Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
To play for Eric Lang and his AIC Yellow Jackets, you have to have some common traits. First and foremost, you have to be a good human. Brian Rigali is an elite human according to Lang and his staff. Even when Rigali chose to head to the University of Connecticut, that did not deter Lang and his staff from recruiting him for his transfer year. As Lang said ” When he told me he was going to go to UCONN.. I remember the exchanges were very professional, we left it off in great terms.. because we left it off so well we were able to reunite.” That alone stuck with Lang for four years, knowing the value of maintaining relationships with those in the ever growing world of college hockey. Impressions and honesty matter to him, and that honesty and openness made the second recruiting process for Rigali’s extra year a short one. When Lang and his staff offered him a spot, there was not much further need for discussion from Rigali. The choice for him was clear to become a Yellow Jacket, after being a Husky for four years.
To play for Lang, you also have to be a high energy player with a lot of skill and even more effort obvious with every second you put on tape. Rigali has all of those qualities. As Lang said “he’s the perfect AIC hockey player in terms of what we value.” In terms of the high motor he brings, Lang called him a right handed Chris Dodero, which seems apt, given that the two are from the same area in the greater Chicago area and train together. Rigali and Lang both expect Brian’s offensive game to take the next step in his final year of college hockey. As Lang said ” he’s got a lot more production in him.” Rigali is learning more from Dodero as Chris runs a hockey skills training company called Prodero Hockey. Both are high motor players that could easily end up on a line together this season, and both can make each other better.
As to why he picked AIC, Rigali spoke highly of how Lang and his staff handled his choice to play at Uconn. As he said, “I’m really familiar with the program and the success they had.” Rigali has played Sacred Heart, Army West Point, and other Atlantic Hockey schools, and knows the style of play that Atlantic Hockey has, high energy and physical play to combine with top end skill, is perfect for the game he plays.
As Lang summarized “he’s the perfect AIC hockey player in terms of what we value. ” In addition, he said ” we are going to absolutely love him. Rigali is already communicating with the team, as several Yellow Jackets reached out to him upon his choice to head to Springfield next season. Brian is already inspiring Lang through sending him motivational quotes and videos, while Lang is always excited to lead his team, Rigali’s motivation has taken that up even higher. As Lang said, ” he has been getting me excited about our season.” Like Lang, Rigali knows how good this group will be this season ahead, saying that “we are going to have a lot of depth this year. ”
Watching his game, Lang knows another thing Rigali adds, is a high energy aspect to the team that makes everyone better. Brian models the effort he plays with after high energy wunderkinds that made a name for themselves in the NHL like Andrew Shaw, among many more. Lang loves the second and third effort on all shifts that Rigali brings, and knows that will mesh well with the group of good humans he has assembled in Springfield. As for the rest of the offseason, Lang and his staff are being very deliberate with their options in the transfer portal, as they have one more spot they aim to fill this offseason.
They are looking for one more player that checks as many of the boxes of potential Yellow Jacket that Rigali has checked, which is always a tough task to find, but even more so compounded as hundreds of players still remain in the portal, thus making marginal comparisons take longer, comparing the package that hundreds could bring to your group. Lang and his staff are in a best player available mentality to find one more future Yellow Jacket in the portal, position is not the deciding factor, what that person brings to the group is. Rigali will be working on his MBA at AIC, looking to give himself as many options as possible for when his on ice career is done.
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