On the preseason conference call, Atlantic Hockey coaches knew the numbers needed to be better. The conference wants to post better results against non-conference competition. Winning helps so many things both tangible (PairWise ratings) and intangible (perception).
But take opponents can take Atlantic Hockey teams lightly at their own risk. Because what the 5-15-0 record against non-conference foes fails to show is the improved quality of those games.
Friday night's performances helps that cause.
Bentley picked up a 5-2 win over Rensselaer in Troy. It was the fourth straight loss for RPI but don't forget the Engineers won their season opener at Notre Dame.
Speaking of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish were all over Niagara on the scoreboard in the first period, taking a 4-0 lead. But the Purple Eagles, hobbled by injury, kept coming and made Notre Dame work for its 6-3 win in South Bend.
"We have a lot of guys who care and a lot of guys with high character. Hey, at 4-0 we could have felt sorry for ourselves and packed it in, but we didn’t," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said.
Those teams meet again at 7 tonight on NBCSN.
It wasn't a win for Mercyhurst but the Lakers scored three times in the third period and forced Merrimack to beat them in overtime, 5-4. Matt Zay recorded his 100th point in that game for a Mercyhurst team considered the preseason favorite in the league.
Other notes around the league:
- Canisius scored three goals in the final 10 minutes to earn its 3-1 win over American International in Springfield, Mass. Third-period scoring is apparently where it's at for the Ice Griffs this year -- eight of their 14 goals have come in the third period. The win was key for Canisius, which improved to 2-1 in Atlantic Hockey, 3-1 overall. The teams meet again tonight as the Griffs look for their first regular-season sweep since taking two at Holy Cross Jan. 3-4 last season.
- Robert Morris remained undefeated with a 3-0 win at Army. The Colonials have a pair of non-conference wins over Lake Superior State and swept Niagara last weekend to kick off league play. It's the first time in the 11-year DI history of the program Robert Morris has started the season 5-0. The defending Atlantic Hockey champions are getting solid goaltending from sophomore Dalton Izyk who made 36 saves in the win at Army.
- It was a big conference win for RIT as the Tigers defeated perennial power Air Force, 5-1, in Colorado Springs. Five different players scored for the Tigers in their conference opener.