Providence 5 AIC 1: Three things

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Good

The Yellow Jackets had their chances in this one early on. They were able to score first on a nice setup by Julius Janhonen to Chris Dodero in front of AIC’s net. Early on, up until that goal, AIC was getting more chances and was playing well for playing their first game against a team who is playing its third game of the season. The effort was there last night.

Things to work on

After that point, Head Coach Eric Lang did not have a lot to like. Whether it was questionable goals allowed or poor spacing, AIC gave the Friars a whole state’s worth of time and space throughout the rest of the game. Doing that against a veteran group with similar skills to the national champions in front of the net is a recipe for a bad time. Adding countless trips to the box as makeup penalties for getting beat and not killing those penalties only added to the woes of AIC last night.

Now what

Now, Lang’s group has little time to prepare before facing the Minutemen of UMASS-Amherst. That team is lead by Greg Carvel. He, like Lang values perfection and is a coach always working on building the team and the culture of a group dedicated to being elite on and off the ice. Lang said the Providence team his group just lost to is a more veteran version of Carvel’s group.

For AIC to have more success, they need to win a few of their non conference games , if they want a chance at an out large spot. To do all of that, they have to tighten things up in their own end. They have the skill to compete with anyone in this game, but as the UND game taught them last year, and as the Friars did last nights, their margin for error against this type of team is basically zero.

With that said, if players like Janhonen can keep elevating their games, all options are in play for Lang’s group of elite humans. If they play like they did after going up 1-0 throughout the rest of the game against the Minutemen, well another two evenings of bad time could be in store.

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

AIC prepares for Providence College : Read more

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Eric Lang has seen two Providence College games on tape, so far the AIC Head Coach has found in the Friars ” not one ounce of weakness.”Of the team, he said that on film, they are not out of position. In addition, he compared their skill level to their exhibition opponents, Boston College.Lang sees the Friars as a more veteran heavy version of the Eagles. He praised netminder Jaxson Stauber, and how well coached their group is by Nate Leeman, who will be an NHL coach one day if he gets offered the right opportunity.

As for his Yellow Jackets, this weekend’s matchup will simply be a matter of, as Lang said “the team that wins Saturday will be one that out performs the other in their strength.” Both teams are veteran teams with high end skill, and both of them have not played two games in a row. Providence is playing its second game in three days, and AIC is opening its season. Lang praised Jake Kucharski for his exhibition play and confirmed that he is the projected starter. The Providence transfer gets to battle the Friars at home,and will get the first chance at holding down the starting job for Lang this season.

As to some of his skaters, Lang praised Brian Rigali’s work against BC, the UCONN transfer will be a big part of the non-conference games against Hockey East schools and of the group this season. He had high praise for Chris Theodore and his work on offense as well.

As to what systems have changed for Lang and his group, the offseason gave him time to think and reflect on the loss to North Dakota. He used this offseason to refine his systems and focus on getting better as a coach, and with his staff in teaching players around the following, “we preach to our guys we want them to make plays and make plays and make plays.. and some times I think we were trying to make plays at all costs.” They refined their philosophy in part around non conference games. In these pressure filled games that help determine if AIC gets an at large spot, Lang found that his players were trying to as he said ” make plays at all costs” and as one to continuously evaluate his systems, refining them for the talent on his roster is a logical thing to work on. Its first test comes tomorrow night against a team that has arguably played the most complete hockey of any team that has played more than one regular season game so far, east of Minnesota State that is.

In addition, Lang’s staff has added more wrinkles to what they like to do in all three zones to make the Yellow Jackets harder to pin down. Its akin to a football defense finding different ways to disguise the same blitz against different teams, and adding new blitzes every week. In the time where everything is recorded and available to study on video, Lang and his staff have to look for any advantage they can find to supplement the talent they have on their roster. Another thing that Lang takes very seriously to help their big roster is their Saturday Morning Skates, that allow the scratched players to get work in. As Lang said, “Saturday morning skate we are trying to replicate what the game would look like for them that night, and those skates are really important to us.” They will be even more important tomorrow, given that this team faces the defending national champs this week in two critical games after this one, and some of the scratched players that stand out in this skate could find themselves in the lineup next Friday night.

