Niagara University Men’s Hockey Head Coach Jason Lammers on his team’s Uncommon season, future, and more

Photo Credit: Niagara University Athletics

To operate a Division One program, you have to have some uncommon traits. One of those traits is realizing what your goal is, your primary goal in leading it. For Niagara Purple Eagles Head Coach Jason Lammers, the idea of being uncommon drives his program, and is how he operates. Lammers views leading a group in this way ” I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to teach the next generation about what it means to be a man.. we get a chance to influence more people in a year than most people do in a life time.. I’ve been blessed that I’ve never had a real job. To him, uncommon is the concept of being above average, and doing things that others are not. It is this mentality, combined with the small school atmosphere he enjoys being a part of building the success of his Purple Eagles. He leads a team that prides itself on effort, accountability, and its approachability. As Lammers said of the perception of the game on his campus, some people say to him that “I’d much rather come watch a college hockey game vs. a Sabres game because you guys play hard all the time. ”

That same effort helped a team beset by multiple Covid-19 pauses come together in the postseason to defeat Mercyhurst on the road in the opening round, then proceed to knock off Western Pod Champion of Atlantic Hockey, Robert Morris, in three games. Two of those games went to overtime. All of them were one goal affairs. Lammers is incredibly proud of how his group finished the year. He remembers of his group “just the unity and the love our team felt” where two driving forces in helping his group get to the final four of Atlantic Hockey where they forced AIC to earn a tough-fought comeback win. On the ice, he praised his netminder saying ” to have Chad Veltri back and ready to rock and roll.. I felt he was a huge difference in that series.”

At the end of the day, Lammers is honest about the goal of his program “Our mission is to grow men.. it certainly makes it easier if they’re good humans,”

To build his program, Lammers looks for those uncommon traits in his recruits. He values bringing in players from all over the world with the willingness to help others, be key players in the classroom, and able to be a part of the culture he has built. His team is one of the most academically astute in the league, and one that excels in helping others through their community service work.

The mantra for Lammers’ program on the ice is simple. He said that they want to be “regionally dominant and nationally prominent.” That comes from playing well in their conference, where in the past two seasons that we have had Conference Tournament Championships given out, his team has been in the final four. It also comes from playing the top teams around the country. That is part of the reason why his Purple Eagles will be flying to take on the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota in Grand Forks to open up their 2021-2022 campaign. Lammers credits the staff of the Fighting Hawks for working with him to schedule this series. Dialogue around it started shortly after Lammers was hired in the spring of 2017, that was initiated by North Dakota after Lammers came on as Head Coach.

This series is four years in the making, and one that will give another Atlantic Hockey team a chance to showcase themselves to the Men’s College Hockey landscape this fall. The Purple Eagles will get a financial guarantee for the series, and Lammers also noted that his administration is broadly more supportive of his group playing in more non conference games where possible in future seasons. Lammers, speaking only for himself is supportive of expanding Atlantic Hockey, and understands that the league needs to play better against other conferences. With that said, of the conference itself he added “I believe our conference gets the short end of the stick… I just think this league is really good.. I think there’s a partnership among the schools and a camaraderie among the coaches.”

Lammers also wants the game he coaches in to grow, noting the large amount of Division One talent out there. He said, broadly speaking of expansion that, ” I think there should be 100 teams.”

Lammers is incredibly proud of his group’s effort to finish given the fact that they only really had a few weeks of normal operations this season as the Purple Eagles had multiple Covid-19 induced pauses. As he said “The way that we finished with only having couple of weeks to practice and prepare … is pretty awesome.” While he is waiting to see the final composition of his roster, he is already working towards building to the fall.

He also took time to talk a little bit about the Battle of the Bridge between his school and Canisius, or as he said of the rivalry, “There’s a lot of people in town who don’t care about your record.. just that you beat the team south of the bridge.” While Lammers knows this rivalry is not Ohio State-Michigan, he sees its growth between the two area schools.

Going forward, Lammers accepts the new reality of the one time allowance of players to play right away under the new transfer rule leading to the ubiquity of it. As he said “we think its going to really help solidify our roster.” In addition, he expects the uncommon culture he is building to help him retain players as well. As he said “being uncommon is going to help us retain our student athletes.. we out love other programs.” Further understanding the positive impact of the portal, he said “its the world we are living in, student athletes have a lot more rights than they used to… its not going away, and we need to find out how we can use it to our benefit.”

