October 13, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: No rest for the road-weary

By Allen Lessels

On the road again. 

And again.

Bentley goalie Kyle Rank (photo: Bentley Athletics)

Bentley goalie Kyle Rank (photo: Bentley Athletics)

And again.

Niagara opened the season with a game against Michigan. Bentley had the opportunity to play those same high-profile and high-powered Wolverines twice last weekend.

Holy Cross goes up against Boston University on Oct. 22, the next weekend Robert Morris plays two games against Michigan State and RIT has a pair against Wisconsin in early January.

Atlantic Hockey teams are once again taking on some of the traditional college hockey powers and top-ranked teams in the country.

As is usually the case, there is a common denominator to the games: Atlantic Hockey teams are going on the road to play them. That’s the catch. Atlantic Hockey teams can get games against the higher-ranked teams, but they have to go to their places to play.

“We don’t get the benefit of playing many of these games at home,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.

Records tend to suffer as a result of the road-heavy schedules.

“I think we’ve made great improvements in our league,” Wilson said. “We’re leaps and bounds from where we were.”

Results in the NCAA tournament attest to that. Two years ago, RIT knocked off Denver and New Hampshire on the way to the Frozen Four. Air Force has its share of success in the national tournament, too.

The league teams are making inroads during the regular season, too. Last year, UConn earned itself a 3-3 tie at Maine and Holy Cross knocked off Northeastern, 4-3, in Boston.

Now, if they can just start getting some of the teams from the more established leagues to come to them.

St. Lawrence of ECAC Hockey comes to town to play RIT in the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night and Wilson is grateful that Saints coach Joe Marsh (Lynn, Mass.) has been willing to bring his team in to play RIT in the past as well.

Mark these dates down on the college hockey calendar: Oct. 20, 2012 and Oct. 12, 2013.

Penn State is coming to Rochester to play RIT early in its first season of intercollegiate hockey next fall and Michigan will be in early in the season after that. Both games will be played in the Blue Cross Arena.

“It’s big for our student body to have them come here and play,” Wilson said. “Having Michigan come in is huge for us and it’s huge for college hockey.”

Perhaps, it will become a bit of a habit.

Game of the week

Connecticut at Army, Friday

Connecticut and Army go looking for their first win of the season at West Point in the Atlantic Hockey opener for both teams. Theirs is one of four league games this weekend.

The Huskies earned a 4-4 tie with Bowling Green on Saturday last weekend after losing the series opener, 2-1. Army took one on the chin at home against Union, 8-1. UConn won the season series last year, two games to one, by winning both games at Army.

Atlantic Hockey power ratings

1. RIT (0-0-1, 0-0-1). . . . Shane Madolora picks up where he left off with 32 saves in 0-0 shutout against Niagara.

2. Air Force (0-2-0, 0-0-0). . . . Hopes sophomore goalie Jason Torf is not sidelined long with groin injury suffered late against Michigan State.

3. Holy Cross (0-0-0, 0-0-0). . . . Hosts AIC on Saturday in league opener.

4. Niagara (0-1-1, 0-0-1). . . . Takes on Air Force at Colorado Springs on Friday.

5. UConn (0-1-1, 0-0-0). . . . Will try to build off 4-4 tie with Bowling Green at Army on Friday.

6. Robert Morris (1-1-0, 0-0-0). . . . Posted 2-1 win over Mercyhurst in Nebraska.

7. Army (0-1-0, 0-0-0). . . . Hosts UConn Friday in first league game and at Merrimack on Saturday.

8. Mercyhurst (0-2-0, 0-0-0). . . . At Nebraska last weekend, at Fairbanks, Alas., this weekend.

9. Canisius (0-0-0, 0-0-0). . . . Opens with games at Quinnipiac on Saturday and Sunday.

10. Bentley (0-2-0, 0-0-0). . . . After a couple of losses at Michigan, at Massachusetts on Friday.

11. AIC (0-2-0, 0-0-0). . . . Dropped a couple of close ones, 4-3 and 3-1, at Michigan Tech.

12. Sacred Heart (0-2-0, 0-0-0) . . . After two rough losses at Minnesota (9-0 and 6-0), at Clarkson on Friday and Saturday.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.