The top four teams in the Atlantic Hockey Association have begun to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, but teams could heat up, especially a squad like fifth place Canisius who had an incredible second half last season on the way to capturing the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
There is still over a month left in the season, but it is interesting to look back and take a peek at my preseason prognostication. It appears I was right on ranking Mercyhurst and Bentley as high as I did. I clearly underrated Air Force, but didn't fall for Niagara like many people.
With no further ado, here is this week's SBNation Atlantic Hockey Association Power Rankings:
1. Mercyhurst (13-9-4 Overall, 11-1-3 AHA)
The Lakers didn't pick up a win last weekend, but also stayed unblemished on home ice in conference action after skating to back-to-back ties with UConn. Rick Gotkin's team plays a home-and-home series against a desperate Canisius squad this weekend.
2. Bentley (12-8-3 Overall, 10-3-3 AHA)
It appears the one-point weekend at home against Niagara was just a minor blip on the radar as the Falcons have taken seven of eight points since then, including three of four this past weekend at Canisius. The Brett Gensler train just keeps steaming down the line. The St. Charles, Mo. native has 26 points over the last 12 games in which he has at least a point in each.
3. Air Force (14-6-4 Overall, 9-3-3 AHA)
The Falcons handled a much inferior opponent on home ice for the weekend sweep of Sacred Heart, but the important takeaway is how the defense has buckled down even further since the loss of goaltender Jason Torf to injury. Freshman Chris Truehl has two shutouts in his five starts and has faced just an average of 20 shots on goal per game.
4. Connecticut (10-7-4 Overall, 8-4-3 AHA)
The Huskies went out to Erie, Pa. and took two points from the first place Lakers. Not too shabby. Mike Cavanaugh's team needs to learn to play with more consistency, but it has a strong senior goaltender and some sparkplugs up front to peak at the right time.
5. Canisius (8-12-2 Overall, 7-6-2 AHA)
The Golden Griffins could only muster a point out of their weekend series against Bentley. This team is better than its record indicates and could turn the corner at any time now. Remember this team flourished in the stretch run a year ago and could very well do the same this year.
6. RIT (8-11-3 Overall, 7-7-1 AHA)
After Friday night's road contest at Niagara, Wayne Wilson's team plays seven consecutive home games at the Ritter Arena. The Tigers are talented enough to take advantage of such a home stand. RIT is 4-1-1 at home compared to 3-6-0 on the road in conference games. Look for the Tigers to move up the standings over the next few weeks.
7. Robert Morris (6-13-3 Overall, 6-6-3 AHA)
The Colonials are in the midst of a six-game home stand against all the league teams that begin in "A." Derek Schooley's team took three of four points from AIC last weekend, but the going gets tougher this weekend with a visit from Air Force. Sophomore goaltender Terry Shafer has been hot and cold between the pipes, but more often than not has been on the right side of .900.
8. Holy Cross (6-15-2 Overall, 5-9-2 AHA)
The Crusaders snapped an eight-game winless streak and a six-game losing skid with last weekend's sweep at Niagara. This is a team that defeated BC earlier in the season. HC is capable of a better record. Paul Pearl's team plays a solo contest at home against Bentley Saturday night.
9. Niagara (5-14-3 Overall, 5-7-3 AHA)
The preseason favorite of the coaches continues to dig itself a deeper hole. The Purple Eagles have been plagued by inconsistency all season and it doesn't appear to be heading in the right direction anytime soon. This is a team that took three of four points at Bentley, but can't seem to string that kind of performance together.
10. American International (5-15-1 Overall, 5-9-1 AHA)
The Yellow Jackets upset UMass-Amherst Tuesday night, but then took just one point at Robert Morris over the weekend. The next two weekends pose a stiff challenge with series against UConn and Canisius, but after that, three weekends against the other teams in the bottom four of the standings. That is when Gary Wright's squad will have to make its move. The team's nonconference schedule certainly prepared the Yellow Jackets well for the stretch run.
11. Sacred Heart (6-18-0 Overall, 5-12-0 AHA)
The Pioneers were swept at Air Force, but now have three weekends in a row against teams in the bottom half of the AHA standings before finishing up the year with two games each against Bentley and UConn.
12. Army (3-18-0 Overall, 3-14-0 AHA)
The Black Knights have lost seven in a row and are giving up over 4.5 goals per game while scoring less than two goals per game. Not a recipe for success. Brian Riley's team travels to RMU this weekend.
- Atlantic Hockey 3 stars of the weekend: Gole Gunner, Michael Colavecchia and Matt Ginn
- Pick Six: Six ways of looking at Big Ten Hockey on January 20, 2014
- UNH Hockey: van Riemsdyk out for season, Downing to miss 2-4 weeks
- Dartmouth's Eric Neiley suspended by ECAC Hockey
- College Hockey Rankings: Boston College Soaring Higher
- Report: Notre Dame's Robbie Russo Ruled Academically Ineligible
- College Hockey Scores: Weekend roundup - Minnesota, BC both pick up two wins
- Quinnipiac freshman Sam Anas scores terrific mid-air goal against Merrimack
- Video: Fight Night in Mankato
- Recruit Profile: UMass Lowell hockey commit Ryan Dmowski of The Gunnery School
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.