The same positive outlook and uncommon desire to build a unique culture at Niagara is what will drive the Purple Eagles to the top of Atlantic Hockey. Lammers’ group has a big test to open up the 2021-2022 campaign against UND. The uncommon nature of everything Lammers teaches, and his staff does from recruiting to mentorship to preparation, and so much more will ensure his group is ready to produce an uncommon result against the Fighting Hawks.

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AIC prepares for UND: Head Coach Eric Lang on what to expect, and more

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

The last time AIC was in Fargo to take on the number one seed in the tournament, their coaching staff noted the value of sticking to a script to defeat a St. Cloud State team full of NHL-ready talent. That same idea is heavy on Head Coach Eric Lang’s mind once again as his group is preparing to take on the Fighting Hawks Friday night at 8:30 PM Central Time. The Fighting Hawks were one of the 2-3 teams Lang and his group were preparing for over the last month, his staff looked at a lot of film on them and other possible first round opponents. As Lang said of his staff’s prep and his thoughts on UND’s staff and team as a whole, “the dig was deep. We as a staff have a lot of admiration for how they do things.”

As he said of preparing for the Fighting Hawks now, compared to facing St. Cloud State in 2019, ” different team different time. We certainly understand we will have to weather some storms and by any means necessary make sure we stay in the fight. Similar to St Cloud we will have to make sure the game goes a certain way.”

In addition to understanding the differences in circumstance, Lang is thankful for the built in advantage that the Atlantic Hockey representative gets in the national tournament every year. The Atlantic Hockey Association has one media timeout per period, the national tournament, and most other conferences, including the NCHC, has three.

As Lang said of the difference. “it’s advantageous because it gives you an opportunity to adjust on the fly and not wait in between periods to make any adjustments that may be necessary. It also allows you to get your best guys out there a little more.” His team made use of the advantage last time around, and when UND gets a wave of momentum at some point in the game, as they probably will, Lang will get a de facto timeout that could help him reset things a little easier than what he can do in Atlantic Hockey games.

On the Fighting Hawks team Lang’s group is about to face, he was blunt. He said of the top end talent his team is about to face, compared to what he sees in Atlantic Hockey (Lang also was a fierce advocate of Atlantic Hockey getting two teams into the tournament this year, and has repeatedly mentioned that he thinks Army West Point should have been under consideration) ” Quite honestly we don’t have a team that resembles them in any way shape or form. It’s one of the most impressive teams on film I have seen in the last 10 years. [They have] a brilliant defense corps, hard skill up front, and depth everywhere.”

With that said, Lang also noted the strength of Atlantic Hockey, noting that his team does not have any pressure that given the past few years his conference has carried itself well. He said, “I don’t feel that pressure our conference is 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA’s [which is] quite impressive since we are quite often a 15 or 16 seed.”

Of who we might see, keep in mind that Lang can and often does lineup match based on the strengths of his opponent. To counter the speed of UND, he will have to put together the best group of skaters he has. As Lang elaborated, “we will have to put out our  best skating line up we have. We will have some new faces going in on Friday night.”

To wrap things up, Lang does have eight players who were on the roster the last time AIC played the number one overall seed in Fargo. As he said, “it’s always a good thing when you can lean on some guys, been there done that, our players will not be overwhelmed by the moment.” Finally, Lang said of the 8:30 PM start time, “game time is irrelevant. We are excited to be here what ever time they tell us to show up we will be there.”

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AIC works to earn 2-1 AHA semifinal victory: Eric Lang on the game and what comes next

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

This afternoon, the Yellow Jackets of American International College had to work incredibly hard for every bit of positive momentum against the upstart Purple Eagles of Niagara. Chad Veltri made 33 saves on 35 shots faced, and the Purple Eagles lead for the majority of the game, despite coming up short to an AIC team that last played on January 30. Head Coach Eric Lang expected a tough game from an underrated opponent, and his group got that for 60 minutes. The pressure was evident, but Lang knew that going in to this semifinal

He said to us before that, “pressure is privilege” , and the Purple Eagles applied plenty of it today. Despite having the majority of things go right for them, his team still had to find two goals in the third period in order to move on to the Atlantic Hockey Final.

