March 15, 2007 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Atlantic Hockey Final Four Preview

by Charley White/CHN Reporter

The Atlantic Hockey Tournament reaches its climax this weekend with the four top seeds advancing to the semifinals. Top seeded Sacred Heart takes on No. 4 Air Force, and No. 3 Connecticut faces No. 2 Army.

No matter what happens, one team will get its first-ever berth into the NCAA tournament. And in the case of Army or Air Force, that could mean the NCAAs see a service academy for the first time.

Sacred Heart, Air Force and Army come into the semis after reasonably comfortable wins in the quarters. Sacred Heart dispatched American International 4-0; Air Force whitewashed Holy Cross 3-0; and Army took care of Bentley, 6-2.

UConn, however, battled Mercyhurst — a team that has been to the NCAAs before — and hung on for a gritty 5-4 victory.

The Huskies come into their game against Army with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games, while the Black Knights are 6-2-2. Both teams have played well down the stretch which makes Friday's semifinal an intriguing match up.

Air Force has picked up its game recently winning its last four in a row, after a terrible skid that saw them lose nine out of 11. They've scored 19 goals in those four wins and look to keep up the offensive pressure against the Pioneers.

The Pioneers turned a recent outburst of good road performances into enough points to grab the top seed. They're hoping that their road success will translate to the neutral ice of the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.

"We match up well against each other," Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah said. "I don't think it will be a high scoring game at all, I think it'll be close to the end."

At least Hannah can say he's been to the NCAAs before — as a Cornell freshman in 1991.

Sacred Heart and Air Force have played twice this season with both games ending in ties. To avoid another tie, Hannah says his team needs to focus on being unified and playing defense.

"We'll need good team defense and to take care of things as a group," Hannah said.

About his team securing the school's first appearance in the NCAA tournament:

"We've got a locker room full of guys that are motivated to be the first team from Sacred Heart to get into the tournament," Hannah said.

"The intensity level is going to be high, no question."

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