by Amy Moritz
It's the penultimate weekend in the Atlantic Hockey regular season and there's plenty for Niagara and Canisius to play for in their respective home-and-home series. Both are still mathematically in the hunt for fourth place -- the final spot among the first-round byes for the Atlantic Hockey tournament. If the bye doesn't happen, both are in position to host a first-round series, as long as they take care of their own end of things in the last four games.
Niagara at Mercyhurst
The Purple Eagles are coming off a disappointing 5-0 loss to Robert Morris and this weekend tackle league-leading Mercyhurst. Niagara is 5-1-2 in its last eight games and focused on finishing the regular season strong, learning the lessons of last year's limp into the playoffs which cost them a tournament championship.
Look for some line shuffling and for the top trio of Isaak Kohls, Ryan Rashid and Hugo Turcotte to be split up. They have just two goals (with one an empty netter) in the last four games.
"If they were just spinning their tires and not getting anything done or getting us momentum then that would be a problem," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "But I just think it’s time for us to reshuffle and we will, we are, this week. We’re going to try and come up with some different combinations and see if we can come up with some magic in these last four games and playoffs."
The teams play tonight in Erie (7 p.m.) and Saturday in Dwyer Arena (7 p.m.) I'll be live at the Mercyhurst Ice Rink tonight with live blog updates.
Canisius at Robert Morris
It's the same set up as last year. The Ice Griffs finished off the regular season with two games against Robert Morris then two games against RIT. Last year, they were swept by Robert Morris. That stung, but set them up for a magical run. They came back to sweep RIT and start a winning streak that took the Griffs to their first NCAA tournament.
"We got pretty hot around this time last year," Canisius senior captain Ryan Bohrer said. "We definitely believe in our guys and that we can do the same thing. We’ve been playing better. We just haven’t played great back-to-back nights. We think we’re close.
"I think it was the same exact set up last year. We played Robert Morris, got swept and the next weekend we played RIT and swept them. We’re hoping to start a weekend earlier this year but we definitely believe we can do the same thing we did last year."
The Griffs are in Pittsburgh tonight and return to Buffalo for a 7 p.m. faceoff with the Colonials Saturday at Buffalo State Ice Arena.