The Atlantic Hockey league is ready to drop the puck for the 2020-21 season.
As announced earlier today, the 11-team conference which includes four teams from New England will return to the ice for its initial weekend of the 2020-21 season on Friday, November 13, and Saturday, November 14. Each team will compete in 24 contests – it is possible some member could skate 28 times this winter – while all 11 squads will be admitted into the Atlantic Hockey Tournament.
The 2021 Atlantic Hockey championship will return to Buffalo’s LECOM HarborCenter, which is the home rink for Canisius College.
“First off, I’m extremely excited to be announcing we have an approved league schedule for the 2020-21 season,” Atlantic Hockey Commissioner Robert DeGregorio said in a statement regarding the league’s return-to-play announcement. “It’s been a long process, and involved quite a bit of discussion, but it’s a testament to all those involved that we have managed to get Atlantic Hockey on the ice in 2020-21.”
To alleviate the spread of the ongoing coronavirus, the league will seperate its teams into an eastern and western pod. Three Massachusetts teams – Bentley University, Holy Cross, and American International College (AIC) – will compete in the eastern pod, along with Army and Sacred Heart University. Every team in each pod will play five games against each other, along with a pair of games against Air Force and Long Island University (LIU).
While today’s announcement certainly excited many within the college hockey world, Atlantic Hockey did state in today’s release that they are “still working to finalize return-to-play protocols for the season” and a schedule, including non-conference games, will be announced at a later date.
“We put this schedule together to maximize the student-athlete experience during such uncertain times” said DeGregorio. “We found a way to schedule up to 28 games while maintaining a focus on the health and safety of all parties by reducing travel times and overnight trips as much as we could.”
Prior to the 2019-20 season being cut short due to the ongoing pandemic, the Yellow Jackets of AIC were in first place with a 21-12-1 overall record, including a 21-6-1 conference mark.
Kelley, who is an alum of the program, coached the Rams for 13 seasons. He guided Framingham State to five NCAA Tournaments and four bowl victories, including a 3016 New England Bowl championship.
“I cannot express how grateful I am to have been the head coach of the football program at Framingham State for the past 13 seasons,” Kelley said via Wednesday’s announcement on the Framingham State athletics website.
“As a former player, I could not be more proud of our teams and all the fine student-athletes who have come through the program. I was lucky to be surrounded by great coaches on our staff throughout the years that helped lead our teams to so much success.
“At this point, it is time for me to step away from coaching with the program sitting in a great spot coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. It’s time to put the horse in the barn.”
Framingham State won 107 games under the direction of Kelley, including 100 games in the last 13 seasons. Kelley has coached two AFCA All-Americans while being named the coach of the year eight times by five different organizations, including the New England Football Writers in 2012 when he led the Rams to a New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship, NEFC Bogan Division title, a MASCAC crown, and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Kelley will remain in his current role as the school’s Director of Athletics while an announcement of a new coach should be coming within the next few weeks.
Endicott College’s Nick DiCairano will represent the Gulls in The Dream Bowl on Monday, January 21dt, 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nick Grace)
DiCairano will compete on the 2020 Crusaders team – he will be joined by a few other New England college football players, including Framingham State’s Dwayne Hunter-Parker.
Last month, DiCairano represented Endicott in the National Bowl College All-Star Game after producing an impressive senior season with the Gulls, which included career-bests in field goals (13), extra points made (57) and points (96). His longest field goal of the 2019 season was a 47-yard kick, which he recorded three times against Framingham State, Curry College, and Salve Regina University.
Fourth ranked Harvard University rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the second period to defeat Boston College – number on in the latest NCAA NC Women’s Hockey RPI poll – by a score of 3-2 on Tuesday evening in the 2015 Boston Beanpot Championship.
With the win, Harvard claims its 14th Beanpot crown and improves to 16-8 all-time against the Eagles in tournament play.
Karly Heffernan and Miye D’Oench each lit the lamp at 9:39 and 11:54, respectively, during the second period, which helped the Crimson claim their only lead of the contest.
The Eagles and Crimson swapped goals throughout the opening period before Boston College pushed ahead with a Haley Skarupa goal – her 25th of the season – at 8:18 in the second period. Harvard countered with Heffernan – her sixth goal of the season – before D’Oench deposited her 14th marker of the season.
Harvard’s goalie, Emerance Maschmeyer, turned away 30 of 32 shots and was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Katie Burt – the Eagles’ netminder – deflected 14 of 17 shots in a span of 59:33.
The Crimson’s last Beanpot victory occurred during the 2010 campaign when Harvard edged Northeastern University, 1-0.
Boston University defeated Northeastern in the consolation match, 3-1. BU’s Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice, while Hayley Masters netted the Huskies’ lone goal in the second period.
Stonehill College’s Chris Tasiopoulos recorded a career-high 48 saves against Saint Anselm as the Skyhawks and Hawks skated to a 1-1 tie. Garrett White netted his 10th goal of the season, which was set up by Kevin Aufiero and Scott Rolph.
Saint Anselm tied the game with a Sean Jenkins goal at 18:10 in the third period, but neither team was able to locate the back of the net during the extra stanza.
Jay Dalton recorded one goal and one assist as the Westfield State Owls defeated Worcester State, 3-2. Dalton netted the go-ahead goal at 17:27 in the third, which secured the win for the visitors.
Alex Dewitz and Andrew Bates each netted one goal for the Lancers, while goaltender Tyler Fallica turned away 21 of 24 shots.
Perry McCarthy and Eliza Noyes each scored one goal in Williams’ 2-2 tie with Sacred Heart. Charlie Billadeau stopped 17 of 19 shots in 65 minutes for the Ephs.
