AIC Hockey Head Coach Eric Lang on the one-time transfer rule: “Adapt or get run over”

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Eric Lang, Head Coach of American International College (AIC) Hockey, took some time to discuss the implications of the soon to be passed transfer rule authorizing a one time transfer in all sports without sitting out for a year as one was previously required to do in men’s hockey. Lang is not for or against the rule as written, and was quite honest about what it means for his staff.

As he said rather succinctly:

“Adapt or get run over in this business. Although I am not a proponent of players leaving for greener pasture. I believe just like anything in life their are great instances for how this should and could work. A player who is not playing, a coaching change, a drastic change to an institutional financial  commitment are all common sense measures for why a player should leave. Our concern at AIC is the family advisor back channeling to get a better situation for a player is very dangerous for us. I believe was not the intent or spirit of the rule.”

One thing not addressed in the proposed rule that Lang is concerned about is third-party back channeling via a player advisor.

He explains clearly:

“Our concern at AIC is the family advisor back channeling to get a better situation for a player is very dangerous for us. I believe was not the intent or spirit of the rule.” That is a situation that merits further examiniation by relevant authorities in the NCAA to promote open transperancy if causal links could be found. For instance, if an advisor is steering a lot of their players to a top NCHC school from any Atlantic Hockey school, those conference members would probably want to work with the NCAA to search for a causal link, and improper relationships.

Throughout our many conversations with Lang, it is clear that he is a strong proponent of player development, as of today, AIC has one player in the portal, while it has gotten commits from two fourth or fifth year transfers. Brian Rigali of the University of Conneticut played four years for the Huskies, and Chris Van Os Shaw played three for Minnesota State, in a more limited role than Rugali. For fifth year players, more considerations than on ice time come into play. Not every school wil provide funding for fifth year scholarships to players at an equal measure, and perhaps Rigali’s program was not available for a fifth year either.

As for development, Lang pointed out a pertinent example on his own team of the value of working to grow in this game he has given his life to bettering.

“We have really taken the process and development of a player away. Sometimes in life it is a beautiful thing when you have the sticktuitivness to see something through and come out on the other side. Chris Dodero couldn’t play for us as a freshman as a senior he’s one of the best players in our conference and we play him in every situation.  He didn’t pack his bags and leave. He reinvented and developed himself and is a better player and person because of it.”

That is the balance all staffs will have to strike, while emphasizing the need for further development. While working to keep third parties from influencing decisions, the value of the rule is in helping the player. For example, Matthew Jennings is getting to play two hours away from his home at Alabama Huntsville in a more prominent role than he would have seen at Ohio State. Van Os Shaw comes to AIC with a chance to show the skill that made him highly recruited out of the AJHL. You do not put up 97 points in that league without a lot of skill that he has. Development takes everyone a little different amount of time at this level, and through battling injuries at Minnesota State, he has not had arguably the chance to show what he can do consistently at Minnesota State.

Although Lang guarantees no playing time for anyone on his team, Van Os Shaw will get a closer look at AIC, and every outlet that covers this league will have some reason to list him as a potential breakout player for AIC. For that to happen, he has to earn his shot at AIC through his day to day development, enough to earn a spot in the lineup, then replicate that each game, practice, and day. He is up to the challenge, and Lang is ready for the future of college hockey with the one time rule.

As Lang said in closing ” I come back to we will adapt to this modern day recruiting. I feel it could be dangerous to build an entire team this way.  At AIC we have made a living on being where nobody else is. So it could be an opportunity while everybody has their eyes on the portal we could be somewhere else.”

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The Northeast Generals earn a point against Maryland: How it happened, and what comes next

(Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography)

Last weekend, on Saturday night especially, the Northeast Generals scored the first two goals, and looked to be on the right path for points, before the Danbury Junior Hat Tricks answered back with eight goals to roundly hand the Generals a loss.. On Saturday, the Maryland Black Bears scored first, but that did not deter the Generals as they fought to earn a tie, and get one point on the weekend

Head Coach Bryan Erikson summed up the 3-2 shootout loss and the weekend pretty well in saying the following.