With that said, the mesage to the team throughout the time where they were trailing was pretty simple according to Lang. As he said the message was “stay with it, stay with it, stay with it…don’t get impatient and no individual play, [and focus on the] collective whole.”

On the night, Lang was pleased with the attention to detail his team had, as he said “we possessed the puck all night and that’s how we need to play, our attention to detail was beautiful.” That attention to detail is needed as Lang’s group will face off against an opportunistic Canisius group that plays with a consistently high motor.

The experience today against the Purple Eagles was tough, as Lang said, ” they are really tough, well coached, [have] terrific goaltending and they can really skate. They made us uncomfortable with how tenacious they play. They block shots and backcheck hard.” That description, after seeing Canisius more than a few times this year, applies to the Golden Griffins as well.

The goals by Elijah Barriga and Justin Cole came in the third period on hard work and products of cycles and long zone times. AIC had a lot of shifts with similar characteristics to that today, across all 60 minutes. To win the Conference Tournament tomorrow, they will have to have more of the same, and minimize turnovers. Their opponents won in overtime because they made an opportunistic play on a pass out of Army’s own end, and created time and space for a clean look. Minimizing those looks and being able to keep working will be needed.

The other thing that Lang will have is a good perspective on Canisius despite never having played them this year. He credits his Volunteer Hockey Operations Director Mike Finnegan for having his team constantly ready to go. (interview conducted before Canisius won the second semifinal) Lang said “our work on our opponent is already done. Now it be confirming what we see on both teams. We have the best hockey ops guy in the country. He does all the heavy lifting for our program. He’s the only guy I know that can consolidate an entire season of our opponent. You can’t outwork him and he’s always one step ahead of our coaching staff.”

The Yellow Jackets still face pressure and no assurances of an at large bid going into the Championship game. Lang is ready for the challenge. As he said before, and we would posit that the same applies here, “pressure is privilege.”

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Trevor Large on leading Canisius to the postseason and building a culture

” If you’re a Griff we want you here.”

“A Griff is positive, competitive, and team first. “

Canisius Hockey Head Coach Trevor Large’s culture at Canisius comes down to down to those statements listed above.

Trevor Large knows what it means to build culture and a program. His mentors and competitors in the Atlantic Hockey Association have helped him get to where he is in the coaching world. Large learned the value of building a team culture, and understanding what to look for in recruiting, in part working with Army West Point Head Coach Brian Riley.

The influence of Brian Riley in the college hokcey world extends far beyond Army West Point. The Atlantic Hockey Association has two of his former assistants leading teams that have had superb regular seasons amidst a global pandemic. Eric Lang has secured AIC’s third straight finish atop the conference, Army West Point is battling for an at large bid, and Trevor Large’s Canisius Golden Griffins have had their best regular season in the past three yearrs, going 8-5 including winning four of their home games.

Large praised the camaraderie of Riley and Lang, saying he and Lang learned and try to, like Riley does focus on “being a genuine person, and caring about your players.” They all worked together on the same staff in West Point. Large moved from West Point to Canisius to be an assistant coach after the 2013-2014 season, and then ascended to the lead role he has been in for four seasons. Large praised the mentorship of the other two, and noted their friendship, saying “we cheer each other on,” when their teams are not playing each other of course. On Atlantic Hokey at large, Large believes that “the reality of it is, that the progression of our conference at some point must warrant two teams.. its becoming undeniable that there should be a closer look at having two teams that should be in that tournament.”

One thing that all of the men,, Large, Riley, and Lang have in common was explained well by Large, saying that ” we’re all doing things that prepare people for more than just hockey,”

One of the biggest moments for Large’s program came in his second season. His group engineered a sweep of a nationally ranked Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota team midway through the 2018-2019 season, which put his group on the national radar pretty quickly. Large remembers that accolades for his group in part because, as he said, “people that I didn’t know were sending me congratulations texts.”

On a season that has seen the Golden Griffins go on multiple pauses, Large takes an upbeat view of the stops his program has gone through. He said that, “the biggest message that our players have heard.. is there’s a difference between adversity and inconveniences… our guys have taken on the mentality that those are all inconveniences.”

