The Atlantic Hockey Association hasn't had as much success in out-of-conference games as it did as a conference a season ago, but there are a few teams at the top of the standings who are starting to heat up.
Mercyhurst, Bentley and RIT currently have unbeaten streaks of four or more games while preseason favorite Niagara is eight games below .500.
Jeff Cox will publish updated Atlantic Hockey Association Power Rankings every week until the end of the season.
1. Mercyhurst (9-7-1)
The Lakers are 8-2 in their last ten and have won four consecutive games. Mercyhurst is tied for fifth nationally with Ferris State for offense per game. Matthew Zay, Ryan Misiak, Daniel O'Donoghue and Daniel Bahntge pace the offense for Rick Gotkin's team. Another big reason for the turnaround has been the emergence of goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant who took over for struggling incumbent Jordan Tibbett.
2. Bentley (7-7-1)
The Falcons, 5-0-1 in their last six, are starting to find their groove after a tough stretch. Brett Gensler, the school's all-time scoring leader at the Division I level, has two goals and six assists in his current four-game point streak. Alex Grieve (12) and Andrew Gladiuk (10) are two of only three players in Atlantic Hockey to have hit double digits in goal scoring, and defenseman Steve Weinstein leads all AHA players in assists with 19. The next two games will be in the city of Boston: this Saturday at Boston University and Dec. 28 at Fenway Park against Holy Cross.
3. Connecticut (6-5-2)
The Huskies swept preseason favorite Niagara over the weekend to run their unbeaten streak to three games. Brant Harris has three goals and two assists in his seven games since returning from injury. The Huskies play their next five Atlantic Hockey games on home ice at the Freitas Forum.
4. Canisius (5-8-1)
The Golden Griffins saw their four-game unbeaten streak come to an end Saturday night at Army. Despite the sub-par record, Dave Smith's team still has to be considered a legitimate contender in the AHA with how the team fared in the second half last season. Canisius has had as tough a schedule as any team in the league with two at Miami, two at Ohio State and one at Denver. The Griffins pulled out a victory in the Mile High City thanks to Keegan Asmundson making his first collegiate start in net.
5. Air Force (7-5-4)
The Falcons are in a weird stretch where they have four ties in their last six games. Chad Demers continus to lead the offense with seven goals and 12 assists while reliable senior Jason Torf has been making the key saves in net. Air Force is off until after Christmas when it faces Northeastern in the opening round of the Ledyard Bank Classic on the campus of Dartmouth College.
6. RIT (6-7-2)
There are other reasons for the turnaround, but freshman and local product Mike Rotolo has started all five games in the team's recent five-game winning streak. Senior forward Mike Colavecchia and defenseman Greg Noyes have been instrumental in guiding the team through the tough times. The Tigers play their first ever outdoors game against Niagara at Frontier Field in Rochester on Saturday night.
7. Holy Cross (4-9-2)
After an upset win at Boston College, the Crusaders carried the momentum into their series with Air Force. Paul Pearl's team tied each game, picking up two points against one of the better teams in the AHA. Holy Cross is off until after Christmas when it takes on Bentley at Fenway Park.
8. Niagara (3-11-1)
This writer wasn't as high on Niagara as some people during the preseason, but the Purple Eagles have struggled more than could have been expected. Finding the net has been difficult, and keeping pucks out of its own net has proven to be even more challenging. UMass-Lowell transfer Mike Conderman leads the team in scoring with four goals and five assists.
9. Sacred Heart (4-12-0)
The Pioneers started out the season 2-1, including a huge upset victory over UMass-Lowell and a nice home win over Bentley, but it has been tough sledding since. SHU was swept by Mercyhurst this past weekend by a combined score of 11-2. C.J. Marotollo's squad is off until the UCONN Hockey Classic after Christmas.
10. American International (4-12-0)
The Yellow Jackets are 0-7 since surprising victories over Bentley and Holy Cross. The task becomes even more daunting this weekend with a road trip to face Maine in Orono where the Black Bears have been nearly unbeatable.
11. Army (3-11-0)
The Black Knights have won two of three after starting out 1-10-0. Brian Riley's team is in a stretch where it will play seven straight home games. Army welcomes Providence for a single game before Christmas, then hosts Mercyhurst and Air Force for a pair of games each to start out the second half of the league schedule.
12. Robert Morris (2-10-1)
It was a tough weekend for Derek Schooley's squad in Watertown as it was swept by Bentley, 4-1 and 7-2. The one bright spot has been the play of junior Cody Wydo who has 11 goals on the season. After this Saturday's game at first place Mercyhurst, the Colonials will take part in the Three Rivers Hockey Classic with Penn State, Boston College and Bowling Green.
- College Hockey Poll Question: Which team is the most pleasant surprise?
- College Hockey Rankings: St. Cloud State Moving Up
- Hockey East Power Rankings: Vermont, Maine Rising; Notre Dame, BU Falling
- ECAC Hockey Power Rankings: Union on top, Clarkson announces its arrival
- Ferris State Meets Michigan in a Top 5 Battle Wednesday Night
- Eye on the Future: Nashville Predators Prospect Zach Stepan, Minnesota State
- Big Ten Three Stars: Kerdiles, Hildebrand, Kloos awarded December 10 honors
- North Dakota Forward Bryn Chyzyk Suspended Indefinitely; Facing Theft Charges
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.