“I have absolutely loved the way we played the last 2 nights. We didn’t score last night but I though we still played an outstanding last 50 minutes. And we brought that into tonight. We played very hard and very well. But ran into a hot goalie. Points are big but wins are more important. But I’ll take playing well any day. Just need to continue to build on the positives and clean up the mistakes and we will be fine. ”

The two Generals goals from the finale came on effort plays in the second period. First, Tyler Cooper made a fantastic inside move on a two-on one and put home the first goal of the evening. Later in the frame, Matt Boczar rifled home the second tally on the evening capitalizing on a turnover caused by Ricky Boysen of Black Bears’ netminder Michael Morelli behind the net. As Erikson said of the two goals.

“Both goals were nice. Cooper had a great goal. He is so good when he keeps his feet moving and that goal was a direct result of just that. He can affect the game in so many ways and that goal was a nice reward for a lot of hard work. And Boczar did what he does. Outworked people after a great play by Ricky Boysen. Great goals.”

In net, Hugo Haas had another good night in net for the Generals, making 29 saves in the finale.

As Erikson said of Haas’s work last night

” Hugo made some huge saves. Didn’t love the first goal and I know he would love that one back. The 2nd goal can’t happen but isn’t on him. We can’t give up 2 on 1’s with 3 seconds left in a period. It’s just a mentally soft play by the guys on the ice and by me of not being aware and having the right guys out there to close out a period strong. And then in the shootout they made some great moves and scored. Hugo is the best.” Haas kept the team within striking distance all weekend, and has continued to help the group battle for a playoff position.

While every General wanted four points on the weekend and came away with only one, Erikson remains upbeat for his group heading into next weekend as they will face the same Black Bears for two games at home.

As he said on what to work on this week, as they get ready to face Maryland at home, “work on traffic to the net. Work on taking the goalies eyes away. And just having fun. The game is supposed to be fun. And I think everyone plays better after a fun week, looking forward to coming to the rink. Happy to see the boys and play hard for the guy next to you.”

As for the players finishing their junior hockey career this season, Erikson is upbeat about their continued work and effort. He added, “our 2000’s have really stepped up their play. They have all played for me for multiple years and I just love them as people. I am so proud of who they are and how hard they are working. Just want them to leave it all on the ice the last 10 games and have no regrets no matter what happens with school and I think you saw that this weekend.”

With that, the Generals have ten more games in their regular season to put together a possible run to the playoffs. More importantly, they have 10 more games in the regular season to showcase how far they have come as a group this season, as one of the most active clubs with player transactions in junior hockey this year, this team is starting to come together. The final 10 games being meaningful regarding the playoffs, and Erikson seeing how far this group has come this season, are all bonuses for the needed moves made to get the Generals to this point. What happens next will be well worth watching.

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Frank Serratore on Air Force Hockey, Atlantic Hockey Expansion, and more

Photo Credit: Air Force Academy Athletics

“Any time you have do deal with adversity.. what doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger.” That mantra sums up the experience of the 2019-2020 Air Force Academy Falcons Hockey Team. A team that finished the year with only two juniors had its best weekend of the season in its final one, a series sweep of the Golden Griffins of Canisius at home where Frank’s group took it to one of the better teams in Atlantic Hockey this season, in their only regular season home series played at their rink in 2021. Of those two juniors, Serratore expects to see one playing regular minutes as a senior next season, starting goaltender Alex Schilling. For many nights, he was the best Falcon on the ice for Serratore’s group this season. In the season ahead, he will be their leader Frank often says ” you can buy everything at Walmart but experience.” The group this season earned theirs, and while the team still will have a lot of young players in key roles, the returners have earned a lot of experience playing in a tough season unlike any other. The Falcons only had a few true home games this season because of teams being in and out of Covid-19 protocols.

Hopefully, for Air Force Academy, their own need to deal with Covid-19 protocols because of tier one personnel testing positive is coming to an end. Cadet-athletes who are able to get their vaccines have been doing so. As a result, the team had to deal with long pauses this year which altered their preparation somewhat. Some days there would not be on ice practices, and others were made different by Serratore’s assistants. As he said ” we took some time off” he went on to praise the work of Associate Head Coach Joe Doyle and Assistant Coach Andy Berg Andy Berg as Frank said of the pauses ” you can almost practice too much .. coaches did a great job with keeping players involved.”

