Photo Credit :Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Given that, finally, it is a game week for Division One Men’s College Hockey, and given that many teams in Atlantic Hockey have a chance to make their mark this week, let’s look at three games to watch, and what we will be looking at from each Atlantic Hockey team in them.
Army West Point Vs. Providence
The back end of the Black Knights is the most glaring thing to keep an eye on. While the team up front has a preseason Hobey Baker Candidate in Colin Bilek leading them, their defense and goaltending has a lot to be figured out. The team has about two games of experience in net amongst their three netminders. Their rear guard does have some intriguing folks looking for playing time right away. One player that reminds us a bit of recently graduated Firstie, and current Second Lieutenant John Zimmerman, who played a big physical game for Brian Riley’s group for four years is Andrew Gilbert. The 6’5″ defender, like Zimmerman, will step up and look to earn time on the penalty kill pretty quickly. You will not measure his impact on the stat sheet, unless it has blocked shot, hit, and turnover columns in it. The Hitmen were the best team in the NCDC last year and won the Dineen Cup Championship with him at the helm. If he can help the defense, along with players like Hunter McCoy up front (a player Bilek singled out for his strong release) then the Black Knights could be poised to give the Friars more than they bargained for in the early Saturday opener.
AIC vs. Boston College (EXH)
Eric Lang has one of if not the biggest rosters in this sport, and seeing who gets a chance to battle for time against one of the perennial favorites to win Hockey East should be intriguing. Lang will surely want his top returners to get looks, so expect players like Chris Dodero, Chris Theodore, Parker Revering, and Luka Maver to all get some reps. The bigger story for AIC is in their depth. We will be tracking this game to see how Alex Tertyshny does if he gets his shot. Wherever he may see time, should he draw in, he, the many transfers AIC has, and the freshmen brought in will all be under observation by Lang and his staff. He likes playing all four lines pretty equally early on, and there is where players make it hard on him to keep them off the ice. Look at Aaron Grounds last year, the now sophomore competed against a full roster to earn time, and could not be kept out of the lineup after his early season stretch putting up three points in his first four games to compliment the physical nature with which he plays the game.
Oh, and AIC is integrating two Robert Morris transfers including Brian Kramer, who Lang called “the best defender in our league.” How the depth players looking for time like Tertyshny, who can earn looks in the regular season with his early season play, and the new transfers integrate will be the story of this exhibition in setting the stage for the rest of the way for Lang and his group.
Colgate Vs. RIT
The only home game that counts features the Tigers as the home team. The Tigers have Senior Will Calverley leading the way, who is a dark horse pick to take the Atlantic Hockey scoring title from Bilek. He is one of the fastest players in this league who can score in an instant, and like Bilek is not afraid to block shots and lead in the defensive end. Unlike Bilek’s group who is heavy on underclassmen looking to step up and lead sooner, Head Coach Wayne Wilson’s group has ten seniors, with not many question marks in their key positions. The Tigers have the chance to, like Army West Point did last season, utilize their depth and leadership in key positions to spoil the top three of the preseason Atlantic Hockey poll that had them slated to finish fourth. The Tigers have depth and top end skill in all of their groups, and how quickly they put things together will go a long way to determining their fate this season.
The Tigers get to play the Black Knights in the second week of the season, in the Atlantic Hockey Association opening series in two games that could serve as a guide of trends for both teams, after seeing Colgate this weekend.
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