Photo Credit -Summer Dutton-AIC Athletics
AIC Head Coach Eric Lang was direct about his group’s 5-1 win over Mercyhurst, where they scored four unanswered markers, including an Elijah Barriga hat trick, to secure their fourth straight Atlantic Hockey Association regular season championship. He had a lot to say on a night where his team made history for the right reasons.
First he talked about the wonderful alums and work of AIC and College Hockey legend Gary Wright in supporting the team.
He said “Our alums are the shareholders of this program. We have a long proud history and everything this program stands for Coach Wrights fingerprints are all over.”
He was honest about his lineup philosophy. Forward Austen Long found himself with extra ice time and he played well tonight on a line centered by Julius Janhonen. Lang said “Honestly feel like we could put names in a hat and make lines. We are so committed to playing for one another. We don’t have numeric lines. We play who is playing well. Every night it seems to be someone else. We missed Longer he’s back and we go as he goes. His leadership selfless play is as good as any player I’ve ever coached.”
On the team’s response to adversity where they were punished for throwing a blind clearing pass to the center of their defensive zone that had no AIC player to get it, he was proud of the effort to fight back after that goal. Lang said “ We played a good first. We got a little reckless with the puck. This group is incredible at getting right back to what works for us. That’s what they did tonight.”
For the last three games, plenty of opportunity remains for AIC to improve their standing in the national tournament picture before the postseason. Lang said of the philosophy,”We want to continue to play well down the stretch. We also need to be conscious of the pairwise. No let downs.”
Lang gave his quickest response on what to change for tomorrow. The Lakers outplayed AIC in the face off dot. To change Lang simply said “We will clean that up for tomorrow.”
Of Barriga’s hat trick Lang added “It’s getting close to playoff time. EZ has scored a bunch of huge clutch goals for our program. He’s a different player when the games get bigger. He’s one of our guys that can and does elevate. No surprises here.”
Of the this team, Lang finished by saying of it’s potential and of this historic night tha “Interestingly this team hasn’t played its best game. We’ve been close but this team has another gear. I know it. I never ever want to take for granted how hard this journey is. We have guys in this lockeroom that winning trumps everything. That’s all they care about. All individuality is on the back burner. Its all about US and WE and it’s the most precious thing in sports.Set a goal and go out and accomplish it. I’m so proud of these guys. It’s a special group. We have so much love for one another. It’s a beautiful thing. We have more work to do but this is special. Five and a half month journey with a gigantic target on our back. These guys bring it every night.”
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