Mass. College Hockey: Canisius Defeats Bentley In AHA Playoffs

By NoontimeSports.com 

Courtesy of the Bentley University sports information department, here’s this evening’s release from the men’s ice hockey teams second Atlantic Hockey Association playoff game. The Falcons season concluded with a 2-1 setback. Here’s the recap:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Canisius College’s Cody Freeman scored both of his team’s goals, and junior goalie Tony Capobianco made 35 saves as the Golden Griffins eliminated Bentley University from the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Saturday night with a 2-1 victory in game two to sweep the first round series.

Bentley fell behind 2-0 after two second period goals by Freeman, but got to within 2-1 with 4:40 remaining in the game on a goal by senior Dan Koudys (Grimsby, Ontario/Burlington Cougars). However, the Falcons could not find the equalizer as Canisius hung on to advance to next weekend’s quarterfinals.

Just like in game one, the first period of game two was scoreless. The shots were even at 9-9 and both teams had power play opportunities, but came away empty-handed as Canisius went 0-3 and Bentley 0-2.

Both goalies, Bentley’s Branden Komm (Williamsville, N.Y./Northfield Mount Hermon) and Capobianco, were locked in a scoreless draw until the final five-plus minutes of the second period. That changed when Freeman gave his team a 1-0 lead at the 14:36 mark. The goal was setup by junior Kyle Gibbons, who had two assists on the night, after he skated into the offensive zone with a step on his defender. Gibbons continued to skate in on net and had his shot denied by Komm. But the rebound came loose to Freeman, who crashed the net on the far post and knocked the puck in for the goal.

Late in the period Bentley appeared to have tied the game at one when junior Alex Kubiak (Tinley Park, Ill./Chicago Steel) tipped in a shot from defenseman Michael Reardon (Norwood, Mass./South Shore Kings) in front of the net, only to have the goal waved off for playing the puck with a high-stick.

Canisius took advantage just seconds later and scored a big goal to go up 2-0 at 19:01 off the stick off Freeman for his second of the night. After a face-off win by Canisius’ Patrick Sullivan in the offensive zone, they played the puck d-to-d on the blue line. The puck found its way to Freeman in the slot, who beat Komm with a shot to the stick side.

Still trailing 2-0 with under seven minutes remaining in the third period, Bentley went on the power play desperately needing a goal. They didn’t score on the man-advantage, but just four seconds after the power play ended, Koudys put in Bentley’s first goal of the series at 15:20 to cut the deficit to 2-1. Freshman Andrew Gladiuk (White Rock, B.C./Nanaimo Clippers) and junior Jared Rickord (Skokie, Ill./Springfield Jr. Blues) had the assists.

Bentley’s efforts to score the tying goal were then hampered by a questionable charging call that left them shorthanded until there was 1:17 remaining in the game. They were able to kill off the penalty but were left with little time. Komm was pulled for the extra-attacker with 54 seconds to go, but they came up empty.

Canisius improves to 15-18-5 on the season and will play second-seeded Air Force in the quarterfinals. Bentley’s season comes to an end at 12-20-3.

Mass. College Hockey: Weekend Schedule

By NoontimeSports.com

Mother Nature won’t stop an important weekend of college hockey conference and tournament games, and below are the local squads schedules.

Atlantic Hockey Association Men’s First Round: 

* American International at RIT (Friday/Saturday, 7:05 p.m. // Sunday (if necessary) 7:05 p.m.

* Bentley University at Canisius (Friday/Saturday, 7:05 p.m. // Sunday (if necessary) 7:05 p.m.

ECAC Men’s First-Round: 

* Harvard at Dartmouth (Friday & Saturday, 7:00 p.m. // Sunday (if necessary) 5:00 p.m.)

ECAC Women’s Semifinals: 

* Harvard vs. Clarkson @ Ithaca, New York (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.)  — Winner advances to Sunday’s conference championship, which will be played at 1:00 p.m.

Hockey East – Men’s Regular Season:

* Providence College vs. UMass Lowell (Friday @ Lowell, 7:00 p.m.// Saturday @ Providence, 7:00 p.m.)

