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Atlantic Hockey weekly notes: league making huge strides, playoff race intense as ever

The Atlantic Hockey Association is 9-16-0 against Hockey East opponents this season.

Billy Latta's third period goal was the difference as UConn upset No. 9 Providence on Tuesday night.
Billy Latta's third period goal was the difference as UConn upset No. 9 Providence on Tuesday night.
Steve Slade

It used to be so uncommon, so earth shattering, that when an Atlantic Hockey Association team would beat a Hockey East club, it was as if the whole college hockey world came to a stop. Those days are history, parity has increased across the landscape, and Atlantic Hockey teams are narrowing the gap.

Tuesday night when the University of Connecticut defeated No. 9 Providence, there wasn't much surprise. It was the ninth time this season that an AHA team has been on the right side of the scoreboard against a counterpart from Hockey East, the widely recognized best conference in college hockey.

Although Mike Cavanaugh's program is heading to Hockey East next season, the Huskies are a program Atlantic Hockey can be proud of for a few more months. UConn finished 2-1 this season against clubs from Hockey East, previously defeating UMass and losing to Boston University.

Wright's milestone

Long time American International head coach Gary Wright won his 300th game on Friday night, a 2-1 triumph over Army. Wright, in his 30th behind the Yellow Jackets' bench, is one of the classiest people in college hockey, and does more with less at a Division II school that doesn't give the program the resources it deserves. AIC won, 5-4, in overtime a night later, the team's third straight, to give Wright another win.

Robert Morris rolling

Derek Schooley's team is 9-1-2 in its last 12 games, and is climbing the standings in a bid to join the race for a first round bye and possibly a regular season crown. RMU, unbeaten in nine straight, will face Niagara in a home-and-home series. For a second consecutive season, Colonials junior forward Cody Wydo has scored at least 21 goals. The Allen Park, Mich. native has scored 42 goals over the past two seasons with at least eight games left this year. Another reason behind the recent resurgence is the stellar play of sophomore goaltender Terry Shafer.

League race tight as ever

The top five teams in the Atlantic Hockey standings are separated by just four points. Mercyhurst heads the group with 30 points, but Bentley is just two points back. Air Force and UConn each have 27 while RMU is a point behind them at 26. Another interesting race is the battle for playoff positioning further down in the standings. Holy Cross, American International and RIT are all tied for eighth place with 17 points.

Looking ahead

The top four teams in the league standings all play teams in the bottom half of the current standings this weekend, but that doest mean there won't drama. Red hot RMU will face Niagara in a battle of teams in fifth and sixth place, respectively. The series begins Thursday night at Niagara and will finish Saturday in Moon Township, Pa.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.