Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography, Seth Dussault- AIC Athletics, Aisha McAdams
AIC Alum and Holt, Michigan native Ryan Polin was honest about why he as a cerebral two way defender chose to go to AIC, knowing nothing about the school and being a few months away from playing at the Division Three Hockey in Michigan.
“ I got recruited out to AIC by Gary Wright who gave me a chance to play division one hockey, and I’m always thankful for that opportunity. I was hopeful to be a part of a turnaround.”
AIC stepped up to offer him a scholarship. They were the only one, Mike Towns and Gary Wright gave him his chance the last month of his junior hockey experience. He did not know what to expect but signed up for the life changing experience.
“We didn’t know where the program was going to go from there then Eric Lang took over, there was just a new buzz that came into town when he took over. It was definitely a night and day thing from my freshman year to my sophomore year.”
They played out of the MassMutual Center from the sophomore year on. Their first game against Union was a tight loss, and gave them hope for a bright future. The alums came together from his sophomore year. “From there the program took off.” These alumni events, organized by Matthew Schmenti helped grow community around the program and bring everyone together. Polin has been a part of many 60 plus participant Zoom Happy Hours.
Overtime he said The funding for the program got better, my freshman year I was using used sticks.” He praised Lang for energizing the alums and bringing everyone together.
“I was not expecting that”
“Us going on to win that in Buffalo was incredible.” “Their help on pushing the program to where it is now.”
Going into North Dakota was awesome “ we were just a small school from Massachusetts, just getting there, we didn’t know what to expect.”
From being the worst team in the league my freshman year to making the final eight three years later.
“I was there when it was really bad, now I work under our alumni, the bond between our alumni and I has grown.”
For Eric Lang. “When we won in Buffalo, he came in and did like a little funny dance and a couple of fist pumps and then we poured Gatorade on him, I’ve never seen this guy that fired up in my life.”
On his relationship with Schmenti who he met at that alum event.
“ I met him my sophomore year and nothing really came of it, Matt was the head guy and spoke at the alumni event afterwords. After my junior year, I myself was kind of looking for some type of internship to get experience on my resume. I reached out to Matt via email. I really wanted to get experience with a company like his.” He did a rotational program in each department of Schmenti’s company and earned full time work after his hockey time was done. He learned from Tom Fenton , Joe Rotondo and Schmenti, all AIC alums. After his time playing hockey was done he reached out to them and they had an opening and he worked in business development on his way up in his third year with the company. The bond with all of them has made his appreciation with AIC even greater.
AIC SID Seth Dussault shared this story and thoughts on Polin “ When we were in Buffalo, the morning of the AHA championship game… I went over from the hotel to the rink for morning skate (all in the same facility so it was just a short walk). Ryan was there, one of the first to arrive. We were looking out onto the ice, and he just says to me “what do you think, one lap for old time’s sake?” Wish I had my skates with me, I would’ve taken him up on it. His freshman year, Coach Wright had sometimes had me on the ice with them at practices.So it was kind of nice, 3 years later, all the changes, but he still thought of it. That’s how him and Shawn McBride both were. That’s why those two were the two leaders. Even though those were the only two that hadn’t been recruited by Eric, they fit the mold personality wise for what he was trying to build. They are such a huge part of why we were able to be successful. Eric always says that especially that first championship, it had Gary’s fingerprints all over it. Shawn and Ryan…well, those were Gary’s left and right hands attached to the body Eric had built.”
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