Going forward, the coaching staff has been vaccinated, and those unable to get their vaccines yet due to recently having Covid-19 itself should be able to do so over the summer months. Next season, the Falcons will venture out of the state of Colorado for one non-conference series, against Michigan State on the road. Serratore also scheduled games against local rivals Denver and Colorado College in part to minimize the amount of flights they need to take elsewhere during the season.

As for the conference Frank coaches in, he gave us his opinion on its potential future. While noting that this is Frank’s own opinion and being clear that decisions will be made by administrators of the conference, he went on to provide a road map for the future of Atlantic Hockey. Frank was honest about where the conference is, given that it has had only one representative in every national tournament since 2004 (the first year of Atlantic Hockey) all but one time, when Niagara and Canisius earned a trip to the postseason. That 2012-2013 Purple Eagles team is the only group in the history of Atlantic Hockey to earn an at large bid. Serratore noted his opinion, saying “I’m not so sure its great to be a part of a large one bid conference”. He suggested splitting in into two seperate leagues to guarantee all of its members two automatic qualifier spots as opposed to one.

Frank further suggested admitting teams like Alabama Huntsville and Long Island to make the split work, along with the potential third team that could be on the discussion agenda for this summer. In a general sense, of all independent programs currently in the game Frank said “to me it would make sense to take those schools, as many as possible and make two conferences out of them.” Later he noted that the ideal size for a league in this game is seven or eight schools. At either measure, it provides opportunities for a balanced in conference schedule, while allowing for more non conference opportunities for Atlantic Hockey teams, which currently can only play six non exempt games outside of their own league.

Frank was honest about where his league currently is, and gave his own opinion. On the logistics he said, “I think that would be a very wise business decision” in creating two conferences. He went on to discuss the two leagues creating a scheduling alliance going forward to provide non conference opportunities for each team each year. While we did not discuss what that would look like, he noted the value of having, as he said “two Cinderellas” and said that “Im sure the big schools wouldn’t be too happy about that.”

For the smaller programs in this game, Frank said, “For the have nots in college hockey I think it would be real beneficial.” Of Huntsville’s path, he said, “the people in Huntsville want to continue hockey… we sure cant afford to lose members.” In general of programs in this game he said the following ” we cant afford to have these programs dying on the vine.” He went on to echo the sentiments of other coaches we have talked to in this conference, saying ” Its important to keep all these programs alive.” From a development standpoint he said “there’s more good players than there are lockers out there.” Finally, he added, “we don’t want to have less opportunities, and there’s more kids that can play” at the Division One level than there are spots available for them to do so right now. Of the work that needs to be done, Frank ended this part of the interview on the saying simply, “we need to find a way.”

The Transfer Portal has enough student athletes in it to start 10-13 talented programs right now. The long term effect of this extra year of eligibility, while not experienced by Serratore’s Falcons, or Brian Riley’s Black Knights at Army West Point, effects every other team, as any player who was on a roster this year is allowed an extra year of eligibility. The program at service academies creates second lieutenants and builds leaders within 47 months. That does not change. Thus Riley and his staff are dealing with replacing eight skaters with freshmen, no transfers for his group or Frank’s.

While Serratore is excited about the depth and potential of his recruiting class coming in, he was honest about the process at Colorado Springs. When asked about seeing how good this group of commits coming from all around the country will be, while emphasizing developing them this summer, and over their first two years, he said ” ask me in two years.” Schilling and Willie Riem will be the on-ice leaders for the group next year, and both will play key roles in getting the Falcons back to their perch atop Atlantic Hockey that they lived at for the two seasons prior to AIC knocking them off it. The goal for Serratore every year is consistent, to have his team at their best going into the postseason. As he put it, “we will be the team come playoff time that no body wants to draw.” As for only having one senior Frank said “the bad news for us is we’ve only got one senior on our team .. the good news is that its Alex Schilling.”

On Serratore’s extensive coaching tree, like Brian Riley, he gets to coach against his former assistants. In this case, both of them happen to be behind the bench of Robert Morris. As he said of Derek Schooley and Mike Corbett, now behind the bench at Robert Morris, before proceeding to list the countless other former players of his that have become coaches,and other assistants that have gone on to lead programs, “I’m so very proud of both of them.”

