With the fall semester finished, action has hit the winter break for Atlantic Hockey and there has been no shortage of excitement or surprises ahead of the second half.
1. Take It From The Top
Army leads the conference with 32 points (10-5-1 conference, 12-5-1 overall) but does so with a small asterisk having played more games than the rest of its Atlantic Hockey foes.
Some would be quick to point out the amount of one-goal games, but differentials can usually be ignored when wins outweigh loses. While the offense has been sparse, goaltender Trevin Kozlowski has been the backbone.
Despite a heavier workload of ice time and shots faced, the junior sits among conference-leading peers with a .918 SV%, 2.04 GAA, and .656 Win% (10-5-1 record). Fatigue could become a factor during the second half.
2. Scorching Sacred Heart
No. 20-ranked Sacred Heart sits second to only Army for the conference lead and holds two games in hand. If there’s any single surprise in AH, it’s the Pioneers. A dynamic offense has them with the first-, second-, third-, and sixth-leading scorer in the conference.
The Pioneers are paced by defenseman Mike Lee’s 19 points (2 G, 17 A), as the senior has been a force on both sides of the ice and is quarterbacking the best powerplay in the conference and third-best in the nation.
Only Penn State and North Dakota have outscored Sacred Heart this season, which is pretty good company to keep. With a five-game win streak and eight in their last nine, the Pioneers are looking like the team to beat and could be on the road to their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.
3. Remaining In The Mix
Just seven points from the top, American International and Robert Morris remain in striking distance of Army and Sacred Heart and could make for some serious competition down the stretch.
American International finished last season with an 11-4-1 stretch to earn a trip to the postseason tournament where they upset top-seeded St. Cloud State in the opening round. The program’s large returning cast could make for another late-season push.
Robert Morris is still trying to find some offensive support for Justin Kapelmaster’s inspiring goaltending, but with a seven-game winless streak (0-4-3) the season is slipping away. Still, at third place in the standings, the Colonials need to rediscover what led them to a 7-3-1 start to the season before thinking about catching those ahead of them.
4. Freshmen To Follow
With the rate Sacred Heart puts up goals, it’s no surprise they have the highest-scoring freshman in the conference. Braeden Tuck is third in AH scoring with 16 points (2 G, 14 A) in 14 games, and while the offense has come in spurts, consistency is typically learned and could make for an even more dangerous Tuck in the second half.
Ryan Naumovski is a playmaker and he is doing just that in Niagara with 10 assists through 12 conference matchups. The offense has dried back up for the Purple Eagles following a 17-goal, four-game win streak. Some lineup changes could see the playmaker earn some time next to a strong goal-scorer in the near future.
5. Stenlund’s Stunted Scoring
Enter Stenlund, as one of just four returning 20-goal scorers from 2018-19. The sophomore’s first half of the season has left a lot to be desired since last season, but as mentioned, some time with Naumovski’s playmaking ability could — and should — be in the works.
Last year, Stenlund scored 23 goals and 42 points with Niagara, but he has come away with just five goals and 10 points through 17 games.
The Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year has shown there’s much more to his game, and should he and fellow sophomores start to pick up the offensive slack, the Purple Eagles could be a second-half team.
Catch all of the Atlantic Hockey action live, right here on FloHockey when the second half of the season gets underway later this month.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.