So here sits Canisius, tied for seventh in the Atlantic Hockey standings and awarded the No. 7 seed for the league tournament that begins this weekend.
Sound familiar? Ring at least a bit of a bell?
Dave Smith’s crew, some might recall, tied for seventh in the standings last year and went into the tournament as the No. 7 seed.
The Golden Griffins, led by the crunch-time goaltending of junior Tony Capobianco, proceeded to roll right through the whole darn thing to their first league tournament title and first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
There, Canisius led Quinnipiac 3-1 early in the third period before falling 4-3.
Now the Golden Griffins will try to repeat the process.
Eleven other Atlantic Hockey teams have the same idea.
“That’s the beauty of the playoffs,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “Everybody’s starting over. It’s a clean slate. Whether you had a great year or one that was not so great, if you’re in it, you have a chance to win it.”
Mercyhurst gets to start from the front. The Lakers clinched their first regular season league championship with a weekend to spare and are the No. 1 seed, followed by Bentley at No. 2, Air Force at No. 3 and Connecticut at No. 4.
Those four get this weekend off and wait to see how the dust settles after what should be an entertaining first round of best-of-three series.
The pairings have No. 12 Army at No. 5 Robert Morris, No. 11 AIC at No. 6 Niagara, No. 10 Sacred Heart at No. 7 Canisius and No. 9 RIT at No. 8 Holy Cross.
There are no givens in the matchups.
Sacred Heart and Canisius split their regular season series and so did AIC and Niagara. Holy Cross took three points at RIT.
Army lost its two games against Robert Morris. The Black Knights and Colonials were tied at 4-4 with less than five minutes to go in the second game before Robert Morris pulled way to a 6-4 win.
“That’s our league,” Gotkin said. “We played Army in January and won both games 3-1. Both were tight games and we left West Point feeling real fortunate that we won those games. They’re in 12th place and we felt luck to beat them.”
So now it begins.
Will Canisius reprise last year’s script and go on another championship run? Will it be Holy Cross, RIT, Sacred Heart or someone else this time around?
Will a team, or teams, surviving this weekend pull an upset and get past the quarterfinals, too, and move on to the league championship series at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.?
“It’s exciting stuff,” Gotkin said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Player of the Week
Mike Rotolo, fr., G, RIT
Rotolo led the Tigers to a season-ending sweep of Canisius. He stopped 53 of the 54 shots he faced and put up 1-0 and 3-1 wins. He made 27 saves on Friday for his second shutout of the season and has won his last three starts.
Series of the week
RIT at Holy Cross
The Crusaders are the No. 8 seed and the Tigers No. 9 in the Atlantic Hockey tournament. Holy Cross took three points in its series at RIT with a 3-3 tie on Jan. 31 and a 4-2 victory the next night.
Atlantic Hockey Power Rankings
Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org