Atlantic Hockey non conference series to watch: Part One

For Atlantic Hockey to be a two bid or more conference, they will need to win some more series/one off games this year against non conference teams. We will highlight some key ones and what to watch for in them.

Holy Cross-North Dakota

Bill Riga spoke at Atlantic Hockey media day about his group and what heading into year two of his leadership as head coach of the Crusaders looks like. Holy Cross took points from nearly every team they faced down the stretch of Atlantic Hockey last year, and has some scoring power coming to this team. Forward Liam McLinskey was recruited to Quinnipiac by Riga when Riga was an assistant there. The big, smooth skating forward did not get a lot of reps as a freshman, and he transfered to play for Riga once more. He has a smooth shot that should play well. One defining feature of Riga’s group is how well they compete. In net, Riga mentioned all of his rostered goalies as in the fight to compete for a job. Bentley transfer Jason Grande brings some leadership and experience, Louden Hogg comes from the USHL, and Tomas Gale is the lone returner. If Holy Cross can compete as they did down the stretch and focus on short segments of the game, they could give a strong Fighting Hawks team more than they may want to deal with opening up the season.

Niagara-Omaha

Head Coach Jason Lammers loves playing NCHC teams on the road to open up the season. He thinks it helps them get ready to travel to Air Force, the only plane trip for any school in the conference. Also, this series will be a good test to see how fast a new look Niagara team is. Lucas Bahn comes into the lineup on defense and Lammers said the Alabama Huntsville transfer comes “better than advertised.” Niagara has been known for producing big physical defenders that may not score as much as they want to. This year with Bahn that can change. Lammers also mentioned the strong speed that NCHC teams all have and we all expect Omaha to be fast. Niagara could face a former AIC goalie in net for this series in Jake Kucharski as well. Also Lammers brought in a few players from the Division three level who have been through a lot of good and know how to score. Forward Mike Egan is a player to watch for this group. In net, Purple Eagles fans could see Chad Veltri, Jake Sibell, or transfer Ryan Ouellette. Ouellette had a good stint with Lincoln in the USHL but went to Wisconsin Eau Claire last year and dominated his competition. In 24 games he put up a .923 save percentage with a mere 1.66 goals per game allowed. He will battle for a spot. Omaha will be one of the fastest teams in the NCHC again this year, but a physical team like Niagara that can skate with them should make this season opener a series to follow.

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