To end off, Lang implored new potential fans to come check his group out this weekend at MassMutual Center, saying “we play an up tempo and exciting brand of hockey .. you’re going to see a team that embraces and plays for one another.“

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

AIC Hockey goes “into the deep end of the pool” with exhibition against Boston College: Read More on what to expect

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Last year, AIC ended its season playing a North Dakota team unlike any Head Coach Eric Lang has ever faced. Now he gets to open up the 2021-2022 campaign in exhibition play on the road against a Boston College team, that as Lang does not think he will see anything comparable to all season.

As Lang said of the Eagles “Boston College’s speed and swagger are their best assets. They can make plays from anywhere. I’m not quite sure we will see a team like them at any point in our regular season. It’s great to throw our guys in the deep end of the pool right away.”

Lang will dress five forward lines and eight defenders, and will get as much info on his new players as he can. As Lang said of the evening, and of getting info from it, relative to making lineup decisions, “we have historically leaned on returning players early in the season. They have more credit in the bank. It will be nice to get an evaluation on the young players in an exhibition game.”

AIC will get a unique opportunity in this exhibition, thanks to Boston College’s Legendary Head Coach, Jerry York. As Lang said of getting to prepare with three-on-three overtime and a shootout regardless of score “Jerry called and wants to do a 3 v 3 and a shootout which is a great idea and experience for our kids early on. Ironically in 2 years we have only been involved in one shootout.”

Given how tight Atlantic Hockey is expected to be, as always every point matters, and practicing overtime against the Eagles will help Lang’s group prepare for the early gauntlet of teams they see in Providence, National Champions the University of Massachusetts, oh and their Atlantic Hockey opener against an always tough Army West Point group. This weekend is a chance for Lang and his staff to see their group against another team, it will give new players a chance to earn some credit and some time later on, and it will help the Yellow Jackets prepare for the gauntlet of a schedule they face early on.

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.

Atlantic Hockey: Three games to watch

Photo Credit :Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Given that, finally, it is a game week for Division One Men’s College Hockey, and given that many teams in Atlantic Hockey have a chance to make their mark this week, let’s look at three games to watch, and what we will be looking at from each Atlantic Hockey team in them.

Army West Point Vs. Providence

The back end of the Black Knights is the most glaring thing to keep an eye on. While the team up front has a preseason Hobey Baker Candidate in Colin Bilek leading them, their defense and goaltending has a lot to be figured out. The team has about two games of experience in net amongst their three netminders. Their rear guard does have some intriguing folks looking for playing time right away. One player that reminds us a bit of recently graduated Firstie, and current Second Lieutenant John Zimmerman, who played a big physical game for Brian Riley’s group for four years is Andrew Gilbert. The 6’5″ defender, like Zimmerman, will step up and look to earn time on the penalty kill pretty quickly. You will not measure his impact on the stat sheet, unless it has blocked shot, hit, and turnover columns in it. The Hitmen were the best team in the NCDC last year and won the Dineen Cup Championship with him at the helm. If he can help the defense, along with players like Hunter McCoy up front (a player Bilek singled out for his strong release) then the Black Knights could be poised to give the Friars more than they bargained for in the early Saturday opener.

AIC vs. Boston College (EXH)

Eric Lang has one of if not the biggest rosters in this sport, and seeing who gets a chance to battle for time against one of the perennial favorites to win Hockey East should be intriguing. Lang will surely want his top returners to get looks, so expect players like Chris Dodero, Chris Theodore, Parker Revering, and Luka Maver to all get some reps. The bigger story for AIC is in their depth. We will be tracking this game to see how Alex Tertyshny does if he gets his shot. Wherever he may see time, should he draw in, he, the many transfers AIC has, and the freshmen brought in will all be under observation by Lang and his staff. He likes playing all four lines pretty equally early on, and there is where players make it hard on him to keep them off the ice. Look at Aaron Grounds last year, the now sophomore competed against a full roster to earn time, and could not be kept out of the lineup after his early season stretch putting up three points in his first four games to compliment the physical nature with which he plays the game.

Oh, and AIC is integrating two Robert Morris transfers including Brian Kramer, who Lang called “the best defender in our league.” How the depth players looking for time like Tertyshny, who can earn looks in the regular season with his early season play, and the new transfers integrate will be the story of this exhibition in setting the stage for the rest of the way for Lang and his group.