This weekend, Large’s group has a bye before facing the RIT Tigers next weekend in the Quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. As he said of the bye after all the pauses, “we’re maybe more prepared to play in two weeks than in years past.” His staff is using the extra time to help, as Large said, “firm up details on how we want to play.” His group has a challenge on their hands, as the Tigers come to Buffalo with one of the top goal scorers in the country in Will Calverley and a group defined by its depth looking to advance.

Canisius, has a lot of goaltending depth, as Matt Ladd and Jacob Barczewski have played a nearly equal amount of time this season, and, as Large said of them “both of them have won big games, both of them have progressed in their own way.” They both use their skills to their advantages. Jacob uses his athleticism and positioning well, while Ladd uses his size and is able to track pucks well enough to make most saves without needed drama. Large and his staff have the luxury of chooosing their goaltender each game. His staff looks at each game as its own event in figuring out those things.

As to his depth up front, Large enjoys a wide committee of scorers to help his group progress. That group of scoring is lead by sophomore Keaton Mastrodonato. Large said “he pushed us to bring him in early by his play, and that he was ready for college hockey.” Keaton tied for the national lead in shorthanded goals in his rookie season, and is an ambassador for the program. Large added more on Keaton praising “his drive to be the best player on the ice every single day” , and adding that ” “his consistency is spectacular.”

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“We’re Fine”: Army West Point’s hard work rewarded with 3-2 OT win over Bentley

Brian Riley’s Army West Point team started out with a less than ideal shift against a fast and physical Bentley team. Despite starting out on defense early on, and trailing the Falcons of Bentley 2-0, he knew how his team was playing.

As he said “I told our guys after the first period, we’re fine… we’ve been in this situation a lot.” that is, Riley’s group knows how to keep pressing forward in their nightly battles to win each game, even when the opponent starts strong early on. Tonight, Bentley was being outplayed by Army, but holding a 2-0 lead through most of the first two periods.

That changed when Eric Butte added to his goal streak an scored another goal late in the second on a one-time shot from a superb Lincoln Hatten pass. Army went to the third period trailing only by one, but with all of the momentum on their side.

In the third period, things slowed down a bit, and Army benefited from the wonderful view of their Operations Director, Kris Horn. He told Coach Riley to challenge a non call on a Luke Santerno check to the head. For his keen eye, Riley suggested giving Horn the game puck, and it was well deserved. The review changed the course of the game for both teams. It was lengthy, but proved Horn right. Santerno went to the locker room, and soon after that, Bentley took more penalties to give the Black Knights plenty of time with the extra skater. The Falcons nearly got out of that first penalty fracas unscathed, but Colin Bilek was able to barely find the back of the net on a call that again went Army’s way on review. His eleventh goal tied things up, and was the toughest of his four shots on net. He had so many good looks throughout the evening, and kept working hard to get the equalizer. Bilek is second in the country in Hobey Baker Award fan voting.

In the overtime frame, Daniel Haider provided the game winner on a long shift. Riley noted Haider’s skill in finding the shot and not missing, and praised him as another one of the good goal scorers on this team.

What does tonight mean?

Well, Riley and his staff know that to keep things going, they need to keep accumulating wins, and Bentley looks to come into Tate Rink ready to spoil the resume of Army for an at-large bid. For teams getting together and playing the right way at the right time, arguably one of the best teams this year, in terms of improvement is Army West Point. How they finish these last few weeks determines what they need out of the postseason to make the tournament. The more they win, the better their resume, and if ever there was a year to give Atlantic Hockey three teams in the NCAA Tournament, Riley’s team is making a case to make this the year.

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UAH Hockey: Cautiously Optimistic About the Future

(Photo Credit-LSSU Athletics)

Alabama Huntsville Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed what has been rumored. The Chargers are awaiting word from the Atlantic Hockey Association on potentially joining it next season. This pitch, as John Buccigross first reported, includes a $25,000 per series subsidy for at least the next ten years to help all institutions defray the costs of coming to Huntsville. This per-series subsidy also includes all playoff series that UAH would host. With this being one of the biggest barriers to joining the conference, having the financial support, and institutional backing, combined with a plan to scale the revenue opportunities for UAH was a critical first step to get this program where it wants, which is a new conference home.

