2024 Mercyhurst vs Canisius

2024 Atlantic Hockey Postseason: Round 1 Preview

2024 Atlantic Hockey Postseason: Round 1 Preview

The seeds are set for the 2024 Atlantic Hockey Postseason, which will be held from March 2-23. The single-elimination first round will include three games.

Feb 27, 2024 by Jacob Messing
2024 Atlantic Hockey Postseason: Round 1 Preview

The seeds are set for the 2024 Atlantic Hockey Postseason, which will be held from March 2-23, with the champion claiming an automatic berth to the 16-team NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship.

The higher seed will earn home ice for all series, beginning with a single game in the first round on March 2. Then, the action ramps up for the best-of-three quarterfinals (March 8-10) and best-of-three semifinals (March 15-17).

The winner-take-all Atlantic Hockey Championship game will take place on March 23 at the home of the highest remaining seed.

Back-to-back regular-season champion RIT will earn a bye in the opening round after a 15-5-3-3 conference record (22-10-2 overall).

No. 2 Holy Cross (13-7-1-5 AHA, 18-12-4 overall) and No. 3 Sacred Heart (12-8-3-3 AHA, 14-17-3 overall) also have earned first-round byes.

Also earning byes from the single-elimination opening round, No. 5 AIC (11-9-3-3 AHA, 16-14-4 overall) will visit No. 4 Air Force (12-10-4 AHA, 18-17-1 overall) for a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals.

Here’s a look at the first-round matchups for the Atlantic Hockey Postseason:

No. 11 Robert Morris At No. 6 Bentley

Bentley: 11-10-3-2 AHA, 16-16-2 overall
Robert Morris: 7-16-1-2 AHA, 10-23-3 overall
Season Series: 1-1

The Falcons and Colonials met once during the 2023-2024 season, way back in late October.

The Colonials defeated the Falcons in the first game, 4-3, to mark their first conference win of the season. RMU posted a two-goal, third-period comeback, with both tallies coming from Cameron Garvey with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

Garvey, one of 16 freshmen to suit up for the Colonials in their return to the NCAA and Atlantic Hockey, finished tied for second on the team with 10 goals.

Built largely from freshmen and graduate transfers, coach Derek Schooley returned to his program to rebuild it after a two-year program hiatus. The university dropped both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams in 2021.

The Colonials have lost four straight, with 10 goals in those four games, but 16 players have recorded a point, with 10 skaters recording at least two. Their depth is working, and bounces could tilt their way.

On the other bench, the Falcons have gone four consecutive games without a regulation loss. The run includes two wins and two shootout victories.

They have allowed five goals in the span, while recording 12.

Ten goal-scorers and 14 point-getters have been the answer, as depth in this series should make for an exciting matchup.

The Falcons have just one double-digit goal-scorer, team leader Ethan Leyh, who has broken out for 13 goals and 28 points, nearly matching his 13 total goals and 30 points from three years at Quinnipiac.

In October, the Falcons reset after their loss to RMU, posting a 3-0 shutout with a 39-shot outing and six successful penalty kills.

The Falcons’ season has brought some streakiness, and now they’ll need to stay hot for the single-elimination first round.

No. 10 Army West Point At No. 7 Niagara

 Niagara: 10-9-4-3 AHA, 15-16-3 overall
Army West Point: 8-15-1-2 AHA, 10-22-2 overall
Season Series: 1-1

Army and Niagara met in mid-February for a series split at Niagara. The Purple Eagles claimed the first game, where a three-goal first period turned into a 6-3 win on the backs Shane Ott, Josef Mysak and Carter Randklev, who each had two points.

Niagara had a 5-3-0-2 February, mustering just three goals across their three regulation losses. Their magic number has been ‘4,’ as the Eagles sit 12-0-2 when scoring at least four goals this season.

The ice could heavily favor the Eagles, as the Black Knights have given up the second-most goals in the NCAA this season; second only to Stonehill, which is in its first full NCAA season after a five-game Division I campaign last season.

The Knights will need to find the same defensive ability they have displayed sparingly this season.

In each of their 10 wins, the Knights have stifled opponents, allowing 14 goals (1.75 GA/gm.). Eight of those wins came with allowing two or fewer goals.

Sitting 33rd nationally for goals-per-game, Army has the natural offense it takes to steal games. That means the key to victory will be in its own zone.

Coach Brian Riley’s starting netminder for the opening round likely will be junior Evan Szary, but with nearly equal playing time, senior Gavin Abric could get the nod, as he could be facing the final 60 minutes of his collegiate career.

No. 9 Mercyhurst At No. 8 Canisius

Canisius: 8-11-2-5 AHA, 11-19-4 overall
Mercyhurst: 7-14-4-1 AHA, 9-21-4 overall
Season Series: 1-1-1

Another split season series, parity is abundant in the opening round.

A 3-3 tie in December was followed by a 5-1 Mercyhurst win. In mid-January, Canisius got revenge with a 4-1 victory.

The new year has not been kind to Mercyhurst, as the Lakers have gone 3-12-1, including an early-February sweep by Robert Morris. But the following weekend, the Lakers endured a 7-6 overtime loss to RIT, followed by a Feb. 10 win over RIT – which snapped a nine-game losing streak – to spark some confidence. Since then, the Lakers have gone 2-3-1.

Their recipe for a win will be to utilize that confidence and stick with coach Rick Gotkin’s run-and-gun offense, which is tied with Canisius with a 2.8 goals-per-game average.

The Golden Griffins are searching for an answer to some heavy roster turnover from last season, which landed them in eighth place after the regular season.

The Griffins are scoring at the same per-game pace as the 2022-2023 campaign, but they are 10th in the NCAA in goals-against average (3.5 goals against per game).

But a drop in defensive stability has seen the Griffins surrender at least four goals 15 times, including a 9-2 loss to RIT on Feb. 23.

Coming into the single-elimination postseason following a sweep by RIT is not ideal, but the Griffins will need to put that behind them to refocus on how momentum can build in the postseason.

A year ago, the Griffins entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed, before two series wins, a championship title and trip to the national tournament.

Look for coach Trevor Large to lean on his returning cast as a way to try and rediscover that magic of 2023.

Don’t miss a second of the action. Livestream every Atlantic Hockey game – and much more – right here on FloHockey, all season long.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.