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BNRinkside: Atlantic Hockey Final Four Preview

Atlantic Hockey's final four is set to go on Friday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. What do you need to know? Glad you asked.

The nitty-gritty
First semifinal: No. 1 Robert Morris vs. No. 5 Mercyhurst, 5 p.m.
Second semifinal: No. 2 Canisius vs. No. 3 RIT, 1 hour after first game concludes
Tickets: $16 adults, $12 students/children
TV: Time Warner Sports Channel

Second half tear: The semi between Canisius and RIT features two of the hottest teams in the league second semester. the Tigers took three of four points from Canisius in November at HarborCenter, both teams are different from that early-season meeting. Since Jan. 9, they've combined to go 24-7-4.

Numbers, numbers, numbers: RIT comes into the game with the second-highest scoring line in the country (138 points) while Canisius counters with one of the best defenses around (2.25 goals against per game). But look to special teams and it's the Griffs who have the better overall power play numbers (22.9 percent) while the Tigers have the top-rated penalty kill in the league (92.1 percent). Yep. Trying to parse out the trends can be a bit wacky.

"Statistics are trends over time and the trend is that we're good defensively and they've scored recently," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "But no one's going to win nothing-nothing and it's not going to be 10-9. It's going to be typical playoff hockey, lots of contact and high intensity."

Teach the freshmen well: It's the third straight trip to the conference semifinals for Canisius and senior captain Doug Jessey has learned a lot about these playoff games. "Every moment matters. You think a shift where you’re just standing there for two seconds isn’t going to be the difference but it could be. If we all buy in and believe we’re going to do it, there’s no reason we won’t."

Taking flight: The Canisius athletic communications office has been producing a documentary on the Griffs' season. Part Two was released this week and it's a must-see behind-the-scenes look at college hockey. (And we won't even mention the credit outtakes where Shane Conacher keeps asking "What drill is this?" Oh wait.)

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Defending champ: Robert Morris used a strong second-half of the season last year to win its first Atlantic Hockey title. The trend continued this season. Since Jan. 3, 2014, Robert Morris is 41-13-8 -- a .726 winning percentage. The wins are paced by a dynamic offense, led by Cody Wydo whose 50 goals over the past two seasons ranks first in the nation.

Fantastic Four: Mercyhurst had four players join the 100-point club this season, a rare feat in college hockey. Matt Zay ranks seventh on the school's all-time scoring list with 127 points. Daniel Bahntge, who has not missed a game during his collegiate career, has 126 points. Ryan Misiak's 23 points this season gives him 118 career points while Kyle Just notched his 100th point in the quarterfinal series against Bentley.


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