* Boston College at Vermont (Friday, 7:05 p.m.// Saturday, 7:05 p.m.)

* Boston University vs. Northeastern University (Friday @ Northeastern, 7:30 p.m.// Saturday @ BU, 7:00 p.m.)

* Merrimack College vs. UMass (Friday @ Merrimack, 7:30 p.m.// Saturday @ UMass, 7:00 p.m.)

Hockey East – Women’s Semifinals/Finals: 

* Boston University vs. Providence College (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. @ Hyannis Youth and Community Center)

* Boston College vs. NortheasternUniversity (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. @ Hyannis Youth and Community Center

* CONFERENCE FINALS: BU-PC vs. BC-NU (Sunday, 1:oo p.m. @ Hyannis Youth and Community Center)

NCAA Division III Men’s Quarterfinals:

* Babson College at Norwich University (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)

Mass. College Hockey: Talking Bentley Hockey With Dan Rubin (Excalibur Sports)

Logo courtesy of Excalibur Sports

Logo courtesy of Excalibur Sports

By NoontimeSports.com 

In honor of Bentley University’s men’s ice hockey team’s first round Atlantic Hockey Association playoff series, which starts tomorrow against Canisius College, we thought we’d check in with the team’s play-by-play announcer Dan Rubin, who provided some insight on the team, as well as their chances this weekend.

Make sure to follow Rubin for updates on the team this weekend on Twitter (@DanRubin12) and visit his sports blog Excalibur Sports, too.

Noontime Sports: You’ve been the voice of the Bentley Falcons men’s ice hockey team for the past few seasons. What’s been one of your fondest memories in the booth? Also, what do you enjoy most about calling games?

Dan Rubin: This is a great brand of hockey and I’m right in the middle of it. The hockey is up-tempo, fast, and skilled. There’s a good amount of hitting, a good amount of chirping, and the teams really play each other hard every single night and it’s just as entertaining as any other league. Their rink is small, but reflects something grittier about the game. I’ve been able to immerse in the whole experience from setting up equipment to interacting with players, coaches, and fans, too.

In terms of my fondest memories, though, it would have to be the games that I broadcasted with others. Rory Duyon and I developed great chemistry over the last four or five years that is really hard to find in a ‘broadcast team,’ and the back and fourth banter is something I miss. We really balanced each other out on the air, and people still ask me about when will we broadcasting again, but this year I’ve worked with a new partner, Steve Brouillard, who brought a wealth of knowledge and identical humor and banter to the air. After a long workday it’s the perfect release to call a game that I genuinely love with someone who can have fun with me.

NS: What particular games or moments from this year stick out to you most? How have those games/moments defined the Falcons season?

DR: There are a couple of games that really stuck out. The first game of the year against Sacred Heart was an extremely emotional night for all the right reasons. After a successful 2011-12 campaign, Bentley commenced their season by honoring Mike Eden, who was a teenager from Framingham that suffered from a certain form of cancer. He was tied to the Bentley team through Team IMPACT, which is a local organization that links children with illness with collegiate sports teams. Mike passed away after their previous season, and the team had his family on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop. They displayed ‘EDEN’ nameplates on their sweaters prior to their 7-1 victory. That was just one of those nights that felt so different and special, but it certainly gave the impression that this season could be different.

The second game would be earlier this winter in January against Northeastern University. It was a really intense game and Bentley beat the Huskies, 6-3. They shut down Kevin Roy for most of the game, too, but this game proved that Bentley could hang with skilled Hockey East teams.

NS: What player or players have improved from last season?  

DR: I’d say Brett Gensler, who won the conference’s scoring title for the second consecutive year. He’s the first guy in Bentley’s history to post back-to-back 40-point seasons, which hadn’t happened since the team’s coach Ryan Soderquist did it during the club’s Division II era. When Gensler’s on he’s probably one of the six or seven best forwards in the nation. But the guy that’s really standing out to me is Steve Weinstein. The defensive unit was completely ravaged by graduation departures and Weinstein stepped into the top defender’s role. He can play a great two-way style and he’s got major skills. This year he added a little bit of physicality to his game while still recording 25 points (six goals, 19 assists). The entire defensive unit has continually been a work-in-progress, but he’s the centerpiece, as well as the only sophomore, so to think what might happen with him over the next two years has me really excited.

