The world of Atlantic Hockey is back on its axis.
The quarterfinal round of the league tournament went according to seed. The four highest seeded teams, the teams with home ice for the quarters, all won, unlike in the previous round when each of four underdogs prevailed.
The only thing a little out of kilter is that a couple of teams that have been out of the championship round picture the last several years are back in the fold.
In this corner, RIT and Air Force, who between them have grabbed the last four Atlantic Hockey tournament titles.
And in this corner … Connecticut and Holy Cross. The Huskies last played in the semis in 2007, the Crusaders in 2006.
UConn takes on RIT in the first semifinal on Friday at 4 p.m. at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. Holy Cross faces Air Force at 7:15. The winners meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We are thrilled to be headed to Rochester with a chance to play in the final four of our conference,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl told the Worcester Telegram. “It’s four great teams, including our oldest rival (UConn), and the top two teams during the regular season. It’s going to be a fun experience.”
RIT, the defending tournament champion, repeated as regular-season champion and Air Force was the runner-up. Holy Cross was third in the regular season and UConn was sixth.
RIT, Air Force and UConn all swept their quarterfinal series and Holy Cross had to survive a touch-and-go, three-game set with Canisius.
The Crusaders had a 2-0 lead late on Saturday night and was six minutes away from a sweep before Canisius rallied to tie the game and then win, 3-2, in overtime.
The Griffs threatened to do it again in Game 3 on Sunday. Down 3-1 entering the third period, they tied the game up in the first six minutes.
This time, Holy Cross responded with a pair of goals from Shayne Stockton and Kyle Fletcher in a span of 19 seconds midway through the period, and was on its way to a 7-3 triumph.
NEHJ Player of the Week
Kyle Fletcher, soph., Holy Cross
Fletcher’s first career hat trick helped Holy Cross turn back Canisius and post a 7-3 win in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series. Fletcher has 16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points this season.
UConn vs. RIT, Holy Cross vs. Air Force, Friday
Four teams boil down to two and the winners meet on Saturday night in the Atlantic Hockey championship game with an NCAA bid on the line.
Around Atlantic Hockey
Junior forward Nielsson Arcibal gave AIC a first-period lead at Air Force on Saturday night with his second short-handed goal of the season. The problem for the Yellow Jackets was it was their only goal of the weekend. … Arcibal at 11-14-25 finished second on the team in scoring to sophomore AdamPleskach at 13-15-28.
The Falcons advance to the championship round for the fifth straight season and are looking for a fourth title to go with the crowns they won in 2007, 2008 and 2009. … The Falcons face Holy Cross on Friday night in the semifinals. Air Force tied the Crusaders 1-1 and beat them 7-6 in a pair of games in Colorado Springsin early December.
Freshman forward Kyle Gibbons led Canisius to a 3-2 win over Holy Cross on Saturday to tie their series and force a Game 3 on Sunday. Gibbons scored with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then had the game-winner in overtime. … Senior Cory Conacher ended his career with school records in points (147), goals (62) and game-winning goals (12). Classmate Vincent Scarsella had 40-93-133, the third-best total in points.
Sophomore defenseman Thomas Janosz, limited to 13 games by injury, came up with a most timely goal when he scored in overtime to oust Mercyhurst from the playoffs, 4-3, on Saturday night. It was his first of the year. Sophomore goalie Garrett Bartus made 53 saves for the win. … Junior forward CoreyJendras had a hat trick in Friday night’s 5-2 win. … UConn dropped 6-2 and 5-3 games at RIT in mid-November.
The Crusaders were on a 9-0-3 run before they lost Game 2 to Canisius, 3-2 in overtime. They bounced back to eliminate the Griffs on Sunday, 7-3. … At 10-1-3 in its last 14 games, Holy Cross has averaged 4.2 goals a game and has allowed 2.3. … The Crusaders’ 24.5 percent success rate on the power play is third-best in the country, right behind the second-best 25 percent of Air Force.
Freshman John Mousso had two goals going into the weekend and scored a pair in a 5-2 loss to UConn on Friday night. … The Lakers rallied for three goals in the third period to get Saturday’s game to overtime, but the fell, 4-3. … Scott Pitt ended his career at 47-85-132 in 156 games. Goalie RyanZapolski finished his senior season with a save percentage of .920 and goals-against average of 2.84, and for his career had the same save number and a GAA of 2.77.
Sophomore goalie Shane Madolora stopped 61 of 62 shots for the weekend and made 28 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and second over AIC on Friday night. … Junior Tyler Brenner passed the century mark for career points and is at 55-47-102 in 106 games going into the UConn game. … Leading scorer Andrew Favot is ineligible Friday night because of a game disqualification he received for hitting from behind in the final minute of Saturday’s game.
The Pioneers came back from 3-1 and 5-3 deficits at Air Force to tie the game 5-5 with the second period barely six minutes old on Friday night. But the Falcons pulled away to a 7-5 win and took a 4-0 shutout the next night. … Junior forward Matt Gingera had a couple of goals on Friday night and finished at 21-9-30 on the season, tying him with sophomore Eric Delong’s 9-21-30 for the team’s point lead.
Allen Lessels can be reached at email@example.com