The dust from the first round of the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament has settled, with Army being the only low seed to advance and Air Force eagerly awaiting their first taste of post season action. As the puck drops for the quarterfinal match-ups draw closer, let’s take a look at our two service academies and how they’ll fare this weekend.
The Falcons finished up the AHA regular season with a 14-10-4 conference, good enough for the #3 seed and an automatic ticket to the quarterfinals for the tournament. This weekend, the Falcons will take on the #6 seed, Niagara, at home. Air Force will be looking to their first-team all-conference goaltender, Billy Christopoulos, to play lights-out against Niagara as the Falcons begin their quest to defend their Atlantic Hockey title.
Congrats to Billy Christopoulos on being named first-team all-conference https://t.co/mUJjA7zRh3— Air Force Hockey (@AF_HKY) March 14, 2019
During the regular season, Air Force split their two games with Niagara - suffering a 5-0 loss before regaining composure and skating to a hard-fought 2-1 victory. Niagara made it out of the first round, narrowly fending off Canisius 2-1 in the series, with all three games decided by one goal. Air Force faces a tough test in the quarterfinals, but hopefully a strong home ice advantage can lift the Falcons into the semis.
The Black Knights advance to the quarterfinals after sweeping #7 seed Mercyhurst 2-0, winning both games in decisive fashion. Army fans are hoping for more of the same as the team travels to Springfield, MA to take on the #1 seed AIC Yellow Jackets. AIC boasts a 17-9-1 conference record, including 3-0 and 5-2 wins against the Black Knights. Army will be relying heavily on senior captain Dalton McAfee to help turn their fortune against AIC. McAfee was also named to the AHA’s first-team all-conference.
Army will need some serious playoff magic in order upset the regular season champions, and with any luck, three games will be enough to gain a spot in the semifinals. The Black Knights are still seeking their first AHA tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth. And what would that journey be without a little service academy rivalry? Although unlikely, Air Force and Army victories this weekend coupled with an upset of #2 seed Bentley by #8 seed Robert Morris, would force an Army/Air Force match-up in the semifinals. In any case, there should be some exciting games from both teams as they battle to stay in the post-season hunt.