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A rare set of sweeps

Weekend sweeps have been hard to come by in Atlantic Hockey, as evidenced by the logjam in the standings.

“Sweep and you move up; get swept and you move down,” said Rochester Institute of Technology coach Wayne Wilson. “Split and it’s the status quo.”

This weekend saw three teams manage the feat of taking all four points:

  • Robert Morris swept Bentley 5-1 and 5-0 to move back into first place.
  • Air Force got all four points from American International to move up from a tie for sixth place to a tie for fourth.
  • Mercyhurst also moved from sixth to fourth by virtue of a pair of 3-2 wins over Niagara.

Sacred Heart took three points from Army, leaving just one split: Canisius and RIT each came out of their weekend series with two points, allowing the Tigers to maintain their hold on third place, while the Golden Griffins fell one spot in the standings, from sixth to seventh.

“As long as everybody else is splitting, you’re fine,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith said after the game on Saturday. “We got points every weekend, but we haven’t had a sweep yet. I think that’s why we’re in the middle of the pack with everybody else. I think every team in the middle is looking at that and saying, ‘Hey we can still move up,’ and I know that’s how we feel.”

Outshot but not outgunned

Shots on goal are often a good indicator on how well a team is playing. Generating a lot of offense, and keeping your opponent’s shot total low usually means there’s a good chance to come out on top.

Not always.

Other than Air Force, which dominated AIC both on the scoreboard and the shot counter, it was hard to predict the winner of games based on the number of shots on goal.

Six of the other eight league contests were won by the team with the lower number of shots. The most glaring disparity was in the Niagara-Mercyhurst series that saw the Purple Eagles handily outshoot Mercyhurst in both contests: 35-18 on Friday and 43-26 on Saturday.

The Lakers took both games, 3-2.

“This loss is a really tough one to handle,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder after Friday’s contest. “We dominated the shot totals and tilted the ice in our favor most of the night. We give up just 18 shots and lose. We hope our guys stay with the process, because that was a pretty good effort.”

Saturday was more of the same.

“We’re not scoring, we’re squeezing the sticks, but we’ve got to keep telling these guys that 88 shot attempts and 43 shots on goal is enough to win a game,” said Burkholder after the game. “That’s a factor, no question.”

Twice as nice

One of the keys to the success of Robert Morris in recent seasons has been the play of goaltending tandem Terry Shafer and Dalton Izyk. For all of last season and most of this one, they have alternated turns in net. Diverging from that plan often hasn’t worked out.

But Shafer played both games against Bentley this past weekend, allowing just one goal on 76 shots. That included Shafer’s seventh career shutout on Saturday, a new school record.

It’s an interesting development as the Colonials head to Holy Cross next weekend for a highly anticipated showdown with the Crusaders.