November 10, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: These numbers keep coming up

By Allen Lessels

Hockey 2.0. Hockey 2-0 

Goalie Ben Meisner of AIC (photo: AIC)

Goalie Ben Meisner of AIC (photo: AIC)

Here’s a hot tip for anyone looking to make a friendly wager — for entertainment purposes only, of course — on an Atlantic Hockey game this weekend: Pick a final score of 2-0.

Not sure what this means in the grand scheme of things in college hockey, but twos and zeroes were wild last week.

Twelve games were on tap in the first weekend of the season when league teams played exclusively league teams and five of them ended up as shutouts, all with a score of 2-0.

The results do bring to mind comments Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl (Winthrop, Mass.) made as he assessed his own team before the season got started.

“Whether or not we can score goals is the question,” Pearl said. “That’s the question for 58 other coaches in the country, too. I don’t think that anyone’s sitting here thinking they have more than enough offense.”

Collecting pretty, highlight-film goals against teams that are playing tough defensive schemes in front of talented goalies, he said, is even more of an issue.

“If you’re not at the top of the crease, tipping shots or getting rebounds, you’re probably not going to get a lot of goals,” Pearl said.

Still, said AIC coach Gary Wright, goals come in all types, from all angles and places.

“I think there is a big premium on trying to manufacture goals and getting pucks to the net and crashing the net,” Wright said. “But I don’t think you can exist, at least in my opinion, with just those goals from tips and screens and crashing the net. You still need a mix of not only those kinds, but you still need a couple of guys who are more pure goal scorers.”

The challenge to score goals in general puts more pressure on special teams and taking advantage of power play situations as well, Wright said.

Holy Cross, incidentally, was not involved in a shutout last weekend. For the season thus far, the Crusaders are second in the league at 2.6 goals in games overall.

On the flip side, AIC saw both ends of a 2-0 whitewash last weekend at Robert Morris. The Yellow Jackets fell to Robert Morris, 2-0, on Friday night and bounced back the next night and returned the favor behind the 33-save effort of junior goalie Ben Meisner.

Here’s one more thing about the number two, too.

Bentley and UConn are both smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Hockey statistics through the first month of the season. They each are averaging exactly two goals a game. Five teams, led by Air Force at 3.11 and Holy Cross are averaging more than two goals a game; five teams are averaging fewer than two goals a game.

Game of the week

Air Force at RIT, Friday

The perennial league powers meet for the first of their three regular-season games. They square off again in Colorado Springs for two more on Feb. 3 and 4.

Last year, they were even over three games, each winning a one-goal contest and tying the third 5-5. They met one last time in the Atlantic Hockey tournament championship game and Air Force triumphed, 1-0, despite being outshot 40-24.

Atlantic Hockey power ratings

1. Air Force (5-2-2, 4-0-1 AHA). . . . Unbeaten in last seven at 5-0-2.

2. Mercyhurst (4-4-0, 3-0-0). . . . 0-4 to start, 4-0 since then.

3. Holy Cross (3-3-0, 2-2-0). . . . Thomas Tysowsky’s 43 saves pace 4-3 win over Niagara.

4. UConn (3-4-1, 2-2-0). . . Huskies drop two at Mercyhurst.

5. Canisius (2-3-1, 2-1-1). . . Junior Tony Capobianco owns .938 save percentage, 2.61 GAA.

6. RIT (2-3-2, 1-2-2). . . .Tigers collect three points against Army with 2-2 tie, 5-3 win.

7. Niagara (2-4-2, 1-2-1). . . . Purple Eagles top Holy Cross, 4-2, for first league win.

8. Bentley (2-6-1, 2-1-0) . . . . Branden Komm’s first shutout beats Canisius, 3-0.

9. Robert Morris (3-6-0, 1-2-0). . . . Eric Levine stops 27 shots for 2-0 shutout of AIC.

10. AIC (2-7-0, 2-2-0). . . . Ben Meisner returns the favor against Robert Morris for fifth career shutout.

11. Army (0-4-2, 0-2-1). . . . Get first league point with 2-2 tie at RIT.

12. Sacred Heart (0-8-0, 0-4-0). . . . Good efforts at Air Force come up short, 2-1 and 3-2.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.