Some other players include Alex Grieve, who posted a 30-point season with seven power play goals and Brett Switzer, who recorded 20 points after struggling to score in the first half of the year. Grieve is destined to wear a letter on his jersey based off his attitude, but when you add the skill of Switzer and guys like Justin Breton and Andrew Gladiuk, this is a team that can make things happen. Gladiuk, who won the freshman scoring title, should also win Rookie of the Year, too.

NS: Looking ahead to this weekend’s first round series, what are three things Bentley needs to do to win their series?

DR: First, they need to forget how the regular season ended. The team lost some of their key players to injuries down the stretch and couldn’t recover. And after beating Holy Cross in the front end of a home-and-home series, they limped down the stretch with only one win. They left points on the board despite rallying against Sacred Heart two weeks ago for a 6-6 tie, and against AIC they led 3-1, but would up losing in overtime, 4-3.

The second thing they need to do is commit to playing two-way hockey. This team proved that when they’re clicking nobody can stop their offense. They never won a game this year where they didn’t score three goals, so they have to commit themselves to that physical defensive style. They have to get ‘nasty’ in the playoffs and play a Bentley-style game. That means sacrificing into the dirty areas, sacrificing to block shots, and relishing the roles of picking up defensive assignments. Branden Komm has game-breaking ability in net, and he’s a returning all-conference goalie, but that doesn’t mean the defense can simply rely on him to win tournament contests.

Finally, they’ll have to capitalize on power plays. At one time, the power play unit was ranked first in the nation, but they recently fell to 27th, so if they’re going to get those opportunities they must convert. If they convert even on one out of every four chances, they should get a couple of extra goals over the weekend and be in a position to move onto the second round.

NS: What types of challenges does Canisius pose and how will Bentley defend them?

DR: Canisius is a good defensive team that doesn’t make mistakes. They’re a Top-20 defensive unit that kills power plays at a 90% rate. Bentley scored seven goals against that unit earlier this year, but that has to be considered an anomaly for a team that pitched shutouts against Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Niagara. Their goaltending has a ‘rock’ in Tony Capobianco, which means their offense is going to need to limit mistakes. Bentley’s going to have to use skill and speed and work their system to get quality breakouts into the Griffin third of the ice. The rink at Canisius has the same dimensions as the rink at home, but the ice will be a little bit faster with a little bit larger neutral zone, which will allow the team to get those wingers set up and get them broken out faster for odd-man rushes.

NS: Who is one or two players that’ll need to step up this weekend for Bentley?

DR: A team really hates to rely on freshmen, but one name that will play a huge role this weekend is Matt Blomquist. Blomquist and Weinstein emerged as a great defensive pairing before the first-year suffered an injury against Niagara, but he’ll return to the lineup this weekend, which means the defense can stabilize its pairings. That also means that Matt Maher won’t have to skate on the top unit and it’ll allow flexibility to push Michael Reardon to a fourth-line forward’s role if necessary. Blomquist’s return provides Bentley with a lockdown defensive pairing that seemed to energize their second unit. It might also allow Soderquist the opportunity to pair Zach Ledford and Zach Marginsky together again, which gives them a decent top four.

Another player to watch is Andrew Gladiuk, who was sidelined the last couple of games with an injury and like Blomquist, he could’ve skated against AIC last weekend, but was held out for the playoffs. Gladiuk was a dynamo in the British Columbia Hockey League and has experienced a great deal of success as a top line skaters for Bentley. Gladiuk’s return allows Soderquist the opportunity to create some interesting pairings and get the special teams cranking, too.

NS: Last season, they won their first round series, but fell in the quarterfinals. What do you think Bentley learned from that experience and how will it help them this weekend?

