Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Dec. 11

Posted by: Melissa Burgess

What a weekend in Atlantic Hockey, filled with plenty of exciting non-conference action as well as several critical conference games that have shaken up the standings.

With a pair of wins in the Battle of the Bridge over Niagara, Canisius has taken over the top spot in Atlantic Hockey. The Purple Eagles have been bumped down to second place for the time being. They’ll stay that way for a while now, as both teams are off until the last weekend of the month.

AIC jumped two spots in the standings after splitting their weekend series.

Looking ahead, there are only two games this coming weekend, a home-and-home series between Robert Morris and Mercyhurst.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of December 11:

  1. Canisius
  2. Niagara
  3. Holy Cross
  4. RIT
  5. Army
  6. AIC
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Bentley
  9. Mercyhurst
  10. Air Force
  11. Sacred Heart

Canisius Reigns in Battle of the Bridge

The Golden Griffins have now won the last 10 games against Niagara, after a pair of wins over the Purple Eagles this past weekend. Niagara was held to just two goals each game, while Canisius scored four times Friday and exploded offensively for eight goals Saturday.

Friday, Niagara opened the scoring with a power-play goal midway through the first period by Derian Plouffe. Canisius tied it with their own power-play tally later in the period thanks to Jimmy Mazza. But Niagara would regain their lead with under five to play in the second period, with the third power-play goal of the game, scored by Sean King.

Canisius, however, would rally back with three goals in the third period. Dylan McLaughlin tied the game at 7:49. Under three minutes later, Nick Hutchison gave the Griffs their first lead of the night. Captain Ryan Schmelzer added a shorthanded tally with 14 seconds to play to secure the win.

Friday’s game was a physical one, but those tempers didn’t necessarily hold over to Saturday’s rematch. However, Canisius was missing David Bennett, who received a one-game suspension after a play in Friday’s game, determined to contain head contact.

Nonetheless, Canisius came out soaring Saturday. They struck first just 1:09 into the game. Niagara looked flat, had trouble getting shots on net and overall was overpowered by the Griffs, who added four more goals in the first period to skate off with a 5-0 lead after just twenty minutes.

Niagara got one back in the second period, but Canisius struck again just nine seconds later, a goal which both coaches later described as the ‘nail in the coffin,’ so to speak. The Purple Eagles scored again several minutes later, but the game was already out of their reach. Canisius added two more goals later in the second to make it an 8-2 game.

Griffs goals came from Grant Meyer, Casey Jerry, Dylan McLaughlin (2), Mike Sabatini, Ryan Schmelzer, Nick Hutchison and Jesse Pereira.

Non-Conference Action Leads to Mixed Results

There were several non-conference games this past weekend, and it was a bag of mixed results for the Atlantic Hockey teams.

On Friday, Army fell to Merrimack 4-1, Robert Morris lost 5-2 to Penn State and RIT fell 8-3 to Providence.

Saturday’s games were slightly better for Atlantic Hockey, but only slightly. Penn State beat RMU once again (7-4), but Bentley topped Dartmouth 5-1. Army beat New Hampshire 4-3, and RIT shutout Providence 3-0. But on the other hand, Yale topped Sacred Heart 2-1, and Holy Cross fell to Union 4-2.

There’s still several non-conference games to look forward to in 2017. On November 29, Niagara faces Ohio State, while RMU hosts Lake Superior State. Army visit Minnesota, and Air Force hosts Colorado College.

The following day, Canisius visits Cornell; AIC travels to Northeastern; Army and Minnesota and Niagara and Ohio State rematch, respectively. Air Force will also visit Denver, and Robert Morris has a scheduled game against a “TBA” opponent.

Once the calendar year changes, there will still be a handful of non-conference games on the slate, including Canisius vs. Clarkson and vs. St. Lawrence, Bentley vs. Northeastern and Army vs. the Royal Military College, but overall, much of the 2018 schedule focuses on conference action.

RMU Struggles on the Road

Looking at the Atlantic Hockey standings, it’s always interesting to see how teams fare at home versus on the road. Robert Morris, for instance, is having a rough go of it on the road; they’re 1-8-0.

Meanwhile, Holy Cross, AIC and Sacred Heart have each managed just two wins on the road this season.

The Colonials will get their chance to secure another road win on December 17, as they travel to Erie to face Mercyhurst in the second game of the home-and-home series. They won’t hit the road again until January 9, when they’ll face Niagara – which, if things continue the way they are, could be a tough challenge for them.

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