Atlantic Hockey First-Round Preview
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Writer
No. 5 Robert Morris (18-12-4, 13-11-3 AHA) vs No. 12 Sacred Heart (2-28-4, 2-21-4 AHA)
Season series: Robert Morris won 2-0
Robert Morris and Sacred Heart both enter the playoffs playing their best hockey. The Colonials are 3-0-2 in their last five games. The Pioneers, amid a rough season, have gotten both of their wins in the last six games.
“We’re playing the right way. We’re doing things well,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “It’s the right time of the year to be playing as well as you possibly can.”
The last time these two met, it was beginning of both teams' stretch run. In both games the Colonials used third period goals to earn the wins. Schooley is expecting much of the same this weekend.
“We have to stick to our game plan and play how our team plays,” Schooley said. “We can’t get away from that.”
Pick: As well as the Pioneers have played to end the season, it’s hard to see them advancing. The Colonials are playing even better. They sweep the series.
No. 6 Mercyhurst (14-15-5, 12-11-4 AHA) vs No. 11 Army (7-20-5, 7-15-5 AHA)
Season series: Mercyhurst won 1-0-1
The Lakers, picked third in the preseason poll, were expected to contend for the Atlantic Hockey title this year. But struggles in the second half cost them a first round bye. They haven’t won since Feb. 5. The Black Knights have also struggled in the second half. They have just one win in 2013, coming on Jan. 4.
If the Black Knights want to win, they’ll have to slow down the Lakers, who average 3.18 goals a game. The Black Knights have struggled with this during their second half fall. Of its 17 games in 2013, Army has surrendered four or more goals 10 times.
Pick: One of these teams will have to find their mojo again. Ultimately, the Lakers offense will outlast the Black Knights. Lakers will sweep the series.
No. 7 Canisius (13-18-5, 12-13-2 AHA) vs No. 10 Bentley (12-18-3, 10-14-3 AHA)
Season series: Bentley won 2-0
Both Canisius and Bentley have had inconsistent seasons. The Falcons were in position to challenge for a first round bye but struggled mightily down the stretch. They won just once in their last 11 games.
The Golden Griffins on the other hand were inconsistent from the beginning. Whenever they seemed to be gaining momentum it disappeared. A lot of that has to do with the Golden Griffins offensive woes. They average just 2.33 goals a game.
But the Golden Griffins have been able to keep the puck out of their own net, surrendering just 2.44 goals a game. Led by Brent Gensler, the Falcons average 3.24 goals a game, second in Atlantic Hockey to Air Force. The Falcons are going to have their work cut out for them trying to score.
Pick: If Canisius can slow down Gensler, it has a chance. But its offensive struggles with cost them. Bentley will take it in three games.
No. 8 RIT (13-16-5, 11-12-4 AHA) vs No. 9 American International (12-15-6, 9-12-6 AHA)
Season series: RIT won 1-0-1
RIT has been an Atlantic Hockey power for the last six years but this season has not been kind to the Tigers. They’ve struggled to find consistency from the beginning of the season and finished lower than fourth for the first time since joining Atlantic Hockey.
“We’ve played as well as what we were expected, then haven’t played so well,” RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said.
The Tigers have also suffered from a lack of depth. Wilson was forced to play with just 11 forwards on the last day of the regular season.
That depth will be tested against American International. The Yellow Jackets are one of the hottest, if not that the hottest, team in Atlantic Hockey. The Yellow Jackets are 7-1-3 in their last 11 games, including wins over Air Force, Holy Cross, and Bentley.
For AIC, it all starts with Ben Meisner in net. Meisner has allowed more than three goals just twice during the Yellow Jackets' run.
“He (Meisner) can steal a game by himself,” Wilson said. “We’ve got our hands full. There’s no question about it.”
Pick: The Tigers are playoff tested, having been to the last two Atlantic Hockey Championship games and 10-2 at home in the playoffs. But their struggles this year might be too big overcome against a team playing as well as American International. The Yellow Jackets end up winning this series in three games.