Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Tonight, the American International College (AIC) Yellow Jackets hung with the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota for all but an eight minute stretch in the first period. For Eric Lang’s team, the problem was those eight minutes where UND controlled everything, and scored four goals that proved to be the difference on the evening. Jasper Weatherby scored the first two of those goals . Tobias Fladeby put home a nice goal in the slot on a turnover in the third period to briefly make it a three goal difference before Colin Adams put home the final goal of the night. The Fighting Hawks advance to play the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth who practiced again today after their first round game against Michigan was declared a no contest due to the Wolverines having positive tier one individuals which precluded them from playing their game. The Bulldogs will try to win their second Fargo Regional and make the Frozen Four this season tomorrow.
With that said, here are three things that stood out to us tonight.
“There’s 15 good teams and then there’s North Dakota“
Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Head Coach for AIC, Eric Lang, is always one of the more honest people in this game about where things are. The Fighting Hawks are the most complete team he has seen in the past ten seasons, and tonight they showed it in every aspect. While AIC had their moments after their initial push in the first, none of them went in the net behind Adam Scheel until the game was out of hand late in the third period. The Fighting Hawks took the worst segment of even strength hockey that AIC played all year, and put the puck in the back of their net four times. Not many teams, in any part of this level of the sport would recover from that. That does not mean AIC did not battle, far from it. They fought the entire game. This Fighting Hawks team took the inch AIC gave them in the first period, and got a full mile’s worth of results out of it. When AIC fought back, UND had the superb goaltending of Adam Scheel, and the ability to limit zone time to stifle most long attacks from Lang’s group.
Kucharski shows out
Freshman goaltender Jake Kucharski came in to start the second and try and give his team a chance to get back in the game. AIC had some of their best moments with him fighting in net. His hockey sense is good to see, and he did earn five wins for Lang’s team this year. He Called tonight a “coming out party” for Kucharski, and given the 19 saves he mae against the Fighting Hawks, we would tend to agree. Next season, Lang will have four goaltenders who are all capable of playing on the bright stage of the NCAA Tournament. Who gets the net each night will be up to overall goaltender development and how well they battle for the job over the offseason. Kuchrski showed quick skis tonight, including possesion thte abiity to told th
No Moral Victories
In 2019, the media staff of AIC said to us at this regional ” if we win don’t call it an upset” and we would not have called this win, should the result have been different than the final score an upset. AIC has proven that they belong on the national stage with their consistency of effort, and tonight was another chapter in that truth of how far this program has come, and a harbinger of the good to come from it going forward.
Well Lang is beyond trying to read big conclusions about his program, out of any one isolated event. With that being said, he did not the delayed affect of being in Covid-19 protocol for 42 days before last week. With that said, Lang did not use that as an excuse, noting instead that every single team had to figure things out each day, and he is right about that. Given all of this, as we noted, Lang is welcoming back with open arms all of his seven person senior class, of which he only expects to lose two to the professional ranks (Brennan Kapcheck and Tobias Fladeby). AIC Hockey has again proven with their response how they can and do compete at the highest level of this game, and their continued success in the national tournament, combined with the history of Atlantic Hockey suggests that this conference , like Lang’s team, is on the way up. Had Lang’s group been able to win a few more games (AIC had 7 weeks worth of games canceled due to others, or them dealing with Covid-19 protocol) they may have drawn a different opponent. He does not think that is an excuse for those eight minutes. In addition, despite the loss Lang is immensely proud with the effort displayed by his group as well, and how they did not pack anything in for the last 40 minutes.
No one with the Yellow Jackets wanted the result of tonight, what they got was a bad eight minutes, a confident 52 minutes, and a hope that Lang’s group can go ever further one day. His consistent goal is to get out of regionals every shingle season. Moral victories and shot totals do not matter when your team has more goals. Lang’s group also had better results than some NCHC teams did against the Fighting Hawks. For UND to win, they need to keep their pressure up, and reprise those eight minutes in the Regional Final.
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