AIC in what could develop into multi-year agreements.
While it’s perhaps the longest of long shots, there’s also Hockey East’s situation to consider. The league will be at 11 schools after this upcoming season when Notre Dame moves to the Big Ten. AIC has not been one of the programs discussed for possible expansion, but if AIC is willing to invest in 18 scholarships, and plays at the MassMutual Center, it’s a similar situation to UConn prior to it joining Hockey East a few years ago.
Most Hockey East fans want Quinnipiac, however most sources close to the league say that as of right now, that’s not happening. And from Quinnipiac’s standpoint, what does Hockey East have to offer them that they aren’t already receiving as part of the ECAC?
Again, it’s the longest of long shots, but there was a zero percent chance of Hockey East ever considering AIC prior to this offseason. There is still a lot of work for AIC to do, too. But now, with today’s news and what appears to be a serious investment from the college, I wonder if Hockey East would at least take a pitch meeting. Before this, AIC wouldn’t even get into the same room as Hockey East. I think now, the league might at least answer the phone if AIC called.
Before Twitter overreacts, it’s probably a 1% chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. In college hockey the last few years, stranger things have happened.
It’s hard to believe that the playoff push begins now, but with so many non-conference games over and done with, it’s the push run for Hockey East.
Here is a look at this weekend’s series:
Boston University vs. Boston College (home-and-home) — It’s the marquee matchup of the weekend, without question. We’re not sure if the Eagles will have Thatcher Demko back between the pipes as of this writing. The BC goaltender returned to practice this week after what was described as an “upper-body injury,” that according to some not-so-quiet whispers was a concussion.
BU was sparked last week by the returns of Ahti Oksanen and Matt Grzelcyk. Time is running out for the Terriers, however, if they want to be one of the top teams in the Hockey East standings come the end of the season. BU is only two points behind Notre Dame for third in the league, but the Irish have a game in hand. The Terriers sit four points bak of BC for second in Hockey East.
Union and Dartmouth both picked up wins, over Merrimack and Robert Morris respectively on Saturday night. Because the Ledyard Bank Classic has predetermined matchups, the format is setup with a point system (2 points for a regulation/ot win, 1 point for a shootout win) with goal differential being the tiebreaker if one or more teams are tied. Dartmouth and Union do not play on Sunday night in a de facto championship game, so we will be relying heavily on the system put in place.Union defeated Merrimack 3-2, while Dartmouth defeated Robert Morris, 5-1.
Union received goals from Matt Wilkins, Nick Cruice and Brett Supinski, which included two power-play tallies. Merrimack took the momentum in the third period but were never able to recover from being down two goals entering the third. Dartmouth took a scoreless game after a period and ran away with it late. It outshot the Colonials 37-18 and recieved goals from five different skaters. Hypothetically Dartmouth has the advantage going into Sunday night’s matchups, after winning by four. The Big Green face Merrimack, while the Dutchmen face Robert Morris. (more…)
With the conference tournaments approaching, I’ve been running a lot of scenarios through CHN’s PairWise calculator. It started with my interest in Minnesota’s chances (since I cover Big Ten hockey) but has expanded since then.
According to the Pairwise Probability Matrix, there are about nine teams that are locked into the NCAA tournament, and two others (Providence and Quinnipiac) that have very high chances of making it. North Dakota, Minnesota State, Boston University, Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and Boston College are all most likely making the NCAA tournament.
Regardless of the results this weekend, the NCHC will have five teams make the NCAA tournament -North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha. Very few scenarios have Nebraska-Omaha – the lowest-ranked NCHC team – moving to ninth on the PWR list. I’ve encountered none that have the Mavericks dropping below ninth.
So below I ran through some points of interest, different scenarios, the likelihood of certain teams making it and what they need for that to happen. I will periodically add to this as I calculate more scenarios. (more…)
Earlier this week, I joined Hockey on Campus‘ Bernie Corbett to discuss the playoff race in Atlantic Hockey, and it got me thinking …
Parity is something most college hockey conferences love to brag about, but until recently, it never really existed. The front-runners were almost always the front-runners and the also-rans were almost always the also-rans, with a few extraordinary years strewn about throughout history.
That trend has changed the last four seasons. UMass Lowell and Providence have become definite powers in Hockey East while Maine and New Hampshire have slid backwards; even Merrimack had a run to the Hockey East title game in 2011. The ECAC’s rise to power has been clearly evident, with back-to-back national champions and a few other programs – most notably Quinnipiac – without a title but still one of the nation’s best teams.