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Three observations from this past weekend’s wild slate of Atlantic Hockey Conference action:

Bentley’s Back

The Bentley Falcons traveled west for the third time in four weekends to take on the Mercyhurst Lakers. With a brilliant opportunity to take some huge points, the Falcons opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period on Friday then held on for a 3-2 win when the Lakers came raging back.

On Saturday, Mercyhurst took a commanding three-goal lead in the first period after Chris Bodo scored twice and Matthew Zay scored on a short-handed bid. That chased goalie Jayson Argue from the game in favor of backup Gabe Antoni. The Falcons responded by scoring with less than six seconds left in the frame, cutting the lead to 3-1 in the intermission.

In the second period, Mercyhurst’s Grant Gettinger took an interference penalty in eight seconds before the team took a too many men bench minor 40 seconds later. That gave Bentley an extended 5-on-3 power play, which they capitalized on. With Andrew Gladiuk scoring his second of the game, the Falcons clawed back within one goal in about 90 seconds. They tied the game at the five minute mark when Derek Bacon scored his third of the year.

With the game heading for overtime, Kyle Schmidt decided he wanted to head home sooner, scoring with 16 seconds left. Bentley left Erie, PA with a four point weekend and third place in the standings.

Bentley returns home on Friday to start a home-and-home with Holy Cross. They remain two points back of second place Canisius. Given their earlier loss to the Crusaders before Thanksgiving and knowing the strength and intensity of that rivalry, this weekend’s games will be can’t miss in the east.

Starting To Look Like A Champ

Robert Morris has been riding the high of being a defending champion all season. They haven’t missed a beat, and they’ve been the first place team from the get-go. This weekend, in a huge trip out west to take on Air Force, they had a chance to reassert themselves of that top slot against a team getting on its customary second half run.

Responding with a four point weekend, including an overtime win, the Colonials showed their guts. After opening the year pistol hot, they slid four of seven games in the middle of the year. But they’ve now won six in a row and have an eight point lead over second place Canisius. They’re now within a single game of clinching a first round bye. If they can beat Canisius on Friday, they’ll clinch at least fifth. Sweep or have RIT lose two points at any point, and they’re hosting a second round series.

The only bad news for the Colonials this weekend is that the winter storm bearing down on the east coast forced a cancellation in their flight home, so head coach Derek Schooley and his team were forced to remain in the mountains a little bit longer:

 

 

Let’s Get Weird

Five points separate third place from seventh in the standings. Giving you an idea of what’s up for grabs, that’s two second round home series, a first round bye with a road series, and two first round home series. Two points back of that mess is the last home first round slot with Sacred Heart. With RMU all but sealing up a first round bye at this point, one less spot is open for someone.

Next weekend, third place Bentley plays Holy Cross, one of two teams tied for fourth. Mercyhurst, the other fourth place team, plays American International. Air Force, tied with RIT for sixth, plays eighth place Sacred Heart in a big series for them to try and bounce back during. RIT plays Niagara a weekend after losing to Army – the same Army team that is now only four points back of the last home first round series.

Points are at a premium, as every coach has said. Up to nine teams could end this upcoming weekend in a place in the standings different from where they started it. The only things for sure are that nobody can catch Robert Morris, and even with a sweep, Niagara cannot catch AIC, who they sit five points behind.