The first weekend of hockey is in the books, which means it’s time to review the weekend that was. Check back all season long for our observations. Let’s kick it off with three things from the first games of the 2014-2015 season:
The Champ Is Here
Despite being defending Atlantic Hockey champions, there was plenty of unknown in Robert Morris to start the year. There’s always heightened expectations in a team raising a banner, a new ring in their name that separates them from the rest of the pack. It also means they have to be the standard bearer for the league in out-of-conference matchups, at least in the early couple of weeks.
Derek Schooley’s bunch did more than just that this weekend. Hosting Lake Superior State this weekend, the Colonials pounded their opponent, 6-1, over two nights. They never trailed and never faced a tie score, save for 0-0, in a two-night sweep where they amassed 79 shots on goal.
Cody Wydo scored a goal and two assists, while Zac Lynch notched three helpers. Scott Jacklin scored two goals. And Terry Shafer combined with Dalton Izyk to stop 98% of all shots on goal.
It’s a great start for the defending champs, a program known for being ultra competitive no matter the conditions in front of them. It’s also a very good sample to base opinions on as they enter their title defense next weekend against Niagara in a home-and-home.
Young Guns Already Firing Away
A substantial amount of teams in Atlantic Hockey are dealing with the identity of being young and inexperienced as the year commences. So much is unknown that we’re not sure who’s going to raise eyebrows both positively and negatively.
That said, we’re already seeing a couple of new names make waves as the new season gets underway. Bentley sophomore Max French scored twice and assisted on a third as the Falcons nearly defeated Quinnipiac before falling, 5-3. Johnny Hrabovsky and AJ Reid, two sophomores on Air Force’s team, helped the team with five combined assists as the Falcons split with last year’s regular season champion, Mercyhurst. Caleb Cameron scored a couple of goals for RIT. Sophomore Parker Gahagen made 34 saves for Army on Saturday, and fellow sophomore Dalton Izyk registered a shutout for Robert Morris.
For so-called freshmen “diaper dandies,” Johno May scored a goal and an assist for AIC, and Jonathan Charbonneau had the same for Mercyhurst. Tyler Pham scored his first career goal for Army on Sunday afternoon.
I know I missed a bunch of names, and it’s only the first weekend of the year. But if Atlantic Hockey can continue to have its youngsters chip in, the future will always remain bright for its member institutions.
Out Of Their League
The past two seasons have been the tale of two worlds for Atlantic Hockey. After getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago, the league struggled mightily last season when it went 17-64-5. Prior to Thanksgiving last year, the league was 6-47-4, a nadir considering the success it had in 2012-2013.
So there’s special attention given to the way AHA teams perform when playing teams from other leagues. In the first weekend, Robert Morris picked up a sweep, RIT defeated St. Lawrence, and Canisius split with Western Michigan as the league went 4-8. Low marks came for Holy Cross (swept by Merrimack) and Niagara (defeated by Clarkson before losing 10-2 against St. Lawrence). Both AIC and Bentley hung tough in their games; the Yellow Jackets led 1-0 and 2-1 over the defending national champions before Union ultimately won, 7-3, and the Falcons had a go-ahead goal nullified, then trailed by only one until an empty net goal gave Quinnipiac a 5-3 victory.
Air Force heads to Fairbanks to take on both Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Alaska Goal Rush, and RIT hosts Boston College in its annual game at Blue Cross Arena as the league kicks up the bulk of its league schedule. The majority of teams return to non-conference games on October 24th.