DR: Last season hurt and I know the guys left RIT feeling like they could’ve won that series, especially after they creamed the Tigers in the first game and rallied to force double overtime in the second. Last year’s pain is something that drove the Falcons this year, but things fell apart down the stretch and they lost the advantage of playing at home. But at the same time they were three points away from home ice, and they’ve beaten everyone in front of them at least once except for Air Force. Bentley can fight with these teams and will head into the playoffs with some big game experience under their belts.

NS: What’s your prediction for this first round series? Who wins and why?

DR: If Bentley doesn’t find their mojo that they had for most of this season, they could be in trouble. They’re playing a Canisius team that just swept RIT and this is a battle-hardened unit that’s had to play in the Western Division of the AHA, a schedule structure with more games against tougher teams. Bentley is getting back a full complement of skaters for the first time since they split with Holy Cross in late January, so if they can rediscover their magic, they’ll win in three.

NS: Finally, what’s one thing you’ll remember most about this season?

DR: Well, I’m excited for next year because the coaching staff has been phenomenal in opening the doors of the program to my work and to me personally. The guys on the team are a great group that come from excellent families. I’ve always said for people to come by the press box and stop by to say, ‘hello,’ and they’ve responded, but I’m very fortunate to have worked with a great group of young men and experience the highs and lows with them. The students have turned out in droves for games this year and their enthusiasm for the game is great. I always say that because of the people I’m a Bentley guy. However, I never took a single class on campus, but that doesn’t stop me from being a Bentley Falcon for life. They’ve really opened up and welcomed me in and each year brings the same excitement to me personally for every game. That said, we still got some hockey left, and I’m really hoping on a personal level to see these guys play one more time up in Rochester at Blue Cross Arena for the conference final four.

Frozen Four Preview: Eastern Region

By Dan Rubin

Continuing with our coverage of the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament, we take a look today at the East Regional.  Click here to see our review of the four teams of the Midwest.  The Midwest regional games, not mentioned yesterday, are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday from the Resch Center in Green Bay.

The East Regional games are slated for Friday and Saturday from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. Although I’m very critical of this year’s tournament, the NCAA got this region right.  It’s both competitive and compelling.  There expects to be two to three great storylines emerging from each of these four teams in the buildup, and the matchups are perfect.  Despite my criticisms of the three other regionals (see also: my scathing opinion of RPI), I believe this regional is perfect.  Every team has a great chance at winning, and the games all have instant classic potential.

#1 Yale Bulldogs

How They Got Here: ECAC Champions, [27-6-1] overall records

Why They’ll Win The Regional: They have the top ranked offense and top ranked defense in the nation.  They allowed an average of two goals per game and scored over four goals per game.  They won games by an average of 2.29, which is a full half of a goal per game more than North Dakota.  The Bulldogs have seven double-digit goal scorers, including four with 15 or more.  Denny Kearney, Chris Cahill, Broc Little, and Brian O’Neill combined for an offensive barrage that included 10 game winning goals and 24 powerplay goals.  They scored on almost a quarter of their power plays.  But the real reason why they’ll win isn’t their explosive offense, which can outscore everybody, but it’s their defense, which is drastically better.  They allowed an average of two goals a game, which is best in the league, and Ryan Rondeau is a vast improvement over Billy Blais a year ago.  Rondeau is averaging fewer than two goals allowed per game.  He registered six shutouts on the year, but three of them were in the last three games of the ECAC tournament.  After a 50-year absence from the big dance, Yale is back for their third consecutive trip.  In 2009, Vermont ousted them in the first round.  Last year, they nearly came back on Boston College in a wild 9-7 loss in the regional finals.  This year, going to the Frozen Four would cap the steady climb from a 5-25-2 season in 2004-2005, when they finished dead last in ECAC.  This season, they hold wins over Colorado College, Union, RPI, Team Russia, and a massive 10-3 crushing of Holy Cross. They’re very close to home, where they boasted a [12-1-1] record.