For scheduling purposes, the Chargers could potentially play an unbalanced schedule, should they be awarded membership in Atlantic Hockey, as a way to see every team come to the Von Braun Center at least every other season, while further reducing the time and travel burdens that this would impose for the more northern members of the league, like Sacred Heart. This would limit the need for teams to travel outside of the northeast, still give UAH plenty of opponents to play, and ensure that its fans see the entire conference take on the Chargers in Huntsville ideally at least every two seasons.

At the end of the day, Smith said that, for the current members of the conference that “it’s a bottom line conversation,” and also noted of a potential announcement his increased optimism in the past few weeks. The members have all seen Alabama Huntsville’s pitch, and should have a decision on it in a few weeks. The timeline to approve or deny the pitch has been somewhat delayed due to schools dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks that have come in waves over different teams.

Throughout this process, Smith has had conversations with key figures in Atlantic Hockey, including its Commissioner Robert M. DeGregorio, Jr. who has been nothing but supportive in the quest for Alabama Huntsville to become a member. Smith did note the reality of this process, that is, it is a decision for its members to make, not its leader. Seven members need to approve the application to have the Chargers become the twelfth member of a league, and give it a foothold in the southeast United States. From the beginning of this process, Alabama Huntsville, and those working with it on the Advisory Board have had nothing but praise for the league office in giving them a chance to lay out their vision for the future. As part of that vision, and in their pitch, the Chargers have included concepts for an on campus arena. Building this would only happen if the Chargers could find a new conference home.

In addition to the reality faced by Alabama Huntsville and the consistent support received by its administration, Smith has received mentorship from potential future conference mates . He has talked with athletic administrators at Army West Point, who have provided assistance in crafting the pitch, along with key figures at Robert Morris University, new home of former UAH Head Coach, Mike Corbett.

From a competitive standpoint, Atlantic Hockey also makes sense, as the Chargers would be facing a few of their old CHA rivals, and forge new ones. Alabama Huntsville would face off against rivals Niagara, Robert Morris, and Air Force, in addition to eight other up and coming programs across the east coast. Smith has been encouraged to see the competitive nature of the team this year, and thinks that their revival has helped his department at large. Of this fact he said, “some of our fans that have gone to other sports have bought some tickets to hockey this year.”

That is, Alabama Huntsville fans of their other superb Division Two programs are starting to come out to see their only division one offering this year. Through all of this, Smith and the Chargers are doing their best to be flexible, and work to adress any concerns of Atlantic Hockey members as they arise, while providing a glimpse into a new market for this conference. All those rooting for Alabama Huntsville can do now is wait.

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AIC will earn an at large selection or better this postseason: Here’s Why

The Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC) are pretty good this year. So far, they have one loss in their conference play to an Army team that has started to find their game as of late. One of their non conference loses to Quinnipiac was in a tough 3-2 game that showed how well Head Coach Eric Lang’s team can adjust when needed. After losing the previous game on the road, they came to their home rink and stood shoulder to shoulder with one of the better offenses in the country nearly ow

In addition to their 13 wins to this point, the team is fairly strong on offense, and a resilient one, given the talent they lost from their second straight Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championship. The team, coming into today’s game is ninth with 56 goals scored. The team is doing this not with a top “big” line like some teams do, but with a collection of depth players providing more and more of the scoring and grit for this team. The play of the line that Aaron Grounds is on, that has featured multiple players along side of him has provided the positive physicality that Eric Lang had two years ago when his team shocked everyone but themselves against St. Cloud in the NCAA Tournament.

During the broadcast of their 3-0 win over Holy Cross, broadcaster and Coordinator of Athletic Communications director Seth Dussault called AIC a “buzzsaw” and, well Seth has a point about not just this game, but the Yellow Jackets in this conference. Through watching multiple games this weekend, this AIC team had the most complete weekend of any team we saw. It is hard to find ways to get better from this week, but we expect this team to somehow pull it off, because that is all they have done throughout the year, find ways to develop.

Let’s look at their eye-popping stats from the past week alone, courtesy of AIC Athletics

“AIC outscored Sacred Heart and Holy Cross by a combined 17-2 in the three games.

The Yellow Jackets outshot their opposition 115-55 and did not concede more than 20 shots in any game.