As Corbett told us, Serratore cares about the game and is a passionate advocate for it. When Corbett came to Frank’s Denver team in 1992, Serratore looked beyond what presented itself, and saw Corbett as the whole person that he is. Coming to Denver in 1992, Corbett was a young father and husband and felt that Frank took a chance on giving him a scholarship and supporting Corbett’s young family. Frank disagreed, noting that, “to me, it was an easy decision.. when we were able to bring Mike and his wife up to the university of Denver … he just had a very mature air and a very mature perspective.. that was an immediate benefit even before he established himself as a player in our line up.” This story from Corbett and Serratore’s perspective on it shows that Serratore takes Jack Riley’s advice on coaching as serious as Brian does. As Jack said ” make sure show your players that you care for them more as people than as hockey players.”

It is clear from his decades of experience in this game, the stories of former players and assistants like Corbett’s, his love for growing the game of college hockey, and his ability to have perspective on his team’s work through a pandemic-marred season, combined with his hopes for next year, that Frank is living up to Jack’s advice, and inspiring future leaders in the Air Force to do the same with the airmen that they will lead upon graduation. In addition, he and Riley have inspired countless leaders to get involved in the game with coaching with that same mindset, and this sport is better off for having them in it.

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Matthew Jennings: Read what he brings to the Herd at UAH

Graphic Credit: Total Package Hockey

Photo Credit: Ohio State University Athletics

Matthew Jennings is a Buford Georgia native who spent the first three years of his college hockey career at Ohio State. Through overcoming injuries, the Georgian has gotten a chance to play the game he loves as part of a hockey family. His Dad Steve taught him about hockey, and he has always been encouraged by him. Steve taught him the value of hard work on and off the ice, and has been one of his coaches through the Total Package Hockey program. Jennings praised the honesty of his dad, and his ability to keep things on the level with him. That same honesty and ability to build relationships is something Jennings has taken into his hockey career.

Jennings is a consistent two way center who has a battle level that made his game ideal for what the Chargers Coaching staff is looking for. While he has battled injuries in his time at Ohio State, his resume with the Buckeyes and the Green Bay Gamblers speak to the type of player he is. He is a hard nosed, two way forward that prides himself on outworking the opponent at all times. In a way, parts of his game are similar to one of his friends, and the other Buford native to play hockey for the Chargers, Connor Wood who is good friends with Jennings. Of the school and the hockey program, according to Jennings, Wood told him ” nothing but positives.”

On what the coaching staff told him, he said that the staff said that there was ” nothing guaranteed”, and that he will have to earn every second of ice time. That does not at all phase Jennings, and he praised the staff at large personally, saying ” I like them both as people.” For the type of culture all three coaches have talked about building, adding a player with the mentality of Jennings, and one with solid two way potential, is an ideal add for a team looking for more depth at its center position.

With Jennings’ family now living two hours away from Huntsville, they will get to see him play in a lot of games. While his entire family is happy that Jennings is a lot closer to home, Jennings singled out the excitement of one of his family members. As he said ” my mom is pumped.”

When his hockey career comes to an end, Jennings wants to be a financial planner. He belives it combines the best of what he likes most, relationship building and numbers. As he said, “I Really like Math…. also you get to have personal connections with people.. its not all crunching numbers.”

As for his time asa Buckeye, Jennings is nothing but thankful for the relationships he has built with his former teammates. Multiple times when talking about the game and what he cherishes most about it, the ability to form lasting bonds with his team, no matter at what level of the game he has played it at, means the most to him. As a Charger, he now has the ability to forge new relationships, and provide another example to a young group working to improve on its past season, and learn from how they arrived at its conclusion.

Growing up, playing for the TPH program Jennings would get to come to the Von Braun Center at least once a season. He saw what Charger Hockey meant, and was part of the superb atmosphere that its fans bring to games every night. Now, he will be one of the players that those same youth hockey players in attendance get to look up to, playing closer to his family. While nothing is guaranteed for where the forward will play this season or how much, his path to rehab after his injury at Ohio State, combined with his tenacious effort on and off the ice to improve, it is clear that Jennings is ready to help lead the Herd to greater heights this season. On getting to come back and play as a Charger, after growing up getting his love for the game of college hockey at UAH games, Jennings aptly said ” Its kind of funny how the universe works.”

