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It’s time to get down to business.

The challenging non-conference games are completed, and the extended road trips are over.

Canisius and Niagara are in the thick of Atlantic Hockey competition and return to Western New York to host conference games this weekend.

Both teams are fighting for top spots in the conference as the only route back to the NCAA Tournament will be through the automatic bid.

Niagara returns home after an eight-game road trip, hosting American International today and Saturday (7:05 p.m., Dwyer Arena) while Canisius hosts Sacred Heart on Saturday and Sunday (3:05 p.m., Buffalo State Ice Arena) after the Golden Griffins swept Holy Cross last weekend.

The Golden Griffins (6-4-1) are tied with Air Force for fourth place in Atlantic Hockey while Niagara (4-4-3) is tied with RIT for sixth.

The Purple Eagles got a monkey off their back last weekend in Waltham, Mass., picking up their first road win of the season in a 5-3 decision over Bentley.

“We got back on track in a lot of areas; just the little things it takes to win championships,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “We played great in our defensive zone against a really talented offensive team in Bentley. We played defense first with guys sacrificing, blocking shots, all the things that might not show up in a press release but are important.”

The Purple Eagles face an American International (4-7-0 AH) team that broke a nine-game losing streak last weekend with a 4-3 overtime win over Air Force. They split the series after being shut out in the second game, 2-0.

Yellow Jackets junior forward Alexander MacMillian ranks seventh in the conference in scoring, with eight goals and seven assists.

Meanwhile, Canisius is coming off its first sweep of Holy Cross since the 1999-2000 season. Junior Keegan Asmundson made 31 saves Saturday to record his first collegiate shutout.

“Keegan seized his opportunity,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “He looked spectacular on Saturday night and not because he was making spectacular saves. He looked big and confident and just methodical. He really was at a high level and our guys got some confidence off of that.”

The Griffs face a Sacred Heart (4-9-0 AH) team that is on a three-game losing streak and dropped its last game to Robert Morris, 2-1, in overtime.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com