Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics Communications
For the Tigers and Black Knights, both come into this Atlantic Hockey opener with something to prove. Both come in having given up a third period lead to their most recent opponent, Union, and both come into the series that is always hard faught looking to get six Atlantic Hockey Points. Here are three battles that will determine how the weekend goes.
Battle of the net front presence
It is cliched to say that any team needs more net front presence. All coaches on earth want that at all times. However for the Black Knights, that was the biggest thing limiting their grade a looks last weekend. They went too much for the perimeter look and against any goaltender at this level, you will have a bad time if that’s your identity. Coach Brian Riley has stressed his groups need to battle in and around the blue paint more. On the two goals his group scored they absolutely did that. They did not match that energy enough in the game to earn the win. For RIT, they have the skilled players capable of doing great things like Kobe Walker. They will be playing against a determined West Point group that skates harder and can match them stride for stride in skating. Both teams will be looking to get better here.
Battle of avoiding penalties
Noah Wilson’s major penalty and game misconduct was a major hurdle for the Black Knights to overcome. They did that. This weekend against RIT in a hostile environment, they have to stay within themselves. The Tigers took eight minor penalties last week. While Union did not score on special teams, taking your best skill off the ice and altering the flow of the game can come back to hurt you as it did for RIT. Whichever side draws more power plays will probably have a better time this weekend.
Battle of the goalies
About half of Atlantic Hockey has their goaltending figured out with returners. Army and RIT are among those groups as Tommy Scarfone, who is developing a reputation as an athletic netminder with the ability to bail teams out goes up against Gavin Abric. Gavin took the job last year and did everything he could to keep Army in most games. Abric won’t make as many of the athletic saves as Scarfone, but he has the rebound control edge over Tommy. Scarfone has the athletic intuition to compensate for less than perfect position a notch ahead of Abric. Both are superb goalies and both men will be tested by teams looking to get their first points in Atlantic Hockey, and their first wins.
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