Colgate Vs. RIT

The only home game that counts features the Tigers as the home team. The Tigers have Senior Will Calverley leading the way, who is a dark horse pick to take the Atlantic Hockey scoring title from Bilek. He is one of the fastest players in this league who can score in an instant, and like Bilek is not afraid to block shots and lead in the defensive end. Unlike Bilek’s group who is heavy on underclassmen looking to step up and lead sooner, Head Coach Wayne Wilson’s group has ten seniors, with not many question marks in their key positions. The Tigers have the chance to, like Army West Point did last season, utilize their depth and leadership in key positions to spoil the top three of the preseason Atlantic Hockey poll that had them slated to finish fourth. The Tigers have depth and top end skill in all of their groups, and how quickly they put things together will go a long way to determining their fate this season.

The Tigers get to play the Black Knights in the second week of the season, in the Atlantic Hockey Association opening series in two games that could serve as a guide of trends for both teams, after seeing Colgate this weekend.

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.

Chris Dodero: Developing a business and career with his hockey development

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

AIC fifth year senior Chris Dodero has taken a path to leading the back to back to back Atlantic Hockey Champions that was on the road less traveled. That is, he has gone from routine healthy scratch as a freshman to a complete two way forward with pro ambitions. He has also used the development tools he has gained to start helping others. He does this through his hockey consulting business, Prodero Hockey.

Dodero took his reality of not playing a lot as a freshman and looked to skills. He said that “I was thinking, how can I improve myself and how can I get better?”

The name Prodero came just from being around the team and Dodero’s initial work, his teamates made the nickname, and Dodero ran with it. The goal of Prodero Hockey is to help all players maximize their potential. In addition, the sessions are customized to meet the needs of each client and include things like video breakdown of NHL players’ high end skills in part to give players a model for what Dodero wants to do.

Dodero loves the AIC program, and loves the opportunity he has built. His Head Coach Eric Lang knows Dodero can be a NHL skills coach, and Dodero sees that in his future. For now, he wants to play the sport he loves for as long as he can. Lang’s program and its structure gives time for players to develop at their own speed, and Dodero is racing ahead as he is excited to see fans back in buildings.

As he said of having fans back ” It’ll mean everythng.” Of the culture Lang has built at AIC Dodero was similarlly effusive with praise “We don’t have the amount of resources that early every other Division One College Team has but at the end of the day we find a way to get the job done.. we’re kind of a family, thats the culture we have here.” Dodero hopes to come back as a graduate to an on campus rink one day in the distant future as well. He also had so many positive things to say about all of his teammates, both returning and new that we could not discuss all of them in this interview.

The AIC culture extends to its leader on the media side, Seth Dussault, he wears many hats but is the play-by-play broadcaster and key media contact who always serves as a valuable resource to those looking to learn more about the Yellow Jackets. Dodero shared a story showing what an ” elite human” Seth is. In Arizona at an In-N-Out Out Burger, someone accidentally grabbded two and he made sure the rest of the team had one, at the end of a road trip, giving up the elusive treat (for those who do not know, In-N-Out is a regional delicacy with a worldwide following, they do not have any restaurants in or near Massachusetts, but have them all over the Western United States.) Like Dodero in putting the team first with developing his game to get more playing time, Seth put the needs of the players ahead of his own.

As for Chris, he spends all of his free time “growing the brand” that is Prodero, and he launched this business during the middle of the pandemic. He is excited for the year ahead.

In addition, for a great resource to better understand the game, whether you are a player looking to get better, a fan looking to understand how your favorite NHL player does what they do, or anyone who likes just watching clean hockey skills and drills, we would strongly reccomend that you give his business page on Instagram a look and a follow if you are so inclined.

Here is the link to his page:

https://www.instagram.com/prodero_hockey/?hl=en

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.

Eric Lang: Moving AIC Forward into the 2021-2022 Campaign

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

American International College Hockey Head Coach Eric Lang had a change in his expected roster. A few months ago he was expecting to add one more transfer at most after the commitments of Chris Vanos-Shaw, and Brian Rigali. He went on to add three more transfers, all with the aim of making the Yellow Jackets better. As he said , “It’s solely my job to always make sure we are trying to put the best team on the ice that we can.” Lang acknowledges that his roster is big, at 32 players, with four of them being goaltenders, he knows that players will have to earn playing time. Unlike other teams, while of course being heavily involved in practice planning early on, he lets his assistants run more things early on so Lang can sit and evaluate things more. He is paid to put the best team possible on the ice, and likes to observe things in a different way more early on.

