The Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC) are pretty good this year. So far, they have one loss in their conference play to an Army team that has started to find their game as of late. One of their non conference loses to Quinnipiac was in a tough 3-2 game that showed how well Head Coach Eric Lang’s team can adjust when needed. After losing the previous game on the road, they came to their home rink and stood shoulder to shoulder with one of the better offenses in the country nearly ow
In addition to their 13 wins to this point, the team is fairly strong on offense, and a resilient one, given the talent they lost from their second straight Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championship. The team, coming into today’s game is ninth with 56 goals scored. The team is doing this not with a top “big” line like some teams do, but with a collection of depth players providing more and more of the scoring and grit for this team. The play of the line that Aaron Grounds is on, that has featured multiple players along side of him has provided the positive physicality that Eric Lang had two years ago when his team shocked everyone but themselves against St. Cloud in the NCAA Tournament.
During the broadcast of their 3-0 win over Holy Cross, broadcaster and Coordinator of Athletic Communications director Seth Dussault called AIC a “buzzsaw” and, well Seth has a point about not just this game, but the Yellow Jackets in this conference. Through watching multiple games this weekend, this AIC team had the most complete weekend of any team we saw. It is hard to find ways to get better from this week, but we expect this team to somehow pull it off, because that is all they have done throughout the year, find ways to develop.
Let’s look at their eye-popping stats from the past week alone, courtesy of AIC Athletics
“AIC outscored Sacred Heart and Holy Cross by a combined 17-2 in the three games.
The Yellow Jackets outshot their opposition 115-55 and did not concede more than 20 shots in any game.
The Yellow Jackets went 5-of-17 on the power play and 8-of-9 on the penalty kill.
[Brennan] Kapcheck had a six-point week with six helpers to go with a +7 rating, while Dodero, Cole, and Janhonen all recorded five points on the week; a total of nine Yellow Jackets notched three or more points between the three contests.”
While some that do not follow this league do not see the implicit value in any of these statistics, we will note that every time we have had the chance to hear Head Coach Eric Lang speak about his team, along with the always evident humility and profound respect for the opposition, he notes things that his team can do more of, and improve upon. He now has a roster with so much depth on it, that three different goalies have wins, and all have shown they can handle the net for long periods of time. Oh, and Lang has multiple quality skaters that are sitting as healthy scratches each night.
That is, this Yellow Jackets team, this buzz saw of a squad that Lang has put together has shown their continued ascent throughout the year. This team, from its top scoring threats of Ellijah Barriga, Chris Theodore, Tobias Fladeby and others, combined with its solid depth of Grounds and Julius Janhonen, to so many others is one that during any other year where the pairwise was being used would most likely be an at large lock at this point. There are very few teams, in any conference, that can have their third or fourth goaltender come in and play at a top level, deal with sustained injuries or absences up front, and come out like these Yellow Jackets. If they do not meet the eye test to the Selection Committee after this week, we do not know what team would.
With all of that said, AIC has so many storylines on this roster, and so many areas Lang wants to get better on, that we think these Yellow Jackets should earn an at large spot, and that the league they play in, Atlantic Hockey, deserves at least two representatives. Look for the Yellow Jackets to focus on continued improvement in their penalty kill over the last few games of their season, and in playing complete games as they did this weekend against Holy Cross. If they finish strong, and nationally ranked, no one will be talking about AIC in this tournament the same way they did in 2019. Look for more on these Yellow Jackets in the weeks ahead.
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