Last season for the Army Black Knights was a huge success compared to recent results as for the first time since winning the Atlantic Hockey regular season crown in 2007-08, the Black Knights finished with a winning record (18-14-5). Led by a program changing talent in net, Parker Gahagen, the Black Knights boasted the 3rd best team defense in the country allowing just 2.11 goals per game. Despite putting up a 2.00 goals against average (6th nationally) and a .934 save percentage (2nd nationally) Gahagen was still relegated to 2nd Team All-Conference which shows you the goaltending depth this league had last season.
The challenge this season for Army will be holding onto their place in the league standings, with Robert Morris and RIT set to improve behind them, all while losing a true leader in net. Was Gahagen a product of an excellent system that can translate to a new starter in net or is Army set to tumble down the Atlantic Hockey leader board? This is the biggest question for the Black Knights heading into the new season.
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Robert Morris has been the ideal of consistency since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2010-11. After no winning seasons in the now-defunct College Hockey America, the Colonials worst record in seven seasons of play in the AHA has been 17-17-5. However, for as consistent as the Colonials have been in the regular season, including back to back regular season titles in 2014-16, they have made the NCAA tournament just once in 2013-14.
Derek Schooley, the only coach in program history, will return for his 14th season at the helm looking to match regular season success with postseason satisfaction. The Colonials will once again be a top pick to finish in the top four of the league and will be searching to find a way to win in the single elimination portion of the league playoffs. With many important pieces back for the Colonials and question marks ahead of them in the standings this may just be the year for Schooley and company to make it back to the big tournament.
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We have now reached the top five in our preview series of Atlantic Hockey, starting today with last season’s 5th place finisher the Holy Cross Crusaders. If you broke down last season in tiers for league points there would approximately four tiers: Niagara at the bottom by itself with 8 points, AIC through Holy Cross which were separated by just 8 points (21-29), Robert Morris and Army tied with 33 points and finally Air Force (41 points) and Canisius (42 points) making the top tier.
Holy Cross led the 3rd tier in the league, finishing 3 points ahead of sixth place RIT. However, as discussed yesterday RIT has the look of a team ready to move up the league standings so Holy Cross must find a way to elevate their play to either move up themselves or even hold onto that ledge at 5th place which earns a 1st round playoff bye. The good news for Crusaders’ fans is that, judging by the metrics used here during our team preview series, Holy Cross is set up well to make a move with RIT into the next tier of teams.
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2017-18 was a step backwards for the RIT Tigers, who after back-to-back Atlantic Hockey Playoff Championship victories, found themselves missing the NCAA Tournament. It got worse for RIT who found themselves upset in the first round of the league playoffs by Niagara, ending the Tigers’ season much earlier than fans in Rochester, New York are used to. The Tigers returned 19 players from their 2015-16 squad and were picked to finish 1st by USCHO and 2nd by College Hockey News in preseason league rankings. This year the Tigers will look to bounce back to their normal place in the league standings battling for the top crown.
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Each Wednesday we look to highlight commitments made across college hockey. I will try to predict when a player will arrive on campus but as we all know that can be flexible in NCAA Hockey. Check below to review the commitments made since July 19.
Continue reading “Wednesday Commit Roundup: July 26, 2017”
This year marks the 30th year for coach Rick Gotkin behind the bench for the Mercyhurst Lakers. Gotkin has guided the program since 1988-89, saw it move to Division II in 1992-92 and then Division I in 2000-01 leading the program to the NCAA tournament in Division I 3 times. The Lakers have only one of those NCAA berths since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2004-05. However, since that season the Lakers have won less than 15 games just once, finding themselves as a consistently middle of the pack program in Atlantic Hockey. This season with their 6 top scorers back from last season the fans in Erie, Pennsylvania will be hoping the Lakers have what it takes to be in position to make a run at the Atlantic Hockey Playoff Championship and an NCAA auto-bid.
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The Bentley Falcons continued a three year trend in 2016-17, seeing their win total slip lower than the previous season. After winning a program best 19 wins under current head coach Ryan Soderquist in 2013-14; the Falcons have followed that up with win totals of 17, 14 and 13 in the subsequent seasons. The Falcons who have been a program since 1977 (and Division I since 1999-2000) are still seeking their first ever NCAA tournament appearance in any division. With nine of the top ten scorers from last season returning for the Falcons, improvement is very possible but it would be very unlikely to see the Falcons reach their first tournament this year.
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