The Yellow Jackets went 5-of-17 on the power play and 8-of-9 on the penalty kill.

[Brennan] Kapcheck had a six-point week with six helpers to go with a +7 rating, while Dodero, Cole, and Janhonen all recorded five points on the week; a total of nine Yellow Jackets notched three or more points between the three contests.”

While some that do not follow this league do not see the implicit value in any of these statistics, we will note that every time we have had the chance to hear Head Coach Eric Lang speak about his team, along with the always evident humility and profound respect for the opposition, he notes things that his team can do more of, and improve upon. He now has a roster with so much depth on it, that three different goalies have wins, and all have shown they can handle the net for long periods of time. Oh, and Lang has multiple quality skaters that are sitting as healthy scratches each night.

That is, this Yellow Jackets team, this buzz saw of a squad that Lang has put together has shown their continued ascent throughout the year. This team, from its top scoring threats of Ellijah Barriga, Chris Theodore, Tobias Fladeby and others, combined with its solid depth of Grounds and Julius Janhonen, to so many others is one that during any other year where the pairwise was being used would most likely be an at large lock at this point. There are very few teams, in any conference, that can have their third or fourth goaltender come in and play at a top level, deal with sustained injuries or absences up front, and come out like these Yellow Jackets. If they do not meet the eye test to the Selection Committee after this week, we do not know what team would.

With all of that said, AIC has so many storylines on this roster, and so many areas Lang wants to get better on, that we think these Yellow Jackets should earn an at large spot, and that the league they play in, Atlantic Hockey, deserves at least two representatives. Look for the Yellow Jackets to focus on continued improvement in their penalty kill over the last few games of their season, and in playing complete games as they did this weekend against Holy Cross. If they finish strong, and nationally ranked, no one will be talking about AIC in this tournament the same way they did in 2019. Look for more on these Yellow Jackets in the weeks ahead.

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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“Every Single Program Matters”: Mike Snee on College Hockey Inc’s Mission

(Photo Credit-College Hockey Inc.)

Mike Snee is the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. This is an organization integral to helping grow the game, and in placing new teams across America to showcase a game loved by many in areas where there is not a hockey presence that there is now. His organization helps move the process forward to find new teams at interested schools with the capacity to fund them, and works to market the game to perspective players before they commit to a path to play hockey beyond their youth team.

Those presentations around America are a big part of the daily mission to grow the game for all, and Snee’s team has had to adapt to the pandemic-marred world we are all living in. As a result, his organization now has the capacity to present to any group in the world about a game with unrivaled passion and fan support across the country. If more Americans are choosing to play the game, that means these presentations are working, and 33 percent of players on NHL roster have now played college hockey. In addition to that, Snee strongly believes that because of the increase in interest towards Division One Men’s College Hockey, more worldwide interest has dovetailed with that. For instance, last season, 116 Europeans played college hokckey, a vast increase from the time Snee stepped in to run the organization.

As a leader of College Hockey Inc, Snee cares about all Division One Men’s Ice Hockey programs. As such, he took his time focusing on developing a plan to call new schools after the Pegulas pouted a lot of their money into making their Penn State program viable and competitive in the Big Ten Conference. In terms of how he structures to call teams to maximum affect, he has devised his pretty simple way of doing it. First, the team needs money, and a lot of it.It also needs Money is not the only concern for teams have the hay too adress. They need school, alumni support, an ice rink or two, and some fans willing to come. He noted that the success of his group has given them two different templates of creation to pursue going forward.

College Hockey Inc. has two roles. First, its job is to market the game to Americans better than it had done before its formation. On that note, this organization has done a good job in promoting the exploits of its American-brown alumnae at the NHL level and beyond. Throughout this interview that having more players like Cale Makar come to college helps them all around the world as they look to raise the profile of this great game.

“Every single program matters.”

Snee said this specifically when talking about Alabama Huntsville’s future. He credits the tremendous steps the Advisory Board has taken to help UAH Hockey move back into the game, and is now working moving to a new conference. As to their sweep this past weekend, he noted that sweeps like this help build the very lore that the Chargers are doing things right. He called that, as Head Coach Lance West did, a “program win.”