Lang said that his team plays more small area games than most, and he has the roster to do it. His practices are high energy, and he routinely lays out what players not in the lineup need to do in practice to earn a spot. Throughout his time at AIC, he has prided himself on transparency and honesty, and being honest with each player on where they are, the positive, and negative has been a big part of that. Given that his side has won the last three Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championships, it’s hard to argue with that result. He credits his institution and staff for helping him find the financial backing to add the additional transfers .

As for his additonal transfers, he had some things to say. On Brian Kramer he went on say that, “Brian Kramer may be one of the top defensemen in our league. On, Santeri Hartikainen he noted that his former and future teammate Jake Stella said of him a version of what Aaron Grounds said about Brian Kramer, a former junior hockey teamate. Stella said it best to Lang when he asked for feedback on Hartikainenen saying ” you’ve gotta go get him.”

As for Alec Calvaruso, Lang praised his big game resume. The newest AIC netminder brings veteran experience, two junior hockey championships, and needed insurance in net. With Stefano Durante turning pro, Lang wanted another goaltender he could turn to when in need of quality minutes. He praised all of his netminding group from last year that is returning, and praised Durante’s career at AIC. Lang did not want to let the season head south due to lack of goaltending depth, so he added a player with a solid background to a group of good humans who can all provide an answer for AIC in net.

As for the team , Lang also noted that all but one of his players is fully vaccinated, and before the puck drops in October, he expects all of them to be . As he said, “our guys are serious about the season, we want to play with as little hiccups as possible.. they’ re guys that have always put others ahead of themselves and I think thats part of the deal this season. “

As for one of the leaders of this group, he talked about Chris Dodero. Not many senior or graduate leaders on a college hockey team own their own hockey consulting business. AIC is lucky to have Dodero who also runs a business called Prodero Hockey. His business is helping players train and having fun on the ice while doing so, watching any of the group’s facebook videos shows players from different leagues working to get better consistently, just like Dodero. He took the honest feedback from Lang as a freshman and used that to help grow his game into a lineup regular, and along the way started helping others improve as well. As Lang said of Dodero ” he is one of the greatest stories in college hockey, and everything he does has a purposed.” When Dodero’s pro career is done, Lang was confident in saying, “he will be an NHL Skills coach.”

On the rest of his group, Lang mentioned a number of players poised to surprise people. One player he singled out is Hurricanes prospect Jake Kucharski who played 40 stellar minutes of hockey in net against a North Dakota team that was a favorite to win the national championship. Lang said of Kucharski “he has best goalie in our league potential and top goalie in our country potential.” Kucharski and AIC open the season against Providence College, the team Kucharski transferred from to play for Lang.

Looking at the bigger picture, Lang took the time to praise his conference. With the movement in the transfer portal, he said ” our league got exponentially better” this summer. He expects Canisius to be competitive again, and expects Sacred Heart to compete for the title as well, and thinks every team in the league is competitive. With eight non conference games on the docket for each team he said “I think this could be a good year for Atlantic Hockey to get two teams in (to the NCAA Tournament).”

Lang also mentioned the relationships he still has with his mentor and former boss, Brian Riley. After Riley’s Army West Point group opens their season against Providence, Lang noted that he may, as he often does, chat about the game and a common opponent with his mentor. Lang also took the time to praise the pro potential of Army’s star, Colin Bilek, saying of the need to crowd him on the ice “he has to feel crowded.. if youre not a stick length away from him or less the puck is going off your crossbar and in your net.” He also praised the multidimensional game of Bilek as his complete game makes his goal scoring tougher to defend against. Given his skill he expects the pro ranks to notice him this season.

Back to his group, Lang said bluntly “they pay me here to make sure I put the best team on the ice possible.” He always noted that should a way to make another addition work , as we have seen, he would consider it over the semester break as an example of the continuous work he and his staff do to make that goal a reality. AIC is setup well to compete against an ever tough Atlantic Hockey Association, and, has two extra non conference games to show the rest of the college hockey world what they can do, just like the rest of this conference does.

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.

Bilek

For Alex Tertyshny, his new number at AIC has special meaning: Read Why

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrck Garriepy Photography

This offseason for Alex Tertyshny is one of transiton. The proud alum of the Northeast Generals program is working on building his game to compete for AIC this fall. Last year, he helped lead the Generals in the midst of a pandemic and a consistent roster churn that took them from a team with no postseason aspirations, to ones fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch.

