Ready for some college hockey playoff action? Here's what you need to know as the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals get underway Friday (and don't forget to check out our Atlantic Hockey gallery preview):
The matchups: No. 11 Niagara at No. 1 Robert Morris; No. 8 Sacred Heart at No. 2 Canisius; No. 7 Air Force at No. 3 RIT; No. 5 Mercyhurst at No. 4 Bentley
Format: The quarterfinals are a best-of-three series held at campus sites. The winners advance to Rochester for a one-game semifinal followed by a winner-take-all championship.
Overtime: Niagara has already set the bar pretty high when it comes to length of the game. The Purple Eagles and Holy Cross played the longest game in Atlantic Hockey history, and eighth longest in NCAA history, going 111:40 in three overtimes last weekend. The Crusaders won the game, 2-1, but Niagara won the first-round series. Last year Canisius and Niagara combined to play five overtime games, three of which went to double overtime. Moral of the story: Pack snacks.
Canisius as No. 2: The Golden Griffins earned the second seed in the tournament and a first round bye. It matches their best finish (the Griffs finished second in 2005). It's a role reversal for the Griffs who face No. 8 Sacred Heart. The last two seasons Canisius advanced to Rochester after eliminating the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals. The Griffs look to be the first No. 2 to get to the semifinals since 2012.
"We can’t feel like we’re better than anybody else or can’t feel like we just expect to win," Canisius junior Ralph Cuddemi said. "We have to make sure that we do everything possible to get the win. No one’s going to walk in here and say 'Oh we’re the eighth seed and here’s your win. We’re going to go home.'"
Surging Sacred Heart: The Pioneers have won four-straight games -- their longest streak since the 2009-10 season. They are 7-2-3 in their last 12 contests, paced by their goaltender Alex Vazzano (2.53 goals against average and .918 save percentage).
"Individually and collectively we've been laying very good practice on very good practice," Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo said. "It’s paying attention to defensive details in our team game that has lent to us playing well down the stretch. … I think it’s going to be two good skating teams trying to find ice to make plays and that’s going to be hard ice to find."
CHA Forever: Robert Morris and Niagara have a rivalry that dates back to the defunct College Hockey America days. The teams met four times in the CHA tournament with Niagara winning the first three. This will be their third postseason meeting in Atlantic Hockey. Niagara won the quarterfinal series in 2011-12 but it was Robert Morris which scored the OT victory in the semifinals last year en route to its first championship and NCAA bid.
Docu-drama: And for your viewing pleasure, here's the first installment of the Canisius documentary "Taking Flight: A Season To Remember." It's not as fun as say, the Hockey Cribs video from last year, but then again what is? (For the record each time I watch "Canisius College Hockey: Cribs Edition" I have more questions.)