2019 Niagara vs Mercyhurst | Atlantic Men's Hockey

Atlantic Hockey Tournament First Round Preview & Predictions

Atlantic Hockey Tournament First Round Preview & Predictions

The playoffs in college hockey have finally arrived. Here's what you need to know when watching Atlantic Hockey's first-round matchups.

Mar 8, 2021 by Jacob Messing
Atlantic Hockey Tournament First Round Preview & Predictions

The 2021 Atlantic Hockey postseason tournament kicks off this week as the reformatted first round is single elimination.

With their third-consecutive regular-season title and East Pod title, American International earned a first-round bye. As the West Pod champion, Robert Morris also earned a bye.

Watch the Atlantic Hockey Playoffs LIVE on FloHockey

Army West Point, RIT, and Canisius were the final three programs to claim the first-round bye, leaving the six remaining Atlantic Hockey rivals to square off in the single-elimination round.

Following a Tier 1 positive COVID-19 test, Holy Cross was forced to withdraw from the postseason tournament. The Crusaders’ scheduled opponent, Sacred Heart, was awarded a bye for the first round.

That leaves two games and four programs to battle it out for a shot in the best-of-three quarterfinals set for March 12-14.

Niagara at Mercyhurst

5pm Monday, March 8

Niagara held a 1-1-2 mark through the first four games of the season — with the win coming in a 4-1 fashion over No. 7-ranked Clarkson — but it quickly turned sour with a four-game losing streak.

Since then, the Purple Eagles have continued to surrender goals at an alarming rate and their 3.53 team GAA has them 41st of 51 programs. It has all led to a 4-10-3 overall record with just, but with two wins over their last three contests — one coming over first-round opponent Mercyhurst and the other a 4-0 win over Canisius — the Eagles won’t go down easy.

Mercyhurst’s 8-11-1 overall record isn’t much more impressive than their pending foe, especially with just two wins in their past eight games. But context is important and after cramming six games into their final 15 days of the regular season, they were bound to wear out.

Now after a two-week break the young offense will be rested and primed to avenge a 2-1 loss to Niagara to end their regular season. AHA Rookie of the Year candidate and Lakers leading scorer Carson Briere (4-14–18 in 20 GP) along with leading goal-scorer, sophomore Jonathan Bendorf (11-4–15 in 20 GP) will make the Lakers’ offense hard to keep down for a third consecutive game. 

Prediction: Mercyhurst’s rest will go a long way for a team on the rise in Atlantic Hockey. Whatever happens in the defensive end will be made up for offensively to ensure they come out on top.

Air Force at Bentley 

5pm Tuesday, March 9

Heading into February, Air Force sat at 0-9-1 (0-10-1 including exhibition play) and a winless season seemed possible. But a three-game winning streak to close out their season with a sweep over Canisius and a 4-3 overtime win over Bentley has them looking like a true underdog in the first round.

The Falcons' confidence is as high as it has been all season and if that wasn’t enough to make for some exciting hockey come Tuesday night, the state of their rival is.

With just one win over their last seven games, the Bentley Falcons ended their campaign with a 4-11 overall record and all intra-conference play. The Falcons’ offense was encouraging and on paper, having five double-digit scorers in 15 games suggests a better record than what’s occurred.

But the defensive side of the game has struggled. Even with the nation’s 17th-ranked penalty kill, as the most-penalized team this season the offense has been held back. Averaging 16.5 PIM per game means defending for nearly a third of the game, shorthanded nonetheless. That’s not the recipe to outscore opponents.

Prediction: Air Force will show Bentley that the quarterfinals are only big enough for one Falcons team and continue their winning streak with the single-elimination victory for a shot at the next round.

Don’t miss either of the first-round matchups, or the rest of the Atlantic Hockey postseason tournament. Stream every contest live, right here on FloHockey.

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