This summer, Tertyshny, as he has done throughout his career, has found another way to honor his father, the late Philadelphia Flyer,Dmitri. This summer, AIC Associate Head Coach Matthew Woodard let Alexander know available numbers for his incoming class. Wanting to grow up and be like his dad, this moment meant even more to him. Just like his dad with the Flyers, Alex gets to wear the same number with AIC this fall

As he said, “we picked numbers a couple months ago, Coach Woodard called me and told me what numbers were available. I’ll be wearing #5 which I’m really excited about, special number to me. I haven’t wore it since I was a kid… it’ll be really special.”

If you don’t know about Tertyshny, you will get to see him at the NCAA level this year. Like his dad, he is a smooth skating defender with a keen hockey sense. Alex is working on building out the physical part of his game this summer, gaining muscle the right way while keeping his skating skills at the level that propelled him to AIC. He is going to have to earn a top six spot this year, as the Yellow Jackets have a strong defense group coming back, despite losses of Jeff Baum and Brennan Kapcheck to the pro ranks.

Tertyshny knows things will be tough. Like his father, he will have to earn every second of ice. Dmitri shocked many in the hockey world when he made the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998 season, and Alex has the potential to do the same thing at the college level this season. As Alex said of the group he is joining “Also watched quite a bit of AIC games from last season, watched what the defenseman did last year to contribute to the teams success. I just want to be ready, the team is full of guys that are looking to improve and succeed and I want to do my part in chipping in to the teams success.”

Tertyshny is appreciative of the support from the AIC family he has already received. The accident that took Dmitri from this earth happened in late July, and every year this month is the toughest for Alex. He said ” I think I’ll most enjoy being a part of the community. It was a tough end to July. It always is at it marked 22 years since my father passed away. Coach Lang actually reached out on behalf of the team and said they were thinking of my family that day, I really appreciated it. Just excited to be part of that family.” The community of good humans is one of the things that drew Alexander to AIC. He is carving his own path, learning from his father every day (he frequently watches highlights of Dmitri, and plays a similar game to his father), and ready to take the next step this fall, playing Division One Hockey.

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

Atlantic Hockey Non Conference Showcase Games:AIC

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

This season, the Atlantic Hockey Association is going forward with 10 members, due to the choice of the administration of Robert Morris to not sponsor their men’s team. That decision has since changed, pending results of fundraising outcomes relative to the team, but the 10 remaining members of the conference decided to move forward themselves, and add some extra non conference games for each member school this year. We hope Robert Morris Hockey comes back, and this article is written in the present of the Colonials not being a part of Atlantic Hockey. If or when that changes, we will revise this content plan as needed to account for that.

With that in mind, here is one game or series per team against one opponent that creates the best chance for that member to put themselves, and this often overlooked conference on the map. We have nine more articles to write for the other members of this superb conference.

American International College

UMASS Amherst

Well, this home and home series is a battle of champions. The reigning Atlantic Hockey Champions take on the National Champions in a fierce October home and home fracas. What Eric Lang’s team has going for him is the benefit of veterans returning. The Yellow Jackets return most of their roster, and bring in high end transfers, Chris Van-Os Shaw, and Brian Rigali to make up for some of the scoring lost by the departure of Tobias Fladeby.

In terms of what this series means to AIC, it sets the tone for their season. If Lang’s group can learn from their season opener against Providence, and win their homecoming game against the National Champions, they set themselves up well for the future. What stood out about Lang’s group that finished the season was their remarkable consistency. In a very short time, Lang has taken a school that not enough people knew about and put them on the map of college hockey, and gotten them known internationally, for the efforts of his group. If you look at this group, there only two loses in the second half of the last campaign to Army West Point, a team one bounce away from facing the Yellow Jacket

How has he done that? By building the right culture, of good people, and of a team that buys in to one another. That has lead to players recruiting players, like how Julius Janhonen heard more about AIC. In addition, that culture, this team, allows them to overcome adversity, and embrace opportunity well. They will be facing the National Champions, and one of their biggest rivals with a chance to put their group up in the Pairwise, put the rest of this sport on notice to their potential, and do all of this with a veteran roster.

Eric Lang and his staff embrace a challenge. Outside of their conference, the Minutemen are their biggest impediment to earning an at large bid. His group will be ready to face the champs, full of a roster of newer players, and talent in bunches. The puck drops in the middle of October on this momentous series. Lang will have his group of good humans ready to compete.