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 about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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Army West Point Associate Head Coach Zach McKelvie: Part of something special

Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics

Army West Point Hockey Associate Head Coach Zach McKelvie has a distinguished career as one of the most complete defenders to play at Army West Point, a leader off the ice during his time as a cadet athlete, and as an elite human, of the type that Brian Riley and his staff go out of their way to bring on campus. That campus visit is how he was sold on the idea of coming to West Point. As he said, “at the time I was playing for the Bozeman Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League, then Coach Riley and his staff had called me and invited me for a visit.. as soon as I came on campus I was sold.” He values service to others and being a person that plays for those around him, rather than playing with them. Head Coach Brian Riley has talked about this value before, and it is one that is at the center of Army Hockey culture, and arguably part of what West Point tries to teach the value of to the thousands of future leaders that go on to lead the American Soldier on a yearly basis.

He also is forever thankful to the Boston Bruins for waiting for him for two years. Jim Benning and Peter Chiarelli trekked to Brian Riley’s office and noted their delight in McKelvie as a person and a player. He ended up playing for a short time as a professional, finishing on the ice as he is off it, a champion. He won the Kelly cup with the Alaska Aces in 2014. McKelvie credits the Bruins, and the numerous supporters he had, as he said, “for them to stick with me while i was taking time off from hockey… was something special”, and “It means a tremendous amount to me that they stuck with me.”

One thing McKelvie, and Riley drive home continuously to all professional teams, and recruits is that their cadet athletes can play professionally upon graduation. Thanks to a recent policy change, Army has its previous captain, Dominic Franco playing at the AHL level for the Rochester Americans. Zack hopes to see Trevin Kozlowski benefit from that. The All American goaltender has offers from multiple teams, and is continuously honing his skills in net at Tate Rink before he graduates. Should Kozlowski return, he will be a graduate assistant for the team next year. Like a very famous West Point Graduate, Mike Krzyzewski, Trevin has jokingly taken to being called Coach K. Both possess an uncanny ability to lead others, and mentor the team, and regardless of where Trevin ends up, the mark he left on Army Hockey is an indelible one that will inspire many who come to West Point after Trevin graduates in May. As McKelvie said of what Trevin brings to any group off the ice “he’s going to make any organization’s culture better.”

As for McKelvie, he is the lead recruiter for Riley’s group, and takes pride in what he does. He finished his career on the ice as a champion, and likes recruiting players with winning backgrounds. Two commits to Army West Point that could be there this fall won the Dineen Cup with the Jersey Hitmen playing for their NCDC team in the USPHL. Two integral players in turning around Army West Point as a program, Tyler Pham and Mike Preston, finished their time as Clark Cup Champions with the Indiana Ice. There are numerous examples of the value of winning in building a group. As Zach said, “I don’t think skill can replace guys that know how to win.” He noted the influence of his former colleague and current AIC Head Coach Eric Lang in saying “he taught me how to connect with players… he’s definitely shaped my recruiting philosophy, and I think his influence is still felt here.”

That same philosophy of finding good humans and people, combined with the natural restrictions Army West Point has, helped McKelvie and his twin brother (and former assistant, and now head coach at Bethel University at the Division three level) Chris find Colin Bilek, the second best goal scorer in the country this past season. As Zach noted, Chris said to him upon first seeing him play with the Northeast Generals, “‘ “we are not going to lose games with this kid.” Zach praised the honesty of Bryan Erikson and Matt Dibble of the Generals, and positively talked about Erikson noting the value Bilek brings, ” nobody was recruiting Colin, and I give Bryan a ton of credit for pushing us to keep watching him.” His relationship with the Generals is common across the league, especially in the East Division. He praised the North American Hockey League, calling it an “honest league” that develops its players well for their next step in life, both on and off the ice.

As for the decision McKelvie made to come back and be a coach at Army West Point “It took me less than a day to decide that I want to be a part of the program and it was a perfect decision to go back to West Point.” The lead recruiter for this team shares a passion for the success of everyone, and embodies the culture that the Riley family has worked for many decades to build.

To sum up what McKelvie thinks of the entire group that took the Black Knights program to new heights this season, he said of the team success this year, “everybody played an equal part.” Expect McKelvie to tell incoming recruits of all of the success that this senior class had, and further build the tradition at Army West Point. With the recruiting dead period projected to end potentially as early as June, he will be back recruiting players around the country, especially in the NAHL, where the Black Nights find a lot of quality players, like Bilek, that often can be overlooked by other schools. The team will soon gather for their year end awards banquet where the senior captains from this historic group will announce the leaders for next season.

