Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics
The last time AIC was in Fargo to take on the number one seed in the tournament, their coaching staff noted the value of sticking to a script to defeat a St. Cloud State team full of NHL-ready talent. That same idea is heavy on Head Coach Eric Lang’s mind once again as his group is preparing to take on the Fighting Hawks Friday night at 8:30 PM Central Time. The Fighting Hawks were one of the 2-3 teams Lang and his group were preparing for over the last month, his staff looked at a lot of film on them and other possible first round opponents. As Lang said of his staff’s prep and his thoughts on UND’s staff and team as a whole, “the dig was deep. We as a staff have a lot of admiration for how they do things.”
As he said of preparing for the Fighting Hawks now, compared to facing St. Cloud State in 2019, ” different team different time. We certainly understand we will have to weather some storms and by any means necessary make sure we stay in the fight. Similar to St Cloud we will have to make sure the game goes a certain way.”
In addition to understanding the differences in circumstance, Lang is thankful for the built in advantage that the Atlantic Hockey representative gets in the national tournament every year. The Atlantic Hockey Association has one media timeout per period, the national tournament, and most other conferences, including the NCHC, has three.
As Lang said of the difference. “it’s advantageous because it gives you an opportunity to adjust on the fly and not wait in between periods to make any adjustments that may be necessary. It also allows you to get your best guys out there a little more.” His team made use of the advantage last time around, and when UND gets a wave of momentum at some point in the game, as they probably will, Lang will get a de facto timeout that could help him reset things a little easier than what he can do in Atlantic Hockey games.
On the Fighting Hawks team Lang’s group is about to face, he was blunt. He said of the top end talent his team is about to face, compared to what he sees in Atlantic Hockey (Lang also was a fierce advocate of Atlantic Hockey getting two teams into the tournament this year, and has repeatedly mentioned that he thinks Army West Point should have been under consideration) ” Quite honestly we don’t have a team that resembles them in any way shape or form. It’s one of the most impressive teams on film I have seen in the last 10 years. [They have] a brilliant defense corps, hard skill up front, and depth everywhere.”
With that said, Lang also noted the strength of Atlantic Hockey, noting that his team does not have any pressure that given the past few years his conference has carried itself well. He said, “I don’t feel that pressure our conference is 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA’s [which is] quite impressive since we are quite often a 15 or 16 seed.”
Of who we might see, keep in mind that Lang can and often does lineup match based on the strengths of his opponent. To counter the speed of UND, he will have to put together the best group of skaters he has. As Lang elaborated, “we will have to put out our best skating line up we have. We will have some new faces going in on Friday night.”
To wrap things up, Lang does have eight players who were on the roster the last time AIC played the number one overall seed in Fargo. As he said, “it’s always a good thing when you can lean on some guys, been there done that, our players will not be overwhelmed by the moment.” Finally, Lang said of the 8:30 PM start time, “game time is irrelevant. We are excited to be here what ever time they tell us to show up we will be there.”
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