Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
AIC Head Coach Eric Lang talked about the team’s first-ever playoff series win at the Olympia Ice Center, the program’s original home. He said “ Pretty neat to win a playoff series here. The level of professionalism of our group to come here and not make any excuses shows our maturity.” Lang also talked about how his coaching staff helped his team adjust to playing a complete game tonight. He said “these guys set our guys up for success. We had some adjustments we thought were vital for tonight. They have a great feel for what our team needs. They are all so talented.”
On the win overall, Lang said “ we learned a lot about ourselves tonight. We have a high-end gear in us. We were really good. Focus, disciplined, with a commitment to our game plan. Our seniors lead the way. Dodes, Justin Cole , Barriga lead from the front.”
On Blake Bennett not only earning a hat trick but passing up a clean shot on a breakaway to get Austen Long a goal ( had Bennett scored the 5-2 goal he would have had a hat trick right there) Lang finished by saying “ Benny was amazing. He elevated himself, that entire line was terrific. Blake Bennett is the greatest example of sticking with the process. Could have been easy on many accounts to make excuses and go somewhere else. He didn’t he stuck with it.” Bennett, a year after not traveling to the NCAA West Regional, is now the team’s leading goal scorer with 14.
Bennett praised his linemates for setting him up on each of his goals. On the power play he credited Luis Lindner to get a quick pass to him. Of the team he said “its all about each other.”
“He does so much for this team that I’d rather him score than me get a hat trick.” He said of the pass to Austen Long on his goal. Blake said of his role as the team’s leading goal scorer, “ I just need to do my thing and keep shooting the puck.”
Austen Long said of the team’s support, “I love everyone of my teammates, we come together and build off each other’s energy.”
Austen said of his growth, “I’ll give credit to our weight training coach ( strength and conditioning coordinator) Michael Dance.” Long praised the consistency of the program for helping him grow his strength. Now, Long is one of the toughest forwards on the team to dispossess, and possesses puck strength that set him up well to play professionally when his time at AIC is done.
Starting goaltender Alec Calvaruso added of a weekend where he was tested in big moments and played well that “I knew I was going to be the starter Thursday night when we got the lineup. Other than that there were a lot of question marks this week as to what would happen, so I prepared as if I had to play three games.”
On playing two games in two days after platooning for most of the season he said “I haven’t played two games in a row this season but I remember what it was like from playing in juniors. It’s all about recovery so that was my biggest focus all week.”
On advancing to Utica for the Atlantic Hockey semifinals he said “ I’m very excited to go to Utica next weekend. We had the mindset that it wasn’t even a question we would be there. We knew what we had to do and fortunately we executed.”
On just playing for AIC he finished by saying, “It means the world to be a part of the AIC family. Without this coaching staff and this team, I’m not sure where I would be today or if I would even still be playing hockey. This is the most welcoming team I’ve ever been a part of and I’m excited to see what this group can accomplish.”
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