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2016 Atlantic Hockey Preview And Predictions
- Updated: August 29, 2016
The college hockey season is fast approaching with a little over a month until the first puck drop. A lot has changed with players graduating or going pro and incoming freshman looking to make an instant impact. With the new season on its way, its time to start the conference previews for 2016-17, beginning with the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
Air Force: 20-12-5
The Falcons had a strong 2015-16 season and only lost 3 seniors, one of whom was the 3rd string goalie. They return Shane Starrett in between the pipes, who as a freshman played 33 games, winning 16. His performances, along with a 1.92 goal against average, helped him earn first team all AHA honors. Johnny Hrabovsky also returns as the team’s top defenseman, while Coach Serratore received a contact extension through 2021.
With a lot of returning firepower and the top goalie in Atlantic Hockey, I think the Falcons have what it takes to win the conference regular season title.
American International: 7-29-3
The Yellow Jackets’ coach of 32 years, Gary Wright stepped down this off-season after another tough year. His replacement is Eric Lang, a former AIC player and graduate assistant. He was also lead assistant coach at Army for the last three seasons. Coach Lang has a lot of work ahead of him to build the Jackets hockey program.
Lang and the Yellow Jackets have a lot of work to do improve, I believe this season will be more of the same.
Army finished last season strong in the AHA tournament with an upset win over Holy Cross, outscoring them 5-1 over two games. The Black Knights will hope their good play carries over to start strong in the 2016-17 season. Goaltender Parker Gahagen had 14 wins in 34 games played but was red-hot in the conference tournament and had 2.01 goals against over the season to earn him second team AHA honors.
Army will look to have a good season after finishing strong in AHA tournament, I believe they can do that with continued good play from Parker Gahagen.
The Falcons return 6 of their top 10 points leaders including Max French, who was first team AHA with 23 goals and 24 assists in 32 games. Goalie Gabe Antoni, who played in 27 games last year, also returns along with forward Andrew Gladiuk. Gladiuk was second on the team in scoring with 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points in 38 games.
With much of the same team returning, minus some other top scorers, this season may look to be much the same as last for Bentley.
Canisius College: 12-22-5
Canisius only lost two seniors from what was a very young team last season. They return both goalies, Simon Hofley and Reilly Turner, who split time last season. Goaltending was a weak point for the team, though. Both are young and had double-digit losses last year along with goals against average of 2.71 for Hofley and 3.42 for Turner. On the bright side, they return 4 of 5 top scorers including first-team all-AHA selection Shane Conacher, who finished last season with 20 goals and 26 assists.
The Golden Griffins will need improvement in net and on defense to make this season different from the last.
Holy Cross: 18-13-5
The Crusaders faced a tough non-conference schedule last year including Quinnipiac, Providence, and Dartmouth. All those games resulted in losses. Holy Cross had no first, second, or third team-AHA star but they still return all four of their top scorers from last season, including Mike Barrett. Last season, Barrett scored 13 goals along with 13 assists for 26 points in 36 games played. The will be disappointed with the way last season concluded in an upset playoff series lose to Army in the AHA tournament.
Holy Cross returns a lot this season including Paul Berrafato who won 17 games last season. I expect the Crusaders to improve and challenge for the regular season title.
Goaltender Adam Carlson will be a big lose for the Lakers; he decided to sign with the Washington Capitals after his freshman season forgoing three years of eligibility. Luckily two other breakout freshman, Lester Lancaster and Derek Barach, decided to return to school. The first-team all-AHA Lancaster had 9 goals and 20 assists as a defenseman while Barach chipped in with 10 goals and 22 assists, earning him third-team AHA honors.
Carlson is a key loss, but the team did not lose many other players. It’s not that I think the Lakers will be a weak team, I simply believe others will improve and leap them in the standings.
The Purple Eagles had a tough 2015-16 in which they finished at the bottom of the conference with only six wins. Their only win in the month of October was in an exhibition game and Niagara went winless in the whole month of January.
The Purple Eagles will struggle and have another tough season.
The Tigers finished the season the way they ended the 2014-15 season, by winning the AHA tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Their NCAA run ended in the first round with a lose to eventual runner-ups Quinnipiac. RIT loses their captain defenseman, Alexander Kuqali, but return two top players to the blue line in the Norris twins. Also returning for the Tigers is leading goal scorer Myles Powell and Josh Mitchell, who had 30 assists last season.
Another strong season for RIT that could end in another AHA tournament win.
Robert Morris: 24-11-4
Last year’s regular season champions were led by a high-flying offense that scored 158 goals in 39 games. Even with such a strong season, the Colonials missed out on an NCAA berth following a lose to RIT in the AHA tournament championship game. If losing starting goalie Terry Shafer wasn’t enough, Robert Morris also lost 6 of their top 8 scorers, including Zac Lynch, who had 55 points.
The Colonials are a team that will take a step back this season after losing a lot of talent and experience.
Scared Heart: 13-20-4
The Pioneers’ offense was led by Justin Danforth last season as he scored 20 goals and tallied 21 assists in 36 games. Freshman goaltender Brett Magnus had a good first season, playing 35 games and finishing with a record of 13-18-4 with a 2.63 goals against average.
If the Pioneers improve more throughout the season the could jump Bentley or Canisius to finish 7th or 8th.
Regular Season Standing Prediction
1) Air Force
5) Robert Morris
9) Sacred Heart
10) American International
Atlantic Hockey is a conference that’s full of high-flying offense and end to end action, played in small arenas in the northeast. You can catch AHA games in the upcoming season on Eversport.tv where they can be live streamed. The next conference to preview will be the Big Ten, which has traditional hockey powers like Michigan and Minnesota. Make sure to check back as the previews continue from the Big Ten to the WCHA.