In addition, he notes a theme we have been seeing with other’s perception of the value of the UAH program. That is, this program is indispensable to the sport in order to grow it in its least capitalized market, the southeast.

Despite having a large role in expanding the game, through connecting folks who want to give money with schools willing to have Division One Men’s Ice Hockey, Snee credits the programs in this sport for everyone’s success. Although he does have a point in general on the day-to-day of running and promoting stores, we think the role of College Hockey Inc. is much more. They have their own process and list of calls ro make towards new schools after the pandemic abates. Given that his staff is so small, they spend a lot of time making presentations, and finding new ways to stay up-to-date on things around this great game. We had discussions about other areas of possible expansion as well. Snee and his small group are passionate advocates for every school in this great game, and their efforts show.

How the game continues to grow will not solely be on Snee and his group created with funds from the NHL and USA Hockey. It will grow or not by the efforts all of us take to promote it on our own communities and how we value the sport within its context. That is, if we see hockey at the college level as itself a perpetual interest generator in playing this great game, more people can be encouraged to help fund future teams. Perhaps one day, in a not too distant future, Purdue and Indiana could be doing battle on the ice for the Old Oaken Bucket Cup given to the winner of that series every year , should they make the jump to Division One. If Snee has his way, that example could become reality one day.

As Snee said, “every single program matters.” His group fights to help all of its members, and work to bring in new ones on a daily basis. College Hockey Inc. does their best to live up to that four word saying, and it shows.

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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The Colonials’ General: Nick Prkusic

(Photo Credit: Justin Berl-RMU Athletics)

Nick Prkusic is the captain of the Robert Morris Colonials. As a leader of this team, he is responsible for helping propel the Colonials to their first national ranking since the 2014-2015 campaign. The St. Albert, Alberta Native has done his part, contributing at or near a point-per-game pace. As first year Assistant Coach, Mike Corbett said of Prkusic, ” he’s got every club in the bag.”

This means that Nick can play anywhere in the lineup, and in any capacity needed. This is a great thing to have in a captain for a younger team. despite the team playing like veterans, they only have three seniors, of which Prkusic is one of them. Due to the pandemic, he has two options following the season, graduate and leave, or come back for one more year .

At the present moment, to his credit, Nick is only focused on this year, despite being a very worthy candidate for an NHL contract as an undrafted free agent. No NHL teams have talked to him as of yet, and given his pace and ability to mentor younger teammates, he would fit with any team in need of a fast skating, big, power forward who models his game after Sean Couturier which is all of them. Like the Flyers Center, Prkusic uses his big frame to help establish himself in the offensive end, and in his own end he is one of the more defensively responsible centers in the league. Prkusic is six feet, three inches tall, and that size, combined with his skillset helps him fit right in with the heavy and fast game these Colonials are.

Prkusic also is playing well so far for Corbett, and likes what he brings to the group. He describes Corbett as being a player’s coach who is always the steady hand on the bench. When the team scores a goal, Corbett is the one telling them to focus on the next shift. When the Colonials fall behind, Corbett is the one to rally the bench and bring folks together to get things don

This team, lead by Prkusic builds on traits that leaders always like to focus on as a means to an end. One of the biggest traits that meet that definition to Nick is honesty, which is one of many things that sold him on playing for Derek Schooley. The Colonials’ Head Coach was straight forward about his role coming from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to the Colonials and what he would need to do that would make him better. So far, Prkusic has hit every mark on his journey to help this team make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in almost the past decade.

One of the biggest areas of honesty for Prkusic is admitting what he is good at, along with areas he wants to improve. Over his time as a Colonial, Nick has only gotten stronger which has fueled other areas of his game. In addition, throughout his career, ever since he made the shift to a skater when he was 12, goal scoring has come naturally for him. Regarding an area to improve, his skating is the biggest thing he knows would help him get further up the ladder to the NHL. As he said, he wants to focus on edge work and acceleration. Prkusic has good straight-line speed once he accelerates, but needs to get there a bit faster. In addition, as a leader he has done a better job this year of staying out of the penalty box. Prkusic mentioned improving on that even more this year.

