Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee -Violet Turtle Photography
For Atlantic Hockey, one common theme amongst all its coaches was the need to win non conference games. This league has to win closer to 45 percent of its games to earn a chance at two bids and it has been in the 30 percent range for most of its existence. Here are some reasons why it can get two bids.
The Transfer Portal
Every school but the service academies have all used the transfer portal to get better and mitigate losses to graduation and well, transfers. The NCAA letting student athletes go to the best fit for them and allowing for one time change without sitting a year has helped this conference already. Last year AIC’s lead defensive center was a transfer who may not have had a spot at his school, UCONN to play. Brian Rigali came to AIC, got a degree and helped the team win another Jack Riley Trophy. This year, AIC has multiple NCHC transfers coming looking for a better shot to play. When Eric Lang compares a goalie ( Alex Aslinaidis) to AIC legend Zach Skog, to get that talent late in the portal process is massive. AIC got him and a national championship defender from Minnesota Duluth, Jake Rosenbaum. Those additions along with all of the other transfers do not happen without the portal. Mind you this is only for one team, every portal benefitting school got better in some area this off-season with players that all will add to the long term culture of the group.
Service Academies Success
While we use this opportunity to first note that Frank Serratore and Brian Riley have built outstanding programs, the academies are getting skilled hockey players who want to lead there every year. Both academies play a home heavy non conference schedule this year and could easily knock off their non conference rivals. Army West Point now has arguably its second potential all American goalie in three years; while Air Force has all stars up and down its lineup.
Home is where the wins are?
Look at nearly every Atlantic Hockey team. The vast majority of them get big rivals that they need to beat, at home this year. AIC opens their home schedule with UMASS Amherst in a one off that could be the difference in an at large bid. Army gets Providence at home, Mercyhurst gets Ohio State at home, and there are others. A lot of these games at home should help these teams in the coin flip nature of some of these matchups.
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