2010-11 Atlantic Hockey Preview


RIT winning the conference last year was no shock. They returned most of the key players from a team that tied for the regular season conference title. But what was shocking was Air Force slipping out of the top two, albeit by only a point. The Falcons returned most of their key minutes from a team that was an overtime goal away from the Frozen Four, yet went just 14-8-6 in conference and scored only 86 goals in conference play.

What does 2010-11 have in store for Atlantic Hockey?

Defending champion RIT will head into the 2010-11 season having to replace an important group of guys. Last year’s Atlantic Hockey goalie of the year Jared DeMichiel graduated, and defenseman Chris Tanev signed a deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Also graduating was captain Dan Ringwald. Having to replace the 3 best defenders on a team sounds like a recipe for disaster. RIT was by far the best defensive team in Atlantic Hockey last year, allowing just 51 goals in 28 conference games (1.82 per game). But in the 13 non-conference games, the Tigers allowed 39 goals (3 per game). The Tigers offense will have to take center stage this year, as a pair of sharp shooting Juniors return for RIT. Cam Burt (16 goals) and Tyler Brenner (15) were 5th and T-6th in Atlantic Hockey in goals in 2009-10.

RIT may be the defending champ, but I actually see Air Force as the favorites. The Falcons return the best player in the conference in Senior Jacques Lamoureux. While at first glance he appears to have fallen off in the 2010 season, he still finished 2nd in Atlantic Hockey with 22 goals, 18 of which came in conference play, which tied for the league lead. Lamoureux had virtually no help last year however, as Air Force scored just 86 league goals, which was 5th in the 10 team league. Although they lost Matt Fairchild, the Falcons will have a veteran team this year, and that should help them score more goals. A tough non-conference schedule featuring games against Alaska, Colorado College, Yale and Denver could help propel the Falcons to a potential at-large bid if they can pull some upsets, but they might not need it.

Newcomers Niagara and Robert Morris each have something to prove, and something to build on. Niagara was perhaps the most consistent program in the CHA’s short history, though they only represented the conference in the NCAA tournament twice: in 2008 when they lost 5-1 to Michigan and 2005 when they lost 5-2 to Boston College. Robert Morris meanwhile had a 2009-10 to forget, except their non-conference sweep of Frozen Four bound Miami. The Colonials 4 leading goal scorers from last year will all be Seniors, and they have a solid if not spectacular Junior class following them. Both Niagara and Robert Morris should find their way to the middle of the Atlantic Hockey pack.

Now, some preseason awards:

Player of the Year

It has to be Jacques Lamoureux. He had a 40 point season on a team that was otherwise pretty poor offensively, and he carried the Falcons to a 3rd place finish.

All-League team

F – Lamoureux

F – Cory Conacher, Canisius

F – Cam Burt, RIT

D – Denny Urban, Robert Morris

D – Chris Haltigin, RIT

G – Ryan Zapolski, Mercyhurst