Why They’ll Lose the Regional: This region has the most parity out of any region in the tournament.  They draw Air Force in the first round, a team that beat the Elis back in November at Cadet Ice Arena.  The Falcons are the masters at keeping games close or coming back, and they’re the masters of one-goal games.  The one-goal game is the one place Yale struggled, going 3-5 in those affairs.  Should they advance past Air Force, they’ll draw either Union or Minnesota-Duluth.  Despite being the #1 overall seed in the national tournament, Yale wasn’t the #1 seed in the conference tournament – that was Union.  They split the season series with the Dutchmen, losing a one-goal game.  And Minnesota-Duluth is still Minnesota-Duluth by any stretch, even if they are a 3-seed.  Yale has alarming losses to Brown, RPI, and St. Lawrence in the regular season, and they lost Game 1 of their quarterfinal matchup against the Saints.

But the biggest question mark is Rondeau. He hasn’t really been tested, rarely having to go over the 30 save mark.  He hasn’t had to make 40 saves since a tie against last-place Colgate on February 25th, and his save totals since go: 18, 25, 29, 21, 22, and 22.  Those aren’t lights-out numbers.  And nobody can ignore the 8-save, 4-goal disaster at Houston Field House against RPI where he was yanked in the 2nd period.  He’ll be opposing the freshman sensation, Jason Torf in the first round, and he’ll be doing it against one of the most clutch offenses in the nation.

#2 Union Dutchmen

How They Got Here: At Large Bid, eliminated in ECAC Quarterfinals by Colgate; [26-9-4] overall record

Why They’ll Win: This is Union’s first NCAA tournament berth.  They’re playing relatively close to their home of Schenectady, NY. They won the ECAC regular season crown.  They have five double-digit goal scorers, including freshman Daniel Carr, who notched 20 goals, 12 of which were on the powerplay.  Sophomore Keith Kinkaid was stellar in net, going [25-9-3], stopping 92% of shots, and recording three shutouts.  They hold good, quality wins over Minnesota and Yale.  After New Year’s, they went [14-1-1], including a stretch of 12 games in a row where they didn’t lose (including Game 1 against Colgate).  Special teams-wise, this is the nation’s best powerplay unit.  They scored on 31.1% of their PP attempts, which is a full 6% better than the 2nd place Miami Redhawks.  Their defense was also rock solid, just 0.1 goals per game out of the top slot in all of the NCAA (behind only Yale).  If they get past Duluth, they can provide massive headaches for Yale or Air Force.  The only thing that works against them numerically is that Yale’s offense is almost a full goal better per game, and Air Force doesn’t go to the penalty box.  This is a team designed for postseason play – they went [23-4-4] when leading or tied after two periods, and they went [10-4] in one-goal games.  They even went [14-3-1] when their opponent scored first.  That’s good stuff.

Why They’ll Lose: There is no winning tradition at Union.  Since the Skating Dutchmen joined Division I in 1991-1992 (they’ve since dropped the “Skating” moniker), they’ve had only eight .500 or better seasons, and four of those have been the past four seasons (including this year).  Their initial nonconference games read like this: Sacred Heart, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Niagara, RIT, UConn, RPI (who they played twice in conference games), AIC, Army.  Number of teams in the NCAA tournament: 1. Number of teams in the tournament that they wouldn’t play conference games against: 0.  After that slate, there are two losses against Western Michigan (who happen to be in the dance).  And then there’s the ECAC tournament.  They lost twice to Colgate, in a row, to eliminate themselves before the final four.  Kinkaid is also very similar to Rondeau – he didn’t have to make a lot of saves this year.  If not for a 34-save shutout of Princeton, he wouldn’t have saved 30 in any of his shutouts.  And that includes that mighty 9-save shutout of Cornell in early February.  Before that Princeton game, his last foray over 30 saves was December 5th, at…you guessed it: Yale.

#3 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs

How They Got Here: At Large Bid, Eliminated in WCHA Playoffs by Bemidji State, [22-10-6] overall record

Why They’ll Win: Their conference schedule made them tournament ready.  That WCHA is so brutal, and they beat pretty much everybody, including North Dakota.  After standing toe-to-toe in their conference, no team will be intimidated by Union or Yale.  Justin Fontaine and Mike Connolly combined for 46 goals, and Jack Connolly served 39 assists.  Travis Oleksuk has 7 game-winning goals.  And Kenny Reiter is solid, even if he’s facing the same dilemma in save totals as the previous goalies mentioned.  He stopped 37 in the triple-OT winner over St. Cloud State in the WCHA tournament.  Can’t blame him if he was a little winded in the loss to Bemidji five days later.

