Before I recap this weekend, let’s start with a few statements:
1) It’s always great to get something for nothing.
2) You can never have too much of a good thing.
3) This is the season of giving.
4) This was the last chance we would have to receive something from Atlantic Hockey teams before the Christmas break.
In hockey terms, we all know how great it is to watch a tightly-played and packed game go into overtime. You really can never have enough exciting finishes, and since this is the last time Atlantic Hockey teams had a chance to give us something before the season lets go, they really pulled out all of the stops.
It’s not just that two series went to overtime on both nights; it’s that both treated us to weekends full of discussion points to last us well into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
We start with Army West Point and American International. The Black Knights and Yellow Jackets traded three goals and two leads over a two minute stretch in the final five minutes of the third period. Trailing 2-1, Army West Point’s Nick DeCenzo scored his fourth of the year at 14:46 to tie things up, and Joe Kozlak scored to a minute later to give the Black Knights a 3-2 lead. But AIC rallied at 16:50 on Jackson Dudley’s fifth goal of the year to send the game into overtime.
With less than a minute left in the extra frame, Austin Orszulak took the only shot on goal in the entire overtime period. It went in, giving the Yellow Jackets a 4-3 victory.
On Saturday, Army jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, only to have the Yellow Jackets tie it up in the second. With under seven minutes left in the third, Clint Carlisle gave the Black Knights a 2-1 lead. That set up an extra attacker goal by Trevor Cope to send the teams, once again, to overtime, where Marc Dubeau scored with under two minutes remaining to give AIC the sweep.
It was AIC’s first weekend sweep since a Halloween visit to Niagara last season, and it was their first four point weekend at the Olympia Ice Center since they defeated Bentley on February 5-6, 2010.*
*The majority of scheduling pod weekends in the years since AHC’s expansion have seen them play home-and-home weekends instead of true home weekends.
“Holy” Moly! What a weekend…
The other series to send both games to overtime involved longtime rivals Holy Cross and Bentley. Playing for the only two times this season, a see-saw weekend produced back-to-back memorable nights.
After Scott Pooley found the back of the net to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead on Friday, Bentley found themselves holding on through the end of the period. With about under five minutes left on the clock, Bentley drew a five minute major on a delayed call against Chris Buchanan. Facing a swirling and swarming Crusader power play, the Falcons held on through the end of the period and through the end of the man down to start the third.
Four minutes later, it was Buchanan who found the back of the net, avenging his penalty by tying the game at 1-1.
On Saturday, it was another instant classic. Bentley outshot Holy Cross 29-17 through the first two periods but didn’t solve goalie Paul Berrafato until 1:45 remained. That’s when Billy Eiserman beat Berrafato to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
Then the Crusaders brought the wood in the third. They outshot the Falcons, 12-3, but it was an innocuous shot from Scott Pooley’s stick somewhere north of the faceoff circles that went by goalie Gabe Antoni to tie the game at 1-1.
In overtime, Holy Cross iced the puck, but the officiating staff chose to wave off the whistle. Bentley returned the favor but drew the call, bringing a faceoff to Antoni’s right. That’s where Mike Barrett scored his 10th goal of the season, giving the Crusaders a 2-1 victory. It was their only shot of the extra frame.
All in all, the teams combined for 64 shots on Friday with another 63 on Saturday, but both goaltenders (Berrafato for Holy Cross, Antoni for Bentley) stood on their heads. There were penalties, but neither team scored a power play goal. It was an emotional, physical, hard-fought weekend where everyone watching walked away wanting more.
Don’t Forget About Us!
Lost in the excitement of watching the eastern teams’ series, RIT and Niagara play a couple of fantastic hockey games in their own right. Scoreless through two periods in Friday’s game in Rochester, Dan Kolenda scored just under five minutes into the third. He added an empty net goal to give the Purple Eagles a 2-0 victory on Friday.
That led to Saturday. With Niagara up 2-1, Todd Skirving scored to tie the game with just under nine minutes remaining. On the play, Sam Rennaker delivered a crushing contact to the head penalty, resulting in a five minute major and his ejection from the game.
With Rennaker in the box, Erik Brown and Myles Powell added goals two minutes apart to put RIT up 4-2 by the end of the period, a score that would carry through to finality.
In total, the teams amassed 19 penalties for 49 minutes on Saturday, yet another emotional night in Atlantic Hockey, and hopefully, along with the rest of the weekend, a preview of coming attractions as the second half appears on the horizon in a couple of weeks.