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American International has added pressure to the race for Atlantic Hockey, storming to the top of the conference during a six-game win streak late in the season.
The Yellow Jackets have joined the No. 20-ranked Sacred Heart Pioneers and Army Black Knights in a late-season push for the top seed in the conference tournament, where the last team standing earns an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Each program has accumulated 46 points, but the Yellow Jackets have a game in hand with seven contests remaining, compared to the Pioneers and Knights each having six games left; that makes AIC the current conference leader.
This most recent weekend brought to you by the number 2️⃣:— AIC Hockey (@AIC_Hockey) February 4, 2020
2️⃣ goals by 3 players on Saturday.
2️⃣ huge wins.
2️⃣ points in the @USCHO poll.
2️⃣ awesome ceremonial faceoffs with Mark Bousquet '73 and @CharlieBakerMA! #AICommitted pic.twitter.com/WZYJRMZXaF
For each program, those six games put a meaningful 18 points up for grabs, especially as the trio sees their schedules all converge with several head-to-head contests remaining, offering a lot of exciting hockey and plenty to be determined.
The Black Knights (12-8-2 conference, 15-10-2 overall) will have a shot at sole possession of first place this weekend with a Friday night matchup at Bentley (10-11-2 conference, 12-13-3 overall), which has won four straight.
But the action will get serious come Tuesday, Feb. 11, when the Yellow Jackets (15-5-1 conference, 15-11-1 overall) host the Pioneers (15-6-1 conference, overall). The teams have split their two games played against each other this season and will play once more on Feb. 26 at Sacred Heart.
AIC will also face Army on Feb. 29, for their last regular-season game; Army holds a 2-1 edge over the Yellow Jackets in 2019-20. But the Yellow Jackets can not be looking too far ahead; following next Tuesday’s matchup with the Pioneers, they will head to Canisius for a series against the thorn that has been the Golden Griffins.
The Golden Griffins sit at 7-15-4 overall and have just two wins in their past eight games (2-3-3). They may not be contending for the conference, but with those two wins coming over Sacred Heart and Army, they are certainly having fun playing spoiler against the conference’s top teams. The Yellow Jackets bested the Griffins in each of their two games this season with a combined score of 9-2.
In the weekend following the Canisius matchup, AIC will take on Holy Cross, which has gone 6-2-1 in the New Year. The Crusaders could make for another tough matchup for AIC.
During that same weekend, Sacred Heart and Army will battle it out for their first and final regular-season matchup, coming Feb. 21-22. With no previous matchup this season, each team has little to go off of for expectations other than some numbers on paper.
That means each of Sacred Heart and Army’s final three games come in a combination of a head-to-head series and one final game against AIC. AIC, meanwhile, will wrap up its last two games facing each of Sacred Heart and Army once, making Atlantic Hockey tournament seeding leading right down to the wire.
No matter the sport, level, division, conference, or what have you, crunch time is always exciting and this year the Atlantic Hockey schedule is reaching a storybook ending for competition. Catch all Atlantic Hockey action live, right here on FloHockey.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.