Why They’ll Lose: Duluth, for all their recognition, and all of their tradition, hasn’t been to a Frozen Four since 2009.  And the nonconference schedule isn’t overwhelming.  They beat Providence pretty handily, but it was at home, and the Friars were a Hockey East basement team.  They beat Clarkson on the road as well, but that pretty much does it for notable some mysterious behavior, which is not good stuff. They got in because they did well enough in conference.  Don’t get me wrong – that’s still pretty impressive, but the style of play outside the WCHA is different.  I’m curious how they’ll do if Union gets a lead and immediately goes into clutch-and-grab hockey.  After all, this Duluth team went [1-6-1] when trailing after two periods.  They went [15-1-3] when winning after two, so the first two periods are key.

#4 Air Force Falcons

How They Got Here: Atlantic Hockey Association Champions, [20-11-6] overall record

Why They’ll Win: Get your Maalox ready.  The Cardiac Cadets went [12-5] in one-goal games.  They went [8-3-0] when tied after two periods.  They averaged a hair over 3.5 goals per game.  And they’re the least penalized team in the NCAA – with less than 10 minutes per game.  Jacques Lamoureux had 24-20—44 totals this year, including five game winners and 13 powerplay goals.  Derrick Burnett dished out 27 assists, and Kyle De Laurell had 23 assists along with 10 goals.  Jason Fabian is a pretty dangerous freshman with 10-11—21 totals.  And there’s Torf.  Torf averaged just fewer than three goals a game in net, but he saved 30-plus in 11 games this year.  Air Force beat Yale behind 34 stops, and he stopped 39 in a losing effort against Denver.  After a year away from the dance, Air Force regained their mantle with a 1-0 win over last year’s Frozen Four surprise, RIT, in the conference title.  This is their fourth title in five years since joining Atlantic Hockey, and each time it’s been a two goals or less win.  In 2009, they beat Michigan, 2-0 before losing in double-OT to Vermont with the Frozen Four on the line.  This is the most dangerous 4-seed you’ll see without a home-ice advantage (that’s right, I’m looking at you, UNH), and Yale better remember the loss because this time, there’s more at stake.  A school located in Colorado and playing conference games on the east coast isn’t going to be fazed by the travel, either.  Not when they already played in this arena against Sacred Heart.

Why They’ll Lose: If AHA didn’t get an automatic bid, Air Force wouldn’t be here.  Then again, neither would any other team from the conference.  They ranked 22nd in the final mathematical ratings used to determine the bids for the NCAAs.   They also play in a conference that boasts some of the worst teams in D1 – Sacred Heart, AIC, Army, and Bentley were the bottom four, a far cry from the Providences and Bemidji States of the world.  Every AHA team is an enigma going into the national tournament, but Air Force provides just enough firepower (no pun intended, especially with recent international current events) to hang with the big boys.  They’re a just good enough team to play with a just beatable enough Yale team.  If it gets into a footrace, they have some of the talent to hang.  They just don’t have all of the talent to hang.

Tune in tomorrow when I try my hardest to make sense of what the mathematics did to Miami in my Northeast Regional preview. It’ll be some good, quality ranting, I promise you that…

Down The Stretch They Come: Atlantic Hockey Edition

By Dan Rubin

Since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference reorganized into the Atlantic Hockey Association in 2003, it has long been considered the doormat of Division I collegiate hockey.  All that changed in the 2010 NCAA tournament, when the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers shocked the institutional landscape with a run to the Frozen Four. This year, RIT is back, leading the charge of a conference still vying for respect amongst its peers.

