The penultimate weekend of the regular season is in the rear view mirror now, and the road ahead is clearing.
The eleven Atlantic Hockey teams have formed around three clusters:
- Those with byes, now jockeying to avoid fifth place and the road quarterfinal series that comes with it.
- A gang of four teams looking to host one of three first-round series.
- A pair of squads trying to avoid finishing last.
Here’s a team-by-team breakdown:
- Robert Morris: The Colonials are the only team so far to clinch a top-four finish. They’ll get a first-round bye and host a quarterfinal series. RMU needs two points to win the regular season title. They can also clinch first with losses by Holy Cross, Air Force and RIT.
- Air Force, Holy Cross and RIT: Have a (very) outside chance to finish first, and can do no worse than fifth.
- Mercyhurst: Has also clinched a bye, but can’t finish first. Second through fifth are the possible outcomes.
- Canisius, Sacred Heart, Army and Bentley: Will end up between sixth and ninth.
- Niagara and AIC: Will finish in the bottom two slots and are traveling in the opening round of the playoffs.
A playoff atmosphere
This past weekend’s series between first-place Robert Morris and second-place Air Force lived up to its billing.
The teams took turns knocking each other around, with RMU jumping out to a 4-0 lead on Friday en route to a 7-4 victory. The Falcons turned the tables on Saturday, scoring three times in the the first period, including a pair of goals in the opening 1:04 of the contest, and coasted to a 4-1 win.
The split means each school got something out of the weekend: Robert Morris clinched a home quarterfinal series and Air Force guaranteed itself a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
And with the win on Saturday, Air Force joined Robert Morris as the only schools to record a victory against every other league opponent this season.
Consistency is key
Sacred Heart’s twin 4-3 wins against Canisius knocked the Golden Griffins out of contention for a bye, and ruined their streak of getting at least one point out of every weekend conference series to date.
It’s no surprise that the three teams that have been able to collect points every weekend so far are at the top of the standings: Robert Morris, Air Force and Holy Cross. None have been swept so far.
RMU finishes up with a home-and home series with Canisius, while Air Force travels to Niagara and Holy Cross travels to, and then hosts, Sacred Heart.