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 about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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Liam McCanney: Humility and growth on and off the ice

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Current Northeast Generals’ forward Liam McCanney did not know much about junior hokey before Bryan Erikson (current head coach of the Generals, and at that time was also the general manager too) offered him a spot on his NAHL team. As Liam said ” I was pretty shocked.” when Erikson offered him a spot on the team’s camp roster via a tender with a chance to earn a main roster spot that fall . From there, as Liam said of the journey which has him on the verge of earning a scholarship to play Division One College hockey, of his time in juniors “I never really knew what juniors were… I really didn’t think I was going to go play juniors…. Here we are now. “

On the ice, McCanney has consistently developed year-over-year for the Generals, contributing in previous seasons 12 points, 32 points, and then this year 33 points. He models his game after a center on his favorite team, the Philadelphia Flyers. He tries to bring the same traits to Attleboro that Travis Konecny brings to the Flyers. As Liam said, him and Konecny each provide some defensive chops, and know how to throw checks around. On his own abilities Liam said ” “I’ve got a little grittiness to myself as well.”

On his game, Erikson the following of Liam’s journey

“This is Liam’s third year with us. He had grown so much as a player and a person. He has always had excellent speed and has worked hard. But he was able to improve how to use his speed, create deception and more separation from defenders. Each year he has developed his scoring ability. First year he was more of a hard forechecker who blocked shots and finished every hit. Since then he has kept those traits and improved them while also learning to drive to the back post more in order to generate goals. He is now a threat to score a goal on every shift. Just a great kid who does everything we ask, kills penalties better than most kids in the league, understands what it takes to be successful and puts the work in to reach his goals. Liam is a world class kid and hockey player that will make some team look very smart for grabbing him.”

Personifying the “world class kid” Liam is, we asked what people should know about him. He could have said anything he wanted, but chose arguably the most humble answer, simply saying ” I don’t even know what to say about myself.” The mere fact that he choose to adress that question in that fashion speaks volumes to his humility and willingness to play for others on the Generals more than play with them.

Going forward, Liam is not yet sure what he wants to study in college, but knows business and criminal justice are at the top of the potential majors list under consideration. He could change his mind from that, as he is open to more career choices as well.

Of the type of home he wants to go to, he wants one with a similar loyalty to what Erikson has showed him for the past three seasons. Liam said that of an ideal coaching staff that he is looking for ” “one that takes the time to help each player get better as a player and as a person.”

Like his roommate, Jonathan Young, McCanney is focusing on the day-to-day of helping his team get to the playoffs more than obsessing over which schools will and will not talk to him. The list of teams interested is growing, and McCanney’s desire to earn a playoffs matchup similar to his first year in juniors remains. He wants to earn the right to face Johnstown in the first round and to get a chance to experience the electric atmosphere at Johnstown’s games in the playoffs one more time. To get there, they will have to win the vast majority of their remaining games against the Black Bears of Maryland. As he said of the team’s approach, starting this weekend, “we’re going to play every game like it is our first round.”

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 about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Danbury returns the favor, defeating the Northeast Generals 8-3: Now What?

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Tonight, the Generals came up on the wrong side of an 8-3 result against the Junior Hat Tricks of Danbury. The Generals got off to a good start, scoring the first two goals before the Junior Hat Tricks put together a superb second period, and handed them the same fate they were given by Bryan Erikson’s group last Friday night .

Erikson had this to say on a positive takeaway from this tough game.

” Only real positive we take is that it’s clear when we play simple smart hockey we win. When we play individually and selfishly we have periods like the 2nd. A loss is only real bad if you don’t learn from it. And the way the boys battled I think they got the message.”

In that second period, the Generals conceded goals in different ways, all brought on, in part by a Jr. Hat Tricks team able to get to the dangerous areas of the ice. Hugo Haas fought valiantly, but had to face a lot more top end chances than he did a night ago, and he could not save his team tonight. With that said, his ability to battle and stay calm was a constant even in the face of the force of the offense coming against him.

Going forward, Erikson stressed the need for a short memory, saying

” Continue to work and just focus on the next game. It’s 1 loss. Lose by 12 or lose by 1 they count the same. Only bad loss is one you don’t get anything out of and we have smart enough guys to get that message.”

