2021 Niagara vs AIC - Men's SF #1

2021 Atlantic Hockey Semifinals: AIC vs Niagara & Army vs Canisius

2021 Atlantic Hockey Semifinals: AIC vs Niagara & Army vs Canisius

A year after the season ended in disappointment with COVID-19, Atlantic Hockey is preparing for the conference semifinals.

Mar 16, 2021 by Jacob Messing
2021 Atlantic Hockey Semifinals: AIC vs Niagara & Army vs Canisius

A year after the loss of the 2019-20 NCAA season left fans and programs with a lack of closure and players with unfinished business, Atlantic Hockey is entering the 2021 semifinals.

With new formats for the unprecedented season, the conference’s top-seeded program and back-to-back-to-back regular-season champion AIC will host all four teams for the semifinal including their opponent, ninth-place (in the regular season) Niagara.

Watch the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals Live on FloHockey

No. 2 seeded Army West Point, holder of the nation’s longest unbeaten streak with a 12-0-1 record in their past 13 outings, is the other host with a series against (4) Canisius.

(1) AIC vs. (9) Niagara

Friday, March 19 at 2:00pm

The pod structure for this season and Niagara’s impressive postseason run mean the two programs have not faced each other this season.

Niagara holds a 7-11-3 overall record with four of those wins coming in their past five games and each coming on the road. Three of those wins were postseason victories; knocking off an up-and-coming Mercyhurst squad and outlasting an offensively potent Robert Morris team in a three-game series that spanned more than 212 minutes.

The Purple Eagles are winning when it matters most and have been defensively dominant. In the regular season, the Eagles allowed a team average of 4.44 goals per game; in four postseason games, they have averaged just 1.76 goals against per game.

Nationally ranked at No. 15, AIC is one of the nation’s top teams for the third consecutive year and holds a 13-3 overall record in addition to a five-game winning streak, during which it has recorded three shutouts.

The Yellow Jackets are a well-rounded team that runs deep at every position and will be the toughest opponent Niagara has faced this season. With three players at or above the point-per-game mark, their offense is consistent and experienced.

Having not played since Jan. 30, the Yellow Jackets could take a period to shake off the rust against Niagara’s momentum, but their winning comes naturally.

Prediction: regardless of Niagara’s surprisingly strong play, AIC is just too dominant to bow out before the championship.

(2) Army vs. (4) Canisius

Friday, March 19 at 7:00pm

Canisius’ strong stretch after several hiatuses to their schedule was impressive, but after ending the season with eight games in 18 days, they were visibly tired come crunch time.

Still, the Golden Griffins sit at 10-5 overall and after some rest, stepped out against RIT and outscored them 11-4 with 5-2 and 6-2 wins for a series sweep. The 11 goals came from 10 different skaters in the series as the Golden Griffins attacked with all four lines and overwhelmed the Tigers.

But overwhelming is just what the No. 19-ranked Black Knights have done all season. The team has turned slow starts into fast-paced comebacks and taken the schedule a game at a time to build a 12-0-1 unbeaten streak for a 15-5-1 overall mark.

The team has run through junior Colin Bilek, whose 18 goals are second to only Hobey Baker-frontrunner Cole Caufield’s 25 tallies, and netminder Trevin Kozlowski.

Kozlowski is having a massive senior season with a 14-3-1 record backed by a .925 SV%, 1.83 GAA, and two shutouts with the nation’s fifth-best win percentage.

Prediction: Army is too composed and confident in every area of the game; the streak will continue.

Catch every game of the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals live, right here on FloHockey this weekend.

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