Away from the ice, this Edmonton Oilers fan lives a pretty calm life, with said calmness being a refuge during the pandemic we are all living through. Prkusic has done a lot for these Colonials, is a strong leader for them as showcased by the play of his line mate, freshman Randy Hernandez, who arguably is in the running for Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year, combined with his own skills. Schooley and Corbett rely on having strong voices in the locker room. Prkusic is a leader for these Colonials, and although they have a lot still left to whether this season, he is the perfect field general to help them get there.

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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“Doing the Right Thing Every Day”- RMU Head Coach Derek Schooley on the Success of the Colonials

(Photo Credit: Justin Berl-RMU Athletics)

Derek Schooley has been the only head coach for the Colonials of Robert Morris. He built the program so it could begin playing in the 2004-2005 season and has been their leader every single day. While you may not know some of the names of his team this year, they are playing on a pace that will open a lot of people’s eyes very quickly outside of Atlantic Hockey this season. Through 11 games, the Colonials are 8-3, with a stretch of nine games in 19 days awaiting them.

To deal with this, Schooley has had to do a few things. First, on October 1 he officially announced the hiring of former Alabama Huntsville Coach Mike Corbett. It was a natural fit for both of them, given the relationship they have had through Air Force Academy Coach Frank Serratore. Both men have coached under Serratore’s leadership and both carry a player first mentality they honed under his tutelage. Schooley left to build the Colonials from the ground up, and Corbett stepped in to fill that role.

As Schooley said on hiring Corbett, “As soon as I had an opening.. I reached out to him immediately.” Both men respect the experience each other has behind the bench, and Schooley was also quick to point out the decade of success as an assistant that Mike Corbett enjoyed at Air Force. When it comes to building a team and being around the right group of people, both are on the same page. In the always changing world of college hockey, to have someone that you have known for two decades work with you is a bit rare.

Back to this group, Schooley is leading a team with only three seniors but one that plays a very veteran style. The Colonials are one of the biggest teams in the country, and they use that size to their advantage, especially on the rare non conference trip. This team took top-10 Bowling Green into the third period up 1-0 and ended up barely losing 2-1 after a tough third period against one of the best teams in the country. The staff is happy with where this group is heading. The Colonials play a physical brand of hockey, but also have more than enough skill to make them a hard team to play against.

The captain of his group, Nick Prkusic, is respected by Schooley and the staff. Prkusic came in a natural goal scorer, and over his time with the Colonials has added some playmaking prowess to his game, along with always being a strong defender in his own end. Through his talent, he has over a point per game so far (nine assists and three goals in 11 games played).

Despite the maturity with which he plays the game, combined with his superb leadership skills, and his responsibility in his own end, Schooley has not gotten any calls or questions from the NHL about Prkusic, Given Schooley’s background and pedigree he knows future professionals in the game of hockey and to him, “Nick’s got the ability to play at the next level.”

On this team, and preparing them for the upcoming daunting schedule of 9 games in 19 days, the leadership group of the Colonials and staff have a plan. The season is divided into seven game segments. This segmented approach by Schooley allows his players to keep focused on the here and now. Given the pandemic we are living through, games are not always certain until players get on the ice.

In order to help this season be played, Atlantic Hockey, the Colonials’ Conference, has utilized a divisional alignment to cut down on travel. It leads to minimizing hotel stays and keeping pods of teams together to minimize scheduling calamities. Schooley has been nothing but thankful for the hard work Atlantic Hockey did to get teams back on the ice, and their diligence in dealing with postponements and trying their best to maintain competitive games.

In those games, Schooley has his players playing the way he wants them to. With their size and speed, they are beginning to find consistency in their lines, and the stellar play of rookie Noah West has given them three viable goaltenders that can step in on any given night.

All three goalies, West, Reid Cooper, and Dyllan Lubbesmeyer could see time as the next seven game segment for these Colonials after they finish this one takes place in 13 days. Due to cancellations and postponements, Robert Morris, now ranked 20th in the country, is effectively doing all they can to support their student-athletes playing a professional schedule in terms of games played.

Of how he works with his team looking to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, one thing from Schooley’s style is very much in line with the approach he and his staff have taken to managing things during this pandemic.

As Schooley says, “it’s about constantly making sure you’re doing the right thing everyday.” If his team keeps winning seven game segments playing a professional-like schedule then his Colonials will be well equipped to compete with AIC for Atlantic Hockey’s Regular and Postseason titles.

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.