He added ” back to work.”

This week, Erikson and his staff will work on further honing the transition game and winning battles along the walls. Over these last two games, Danbury outplayed the Generals in both of those areas, and for the Generals to make a playoff run, they have to be ready next week. They play the Black Bears of Maryland next weekend, and will look to get back to their recent winning ways as they battle for a playoff spot.

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Generals grow into 6-1 win over Jr. Hat Tricks: Now what

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Tonight, the Northeast Generals were the better team against the Danbury Junior Hat Tricks. With the amount of games in hand Maryland and Danbury have, the Generals have to get as many points as they can down the stretch to have a chance to make the NAHL playoffs.

Initially, the Junior Hat Tricks came out with a strong push. Hugo Haas made one of his 44 saves early on a breakaway that would have altered the course of the game a mere 1:17 into the the game. From that point, despite getting outshot, the Generals slowly and methodically took control of the game.

As Head Coach Bryan Erikson said of Haas and his team ” Hugo bailed us out early but the boys turned it on and Gordon came up huge with a goal on a great play from Matt Yeager and Kyle Schroeder. Sign of a team getting better is leading after one after being out played…Hugo is just so good and calm in net. Such a luxury to have him back there and not worry about those types of breakdowns in front of him. He was just great in net but that save in the first set a tone for our guys that they could be aggressive and he would have their backs.”

Tonight, the fourth line was the catalyst for the Generals. They model their game on Erikson’s style of playing a tough, physical brand of hockey that moves the puck forward with a purpose. Ryan Gordon’s two goals to open the scoring ledger for the Generals proved decisive, and the fourth line, for Erikson were the first standouts tonight as he said ” That line was our best line by a lot. Matt Yeager was so good on the forecheck tonight and on the wall in the D zone. He made a ton of good plays. Kyle Schroeder was a beast as usual, going a million miles an hour, finishing hits all over the ice. And Ryan Gordon just keeps getting better. He has earned everything he has gotten. He has simplified his game, which has a ton of skill in it, to become a more 200 foot guy. And he is good in tight. Real happy for him and the rest of that line. A huge reason we have been on a little bit of a roll.”

In addition to the fourth line, Erikson took the time to praise some of his other skaters who still brought a lot to the group, even if they did not put up the gaudy numbers of some of their teammates. As he said, again giving his team all of the credit for their work ” Kyle Schroeder of course. But Matt Sutter made some huge hits, and took some huge hits and just keeps going. I thought some of our 00’s weren’t as good as usual but they got pretty dirty tonight. Tyler Cooper is a good example of a guy that didn’t have his A game but kept his feet moving and created offense. Jonathan Young wasn’t at his best but was still a monster on the forecheck and PK. He did some real good and simple things. When the hands aren’t working or are off you can still affect the game with your legs and your stick. Same goes for Liam McCanney and Hunter Olson who were hard to play against tonight.” All of those players had a hand in limiting quality looks for Danbury. Despite outshooting the Generals, the Junior Hat Tricks had less high quality looks than Erikson’s group did.

Finally, while Erikson noted the value of the team’s work in practice on improving transitions through the neutral zone, and finished with one thing to build on in the series finale against the Jr. Hat Tricks tomorrow night. As he said, the team did a good job with their flow through the neutral zone and drawing defenders out of position. That territorial advantage contributed to Gordon’s Goals, Adam Smith’s two goals, and a lot more of the success of the team tonight. For them to repeat this result tomorrow, or improve on it, Erikson noted that ” We need to be better through the neutral zone and harder on our sticks. We also have to limit the odd man rushes. They do a great job of pushing guys behind our D and we need to have a much better F3 on the forecheck and D that are more aware of when to pinch and when to back off.” Throughout Danbury’s early push, the Generals were giving them too much opportunity to waltz into the zone, and get good looks. For the finale tomorrow night, keep an eye on how the Generals limit their turnovers, and create flowing hockey the other way.

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Sixten is a Gen: More on Sixten Jennersjo Tendering with the Generals

Recently, the Northeast Generals got a commitment from Sixten Jennersjo to join their group next year. The Long Island University commit will further refine his game under the tutelage of Bryan Erikson in the 2021-2022 season. The path just to get him to come to Attleboro was tough. As Erikson said of the process to get him to pick the Generals, it was” very very competitive. He was very sought after. As all good players are. And we were happy he decided to join us.”

