Where: Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY
When: March 18 & 19
Who: (1) RIT, (2) Air Force (3) Holy Cross (4) Connecticut
The favorite in this four team Atlantic Hockey rumble is no doubt RIT, who of course advanced to last year’s Frozen Four. A big reason for the Tigers not suffering a drop off has been the play of Sophomore goalie Shane Malodora, who sports a .934 save percentage in his first year starting. He is the biggest reason why RIT leads the conference in team defense, giving up only 2.67 goals per game. Offensively RIT isn’t as good, but don’t tell that to Tyler Brenner, the Junior forward who is third in the conference with 26 goals. Andrew Favot is having a nice year as well with 13 goals and 43 points. If RIT gets some secondary scoring, most notably from Cam Burt, who slumped a bit after a nice year last year, the Tigers could waltz to the title.
As far as gate crashers go, UConn was actually 6th in the standings, but nabbed a 4 seed due to the pod system that Atlantic Hockey uses. The Huskies have no one in the top 20 in terms of scoring, and were 6th in offense and 10th in the conference in defense, allowing 3.58 goals per game.
3rd seeded Holy Cross is 5th in offense and 4th in defense, but they have been coming on strong in the second half. They have a bit of a young team, with 2 of their top 3 scorers being Sophomores, and oddly enough have played well in front of goalie Adam Roy (2.57 GAA), even if Roy isn’t doing terribly well individually (.905 save percentage)
For my pick though, I am going to take Air Force. I (perhaps foolishly) picked them to win the league at the start of the year, and they finished only 3 points back of RIT in second place in the league. The Falcons are on a 6 game winning streak and have won 7 of their last 8, and are 1-1-1 against RIT this season. Jacques Lamoureux has been great again for the Falcons this year, with 21 goals and 41 points, and although Air Force has the 11th ranked penalty kill in the conference, they are penalized the least, taking only 9 PIM per game. It is a bit of a sleeper pick, even though Air Force is the 2 seed, because they are relying on a Freshman goalie, but the team is peaking at the right time and I am going to go with my gut and take the Falcons.