Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Both teams had their own head coaches say nice things about their opponent, but end with what they need to do. Michigan Head Coach Mel Pearson said when asked what AIC does well “ The first word that comes to mind is scrappy. They play hard. They play honest. They don’t cheat for offense. Everything comes off their defense and they play a simple game. They get it out. They get it in, and they come after it. Like we’ve talked about, they’re older and stronger and they know how to win. They’ve had more guys that have played in this tournament then we do. They have that experience. They’ve won a lot of hockey games. They’re an excellent coached team. Eric Lang and his staff do a tremendous job. One of the best coaches in college hockey that doesn’t get the recognition. It doesn’t matter what league you play when you win as consistently as they do. There’s a reason why. You’ve got good coaches and you’ve got good players. They just work extremely hard. We’re going to have to make sure that we all work them and play our game. We’ll put the pressure on them because they’ll put pressure on you. They’re just a well-balanced team.”
Pearson also added that for his staff they face a lot of tough choices when setting lineups given how deep they are. He said “It is tough, especially with the group we have. We have an amazing team. Great young men. Just yesterday, we had 16 of our student athletes named to the Big Ten All-Academic team out of the 23 eligible because freshmen aren’t allowed to be selected on that team. So, we had 16 of our 23 players selected that go to school at Michigan and compete every day with some of the top students in the world. Those are the type of kids we have and the ones we have to make decisions on each and every weekend. As a coach your life’s in conflict, every weekend. Every Friday, we have to look some guys in the eye and tell them that they are not dressing, which is extremely difficult, especially with the type of people we have here. It’s the worst part of my job and our job as a staff, but we have to make those decisions. We’ve got a great group of individuals that understand that that continue to push, none of them sulk. I’ll give an example. We lost four tremendous players for the Olympics. We had two other players that were out for the year. So, we called upon some guys when we’re in a battle for first place and we played Ohio State which basically is an NCAA tournament team. We played Wisconsin, we played some good teams, and these guys came up in the lineup and did tremendous. We didn’t lose a game. With our top four scorers gone. That’s the type of decision we have to make. It’s not fun and I give those young men a tremendous amount of credit. They handle it with class. I don’t think I could handle it as well as they’ve done this year. That’s a good question and a good point to make and we’re fortunate to have them at Michigan.” His team has overcome some adversity dealing with the weight of injuries and expectations throughout the year. ￼
For AIC Head Coach Eric Lang, he has done a lot to get his group ready to face the daunting challenge of Michigan,but also he took the time on media day to discuss the strength of his group. Lang said “ Ironically, you get in these situations and call around and maybe talk to some NHL scouts that have seen them, because we haven’t seen them live, and maybe talk to some coaches with some common opponent. We have to take a deep dig with our own eyes, but we try and game plan a little bit with what we hear. We’ll have to take care of the puck and we’re going to have to have unreal back pressure and reload, and we need great angles and great sticks and things that, whether we’re playing the University of Michigan or playing Mercyhurst, we’re going to have to be good at those things. We’re not going to be able to put seven NHL first round draft picks out there tomorrow night, so our team game is certainly going to have to be better than their individual game. I’ve said this all year, the strength of our team is the team and we keep scoring up and down the lineup, we don’t have a top pair D and we don’t have a bottom pair D. I think our team depth has really come to fruition here. If we lose our starting goalie, then [Alec Calvaruso] hops in and we don’t miss a beat. That’s kind of how little old AIC is built, and it works for us. We’re an older team and the more mature team in theory. I think I saw some 03’s on their roster, I have t-shirts older than that. We’ll have to stay to our script, but we’re not asking our guys to do things that we haven’t done all year. That’s the recipe for success for AIC hockey, and I think this week is a little bit more on steroids. You turn it over in our league, you may get away with it. You turnover against these guys get, you can almost put the number up on the board. The one thing I can tell you about our group is that we will not show up tomorrow and be in awe of these guys. I could just tell you, I know the type of competitor we have in that locker room, and that’s real talk.”
Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link.