Playing for the U18 team this year at Mount St. Charles Academy, he has 39 points in 23 games. What stands out for Sixten as a player is his vision. He projects as a high-level two way forward who can score points in many ways, and one that, like Erikson’s group he has now, focuses on doing the needed work to get better each day.

From his U18 coach Matt Plante ” Sixten is developing into a pure goal scorer and is really just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Sixten possesses a lethal shot and release, for sure one of his biggest assets. He is also evolving into a very well-rounded player. He is proving to be very responsible in all 3 zones and is someone we can utilize in all situations, even strength and on special teams. He understands how to play with structure and how that benefits his game and the consistency of implementing good habits and attention to doing the little things well continues to grow in his game. Sixten works hard on refining all the intricate little details in his game. As he continues to mature mentally and physically and think the game faster as well as becoming more explosive and adding another step to his game physically his upside is tremendous. We certainly feel that Sixten has the potential to have a significant impact at the Division 1 college level and possibly beyond that depending on how he continues to develop. For as good as Sixten is on the ice and putting the puck in the net he’s an even better person off the ice. He is an absolute pleasure to work with. He’s very respectful, intelligent, inquisitive and he is very honest with himself, his teammates and his coaches. We all enjoy his sense of humor too.”

Given the pair of tenders that have already committed to the Generals before Sixten, forward Jared Scott and defenseman Patrick Geary, both of whom are drawing Division One interest, and Sixten’s addition, Erikson already is getting in place a talented group that will look to build on their accomplishments from this season. All three of them are expected to move on to play at the Division One Level one day.

With veteran netminder Hugo Haas in net, and the scores of returning scorers they have coming back, the Generals should garner some attention of the league early on next season, if they can keep building and improving to finish out this one. General Manager Matt Dibble, and Erikson already have a deep roster coming back, and Sixten’s addition gives them another competitor ready to put his best foot forward as he develops into the goal-scoring, defensibly responsible forward that Plant, Erikson, Dibble, Long Island, and many more see that the Ekero, Sweden native can be. With the group’s ability to bond relatively fast, the sense of humor that Sixten has also projects to be a welcome addition to the group for next season.

The Generals head on the road to face off against the Jr. Hat Tricks of Danbury twice this weekend as both teams are trying to gain ground in their playoff race.

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One quick Frozen Four prediction for each semifinal game

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tomorrow, the Men’s Hockey Frozen Four gets underway. Here is one prediction for each game.

St. Cloud State-Minnesota State

David Hrenak will win the goalie battle

After seeing both of these teams play multiple times this year, one thing is clear. They both have sensational goalies. Dryden McKay is one of the best in the country, while Hrenak is very good in his own right. With that said, McKay has had some lows in his season this year that have coincided with the rare instance of the Mavericks not scoring against two teams not as good as any that Hrenak has seen in the NCHC. When McKay had his less than ideal nights against Ferris State, and Northern Michigan, his team could not bail him out like Dryden has done so maany times for the Mavericks this year. If the Huskies strike early, the night could be over quickly for a very good Minnesota State team that can score in waves.

Umass-Minnesota Duluth

The team that scores first will win

The Minutemen are without some of their best players due to contact tracing protocols. With that said, the Minutemen still have a lot of talent on their team capable of making the Bulldogs’ lives as tough as North Dakota made them two weeks ago. The Bulldogs themselves are consistently tough to play against, and know how to shut teams down. They are more prone to some less than veteran mistakes than their two previous title teams as new players are forging their own chapters. With that said, we think whichever team can get ahead first will end up winning the game. Both of these teams defend leads well, and each can make the trailer’s life miserable after scoring first.

Regardless of the final result, best wishes for health and safety for all. To even have the Frozen Four this year is something many did not see as possible during points in the season where teams Covid-19 protocols canceled games left and right. This summer with expanded vaccine access, hopefully everyone involved in this great game can complete their course of needed vaccines, and soon, some day soon, all rinks in this great game can see a return to whatever a new normal looks like with more vaccinated fans in attendance providing the lout roar and uniqueness to each venue that makes this game great.

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