Emma Griese recorded two goals and one helper as the seventh-ranked Amherst College women’s hockey team cruised past Salve Regina, 6-0.
Charles Dickens never picked up a hockey stick, laced up skates, or even knew that a Bentley University would ever exist in Waltham, MA. He surely never set foot in the John A. Ryan Skating Arena. And he never intended any of his writings to come back to a college sports event.
But this season has been the best of times and worst of times for the Bentley Falcons. They opened up the year with wins over Northeastern, Holy Cross, and Canisius. They had a record [5-6-1], including [4-3-1] in conference play. Then they went two months without a win. They tied and lost games they should’ve won, including an overtime defeat to Air Force, a tie with Robert Morris, and a tie with RIT. They bottomed out on January 21st, when they were embarrassed on home ice with an 8-2 loss to Mercyhurst.
Although they’ve leveled off from the season’s high and low, they remain an enigma. There’s the weekend battle with Army, where they took three points in a goalie matchup for the ages featuring freshman Brandon Komm. And there’s the gritty 4-2 win over Connecticut. But there’s also the Sacred Heart game they led 3-1 and lost 6-3. And there’s there loss to AIC by a 5-1 tally. They haven’t swept a weekend since the first full weekend of AHA games. But they haven’t been swept since New Year’s Eve, when they lost two games they could’ve (and in one case, should’ve) won.
The best part of the playoffs is that it’s a fresh slate. Sure the Falcons are in the first round without a bye, but they were in bye contention until the final weekend of the regular season. And they’re at home, taking on a team they beat twice. Despite a bad loss to the Pioneers, Bentley crushed them in the beginning of the year, and they beat the Pioneers on the road. So all that remains is to try to determine which Bentley team shows up. The Road To Rochester starts here…
#11 Sacred Heart Pioneers at #10 Bentley Falcons
Goaltending Matchup: Sacred Heart will send either Steven Legatto or Olivier St. Onge into netminding duties. They’ve split time because neither man had a very good year. Legatto is averaging a shade under five goals per game. St. Onge is averaging a shade under four. Neither man stopped 90% of the shots this year, and neither won more than three games. Bentley will counter with either Komm, Kyle Rank, or senior Joe Calvi. Komm battled injury woes before playing out of his mind against Army. After that weekend, though, he’s slipped, finishing the year with a [1-5-1] record. Calvi saw the most time and was the most consistent, but he was the backstop of games in both games Bentley gave up eight goals. Rank worked his way back into the starting role by process of elimination. He stopped 37 and 31 in wins over AIC and Connecticut late in the year. All three goalies allow an average of three goals per game. Let’s face it – this isn’t exactly a pitcher’s duel-type matchup. But, nevertheless, if Bentley’s goalies are hot, they can shut teams down. Advantage: Bentley
Forwards: Playoff hockey is about being able to skate your top lines better than the other team’s top lines. Having a great top and second line can win games. Evan Mladenoff, Patrick Knowlton, Matt Gingera, and Eric Delong all skate on the top two lines for Sacred Heart. Gingera has 16 goals on the season, and Delong and Mladenoff have nine apiece. Knowlton has 17 assists, while Delong has 18. Bentley counters with a top line of Erik Peterson-Dustin Cloutier-Brett Gensler. Peterson and Gensler have ten goals apiece, and Cloutier has a team high 14 assists. Cloutier also has six points in the last seven games. Aaron Stonacek also saw time with the first line, but he primarily skates with Joe Campanelli on the second line.
Normally, at this point, I’d say how the third line will be a gamebreaker for Bentley, since Jamie Nudy, Dan Koudys, and Brett Hartung will spot the top two lines a breather. They’ll soften up Sacred Heart’s top two just enough to let their own top lines do some damage. But David Berube, Chad Filteau, and Kyle Verbeek can do the same for the Pioneers. Advantage: Push
Defensemen: Bentley’s defensemen do a wonderful job of playing instigator roles. Mike Switzer amassed 34 PIM on his own on December 3 against Robert Morris. He has 114 on the season, along with 3-7-10 totals. Ryan Kayfes had 30 PIM during that same RMU game, amassing 80-plus this season. They’re a devastating pair to have on the ice, and they headline a Bentley defensive unit that is top to bottom solid. Zach Marginsky stands 6-6, and Trent Bonnett has been a stalwart. Zach Ledford pairs with Micah Williams for a third solid unit. Sacred Heart counters with Mitchell Stretch, Neil Fachini, and a pupu platter of decent but not overpowering defensemen. Advantage: Bentley
Special Teams: During their first game, I used the term “the extremely movable force meets the extremely stoppable object” to describe the Pioneers PK against the Bentley PP. The Pioneers killed at a D1-worst 69.3%, while Bentley ended at a conference-worst 8.8% powerplay unit. But the Bentley powerplay has looked very good at times, especially when one considers they were under 6% as late as February 1st. Bentley’s penalty kill is a better than average 85%, slotting them in third in the conference. The Sacred Heart powerplay is 11th, ahead of only that Bentley man-up. Advantage: Bentley
I won’t get into coaching comparisons because, well, quite franky, I don’t like them. Coaching styles are so different that the comparisons don’t do any justice, and it really depends on the right players in the right system. There’s no telling what might happen if you plop Bentley’s players into the RIT system and vice-versa. All I know is that this Bentley team has been waiting patiently for the right time to break out. It seems like they just never got over the hump. Sacred Heart, meanwhile, is a team that was truly snakebitten by the bad karma bus when it came to winning games. They’re a good team with a lot of positives, but, at this stage of the game, I’m going with Bentley, 5-3. Make sure to check this one out, since Atlantic Hockey games are typically fast paced and truly exciting. Be there at 7:05 PM from the old barn on Paramount Place when these teams lock up. It’s sure to be a good one.