Atlantic Hockey Season Preview

Story posted October 4, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

With another college hockey season approaching, teams around the country are making their final preparations for upcoming exhibition and non-conference games.

The Atlantic Hockey Association consists of 11 schools that typically sit in the bottom half of the PairWise rankings, but teams such as Air Force and American International have turned heads by pulling massive upsets in the NCAA Tournament.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the contenders in a conference that saw all of its members ranked below No. 31 in the PairWise at the conclusion of the 2018-19 regular season and conference tournament slate.

American International

2018-19 record: 23-17-1

Key returners: Blake Christensen, Kyle Stephan, Tobias Fladeby, Zackarias Skog

Key losses: Shawn McBride

American International made some noise in the latter half of the 2018-19 season as it won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament and upset No. 1 overall seed St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Almost every single piece of last year’s team is back. Blake Christensen led the Yellow Jackets with 47 points, and Tobias Fladeby led an offensive attack that finished No. 11 in the country at season’s end, averaging 3.1 goals per clip.

In the back end, Zackarias Skog is returning between the pipes for yet another season. The senior goalkeeper has played in 68 games through three years and will look to lead AIC to yet another regular season and conference tournament title.

Bentley

2018-19 record: 17-15-5

Key returners: Luke Santerno, Jonathan Desbiens, Aidan Pelino

Key losses: Drew Callin, Tanner Jago

Luke Santerno will lead a Bentley attack that averaged just over 3 goals per game in 2018-19, along with Jonathan Desbiens, who added 30 total points. Santerno had the most points on the team last season, finishing with 36.

The losses of forward Drew Callin and offensive-minded defenseman Tanner Jago will sting, as the two combined for 63 points last season. On the other hand, goalie Aidan Pelino has returned for his senior campaign, and he will look to build on a solid junior season in which his save percentage was .906.

Expect the Falcons to be right in the running for an Atlantic Hockey title, giving teams like AIC and Niagara headaches.

Niagara

2018-19 record: 17-19-5

Key returners: Ludwig Stenlund, Noah Delmas, Brian Wilson

Key losses: Johnny Curran

The Purple Eagles are expected to make some serious noise during the regular season, and it’s pretty understandable to see why.

The youth movement invaded this team, and with the top-two point scorers in Ludwig Stenlund and Noah Delmas returning, the offensive attack should be potent. The two combined for 82 points and were a force to be reckoned with last season.

Brian Wilson will handle goalie duties once again, returning with a .910 save percentage that should only get better as the players in front of him get more experienced.

RIT

2018-19 record: 17-17-4

Key returners: Adam Brubacher, Jake Hamacher, Logan Drackett

Key losses: Abbott Girduckis, Erik Brown

In 2018-19, Erik Brown led the RIT Tigers with 18 goals, and Abbott Girduckis led the team in points with 36 and in assists with 25. Although the duo has graduated, the RIT offensive attack should still produce in 2019-20.

Adam Brubacher and Jake Hamacher teamed up for 61 points, and the offense really flowed through those two during the 2018-19 campaign.

Logan Drackett is a steady and reliable presence in net, holding a .911 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average last season. Overall, if the defense can work out some kinks and the offense can produce without Girduckis and Brown, the Tigers could create some chaos.

Sacred Heart

2018-19 record: 16-17-4

Key returners: Austin Magera, Jason Cotton, Mike Lee, Nick Boyagian

Key losses: Liam Clare

The Pioneers return their top two points leaders from a year ago in Austin Magera and Liam Cotton, as well as their second-best defensemen in Mike Lee.

Liam Clare was the best defensemen on last year’s team with a plus-11 in the plus-minus category. His loss will be felt, but forward Nick Boyagian also returns for another season after accumulating 18 points and a plus-minus of plus-8 last season.

Josh Benson and Brett Magnus shared time in net last year, but with Magnus graduating, Benson will most likely handle all of the goaltending duties for the Pioneers.

If this team can use its experience and Benson can get his save percentage above .900, Sacred Heart could be in the running for a possible bid at the Atlantic Hockey title.

 

Christopher Hess is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.