Look for nine more of these articles highlighting the value of nine more non conference series.

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

Opinion: Men’s College Hockey needs more conferences-Here’s Why

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

To put it nicely, to grow the game with consistency, the Men’s College hockey game at the Division One level needs more conferences. While it is true that Atlantic Hockey is entertaining expansion pitches this month, the truth of all of the growth of this sport is simple.

Atlantic Hockey cannot, nor should not be asked to shoulder the sole burden of adding new members to the game.

For this sport to grow, in the long run, we need more schools willing to form conferences with new members.

Why?

Well, as more members come in from different parts of the country, especially in the south and pacific northwest, travel costs for the incumbents in this sport will skyrocket. In addition, fans in this sport often are rivals with schools closest to them, regardless of conference, if they are at the same level.

In addition, take a look at the rebirth of the CCHA under its current iteration. That conference formed in part because its members wanted to consolidate their footprint, and keep costs down to some level. We would argue that Atlantic Hockey has some of that cost containment at its core, and as the league gets more members wanting to join, over time the members of a conference that grows beyond 12 conferences could be served to bring back another conference, College Hockey America.

Why?

Well, that conference with six or seven members could work in concert with Atlantic Hockey to do a couple of things. First, they could create a scheduling alliance to occupy some non conference games every year, and ensure robust competition, giving both members of the new conference more opportunities to boost their pairwise standing than they have now ( eight to ten non conference games in total, compared to a maximum of six non exempt games now).

In addition, bringing back the CHA would drive down costs for members of Atlantic Hockey who may not want to take longer bus trips, or plane trips any more. If we posited that Navy (the Midshipmen have been in talks to join the Division One game for years) would join this conference with the Army and Air Force, that gives us three schools with a rich history. Now, add in Lindenwood, who is planning to join the Division One scene in two years, and we find ourselves at four with a conference already starting with a strong foundation. You could then add in Alabama Huntsville for five, and, should their feasibility study go well, and the school back it, Tennessee State could join to make a six team conference. You could also extend invites to Liberty, who has a win over a Division One program, an ESPN deal, and a beautiful facility already, Long Island as well, given that the Sharks are expanding their Division One footprint rapidly and gaining notoriety for how well they support the growth of opportunities for their student athletes. This would allow other members in Atlantic Hockey more cost control over their own budget, and provide room for that conference, should more teams want to join it, a seventh conference with an automatic bid to guarantee at least two schools Air Force Academy Hockey Head Coach Frank Serratore referred to as ” have nots” to join as well. In addition, the success of the reborn CHA could spark the ideas of forming other new conferences throughout the game.

Take the west coast. If we know that Arizona State would be a part of any Pac-12 conference (we do), we could then look to Las Vegas. UNLV produced the first line center for the three time Atlantic Hockey Regular Season champs (AIC) in Elijah Barriga, and has a big foot print in the area already. That gives us two schools, and an impasse once again. If this Pac 12 worked with the Kraken and Golden Knights to form programs in their areas (UNLV, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State) and work with ones already in their areas (Alaska, and Alaska Anchorage) then you get another strong conference with regional viability pretty fast. Now, if you look at what we have already, there are always opportunities for schools to move around, where it makes sense for both new school and conference alike. The dynamic of forming new conferences like these two would create a framework for members looking to join, and for ones like Augustana who have announced intentions, more options to join a conference best for them, compared to one that will have them. It gives more power and viability to new programs to compete right away, and a lasting infrastructure that will support them, and do the thing we all want to do, grow the game, while hopefully providing administrators with the money and encouragement to do so.

Remember, there are about eight or nine teams of players in the transfer portal right now, and a lot more uncommitted players about to age out of junior hockey with Division One talent, but no home. For a sport that has a myriad of junior hockey lockers, and interest in the game, it is incumbent on those looking to grow the game to continue to search for new ways to do that both inside and outside of the framework they currently have. It cannot be on one conference or school to figure things out, it is on all members of this great game, and on all of us to continue to support schools looking to get into this game that is one of the best parts of sport in North America, not just at the college level.

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Atlantic Hockey: What could come next

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Atlantic Hockey Association is in an interesting situation. Because of the terribly short sighted descision of Robert Morris’s two leaders, their president and head of the board, one of the legacy members of the conference, as of today, will not play ice hockey at the division one level. As such, the conference’s remaining teams have a lot to discuss at their ongoing director’s meetings taking place over the month .