There will be a new playoff format for the 2011 season with the additions of Niagara University and Robert Morris University to the fold.  Following the collapse of College Hockey America’s men’s conference, the AHA expanded to 12 teams and, as such, adapted its postseason schedule.  The league split into two “scheduling pods,” with the Purple Eagles and Colonials joining RIT, Canisius, Mercyhurst, and Air Force in the western division. Connecticut, Army, and Sacred Heart joined Massachusetts schools Holy Cross, American International, and Bentley to form the eastern division.  Under new scheduling formats, teams played opponents in their own pod three times and opponents in the other pod twice.

When the dust settles on the season, the top two teams in each pod garner first round byes.  The remaining four teams then play off in single-elimination formats at campus sites.  The winners all advance to a reseeded second round, best-of-three series with all games held at higher-seeded campus sites.  The final four then converges on the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY for single-elimination semifinal and finals games, with the conference tournament winner earning an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

Under this format and under the current standings, RIT clinched the top spot in the conference, first place in the west, a first round bye, and a second round series with the lowest remaining seeded team.  That’s all that’s been settled, and we’ll take a look at the local teams and their playoff outlook as the league heads into its final weekend.

Holy Cross: [14-14-4, 13-8-4 in AHA] has the easiest road of the Massachusetts schools, having clinched the top seed in the east and currently sitting tied for 3rd place with 30 points.  The Crusaders are also one point back of second-place Robert Morris and will host a second round series when the playoffs reseed.  This weekend, they’ll take on eastern-division rival Bentley with the chance to overtake both the Colonials and Air Force.  In order to clinch that second seed, the Crusaders will need to win both against the Falcons.  RMU plays Air Force in Pittsburgh, so the ideal situation is a weekend split in that series.  Holy Cross would still need to sweep the weekend, since they do not hold tie breakers over either Robert Morris or Air Force.  My prediction is that Holy Cross finishes the season in 4th place, still earning a first round bye and 2nd round series at the Hart Center in Worcester, MA.

Holy Cross’s opponent mentioned above is the enigmatic Bentley University squad.  The Falcons have been very much an up-and-down team, and they’ve split games in each of the last three weekends.  But Bentley [10-16-5, 9-12-4 AHA] enters the final weekend of the season with a chance at a first round bye thanks to the scheduling format.  Although they’re ensured of a second round series on the road, they ninth-place Falcons have at least clinched a first round series at home while being able to finish no worse than tenth.  Bentley will have a close eye on the UConn-AIC series, sitting two points behind the Huskies for the eastern division bye.  Bentley won the season series against UConn, so they’ll need at least one win over Holy Cross to have a chance at the bye.  With a weekend split of the home-and-home, (Bentley’s home on Saturday), the Falcons would require the 11th-place AIC Yellow Jackets to sweep the Huskies in their own home-and-home.  A UConn win requires Bentley to sweep the weekend, and a UConn win coupled with a Bentley loss eliminates the Falcons from bye contention.  I’m predicting a weekend split against Holy Cross, a team Bentley beat earlier this year on the road.  Bentley will not, however, gain a first round bye and will be home for the single-elimination round.

As a secondary standings hunt, Bentley also sits one point behind 8th place Canisius in the overall standings.  The Golden Griffins play rival Mercyhurst, and the Falcons can pass them with at least a win and a Laker sweep.  I think this is more plausible, and Bentley will finish 8th overall in the standings.

American International: [7-20-1, 7-17-1 AHA] has the least confusing road to the playoffs.  AIC is on the road for the first round, since they’re at least five points back of everybody not named Sacred Heart.  The Yellow Jackets have a one point lead for 11th place over the bottom-dweller Pioneers.  A tie in one of their games against UConn clinches 11th place and a date with whoever finishes third in the east.  The only scenario where AIC doesn’t finish 12th is if they get swept by UConn and Sacred Heart wins one against Army.  I don’t know how those are going to play out, but in the interest of realism, AIC finishes 11th.

Now that my head hurts from crunching all these numbers, we’ll do it again tomorrow with a look at the local flavor of ECAC Hockey.  We’ll also be back at the end of the week with predictions and a look at the games themselves, which should explain the methods behind this madness.