From this past March, Comissioner Bob Degregorio said of expanding from 11 teams, “We’ll see what progress will be made. The directors have to look at a lot of things. We know that we want to get back to 12 teams, but what’s the right number? Is it 12? Is it 13? Or is it 14? How big do we want to be? Do we want to stay at 12? They have a lot to talk about in regards to expansion. Nothing has been pre-determined. ”

Right now, if all three pitches of Alabama Huntsville, Long Island, and the other team the Comissioner discussed came to pass, the conference would then have 13 teams, in the realm of possibility.

Since the University of Conneticut Huskies left to Hockey East, there are more than a few quotes from the comissioner on getting the conference back to 12 teams at least. At one point, the Chargers pitched Atlantic Hockey before aceptnce into the WCHA in their last round of potential expansion.

With all of the shifting dynamics of this conference, let’s go through options facing the 10 teams left.

Stay at 10

Every publicly available comment from the comissioner shows that the members of Atlantic Hockey value being at least a 12 team league. In addition, because of how late Dr. Chris Howard decided to go ahead with his descision to elminate one of the most sucessful teams in the history of the confernence, the remaining ten members could find themselves in a bind. In a league where money is always part of the discussion, to give some teams extra conference games without travel compensation would not seem fair. For example, if Air Force was traveling to Robert Morris for two games, where do you then send them? Take another school like AIC, should they have to travel to another school in Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst, for a weekend and have two less home games (if the Colonials were coming to Springfield). Cash flow is a vital part of keepng all of these programs healthy, and staying at 10 members, with a schedule bound to harm the bottom line of every school losing a home series against the Colonials, does not seem ideal in the short run.

In addition, you cannot have teams add non conference games uniformly, as many members already have their non conference schedules decided, and many members of the other five conferences don’t have games available to be played. So, you are left with a choice of stasis which does not help anyone in the conference. Had the Colonials made their fateful announcement a few months ago, perhaps teams outside of Atlantic Hockey could have more easily filled the void for this year on the non conference side, and the league could have seen how ten looked for a year. Now, it is not clear if that result produces the best outcome.

Option Two: Replace, and add

Alabama Huntsville can play this year, based on info from sources in or around the hockey program, if granted admission into a conference, the puck is on the stick of Atlantic Hockey Athletic Directors in that regard. The Chargers could be handed the schedule to be given to the Colonials, and play it. The league could even make the Chargers travel for more games in the first year, or perhaps propose a higher subsidy than what Huntsville is offering (25000 dollars per series to all visiting AHA teams in the regular season, and in the postseason as well). Any counter offer could be for one year to help offset the financial loss of the Colonials to the other 10 members in the conference. In subsequent years, the initial parameters of the pitch could hold form, or the directors could propose something else.

As for adding, in two years, if the league wanted to get to 12 teams (we say two years because every indication given, and the reason the Chargers suspended their efforts for the 2021-22 campaign was due to AHA not looking to expand from 11 at all). The Sharks are a program on the rise, with strong financial backing, a demonstrated season of tough competition as an independent, and lead by Brett Riley. He knows how to compete, build programs, and has a strong pipeline of players coming to Long Island. As the Sharks have most of their games figured out for this season, canceling a bunch of games for conference admission this year does not seem prudent. In future years, they could join the conference, and expand the reach of the conference with a like minded institution looking to grow its presence.

Option Three: Replace and add two more

If three teams are on the expansion docket for Atlantic Hockey this summer, well the league could play an unbalanced schedule at 13 in 2-3 years with a school like Navy as the third team. That grows the game of college hockey, and if done right could grow the financial budget of each participating school. Having Navy be the southernmost school would give Mercyhurst, Huntsville, and everyone else in the conference another good place to play, an instant service academy rivalry in another field, and national eyes on the sport.

Regardless of the choice, it is clear that the Athletic Directors in this great league have a lot to consider. Consider one final quote from the Commissioner (while keeping in mind that he is not the decision maker on allowing any of these teams in to the league) on Huntsville’s last pitch to the league before they got into the WCHA (work credit to Chris Lerch of USCHO) (he thought that the WCHA was a good fit for them at the time) ” It’s important to college hockey that this program continue.” Well, now we get to see that quote put to its test this month, and see what expansion chances bring the other schools in need of a conference home, from programs formed, and yet to be formed.