Brian Rigali: Hungry to win and grow with AIC

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

To play for Eric Lang and his AIC Yellow Jackets, you have to have some common traits. First and foremost, you have to be a good human. Brian Rigali is an elite human according to Lang and his staff. Even when Rigali chose to head to the University of Connecticut, that did not deter Lang and his staff from recruiting him for his transfer year. As Lang said ” When he told me he was going to go to UCONN.. I remember the exchanges were very professional, we left it off in great terms.. because we left it off so well we were able to reunite.” That alone stuck with Lang for four years, knowing the value of maintaining relationships with those in the ever growing world of college hockey. Impressions and honesty matter to him, and that honesty and openness made the second recruiting process for Rigali’s extra year a short one. When Lang and his staff offered him a spot, there was not much further need for discussion from Rigali. The choice for him was clear to become a Yellow Jacket, after being a Husky for four years.

To play for Lang, you also have to be a high energy player with a lot of skill and even more effort obvious with every second you put on tape. Rigali has all of those qualities. As Lang said “he’s the perfect AIC hockey player in terms of what we value.” In terms of the high motor he brings, Lang called him a right handed Chris Dodero, which seems apt, given that the two are from the same area in the greater Chicago area and train together. Rigali and Lang both expect Brian’s offensive game to take the next step in his final year of college hockey. As Lang said ” he’s got a lot more production in him.” Rigali is learning more from Dodero as Chris runs a hockey skills training company called Prodero Hockey. Both are high motor players that could easily end up on a line together this season, and both can make each other better.

As to why he picked AIC, Rigali spoke highly of how Lang and his staff handled his choice to play at Uconn. As he said, “I’m really familiar with the program and the success they had.” Rigali has played Sacred Heart, Army West Point, and other Atlantic Hockey schools, and knows the style of play that Atlantic Hockey has, high energy and physical play to combine with top end skill, is perfect for the game he plays.

As Lang summarized “he’s the perfect AIC hockey player in terms of what we value. ” In addition, he said ” we are going to absolutely love him. Rigali is already communicating with the team, as several Yellow Jackets reached out to him upon his choice to head to Springfield next season. Brian is already inspiring Lang through sending him motivational quotes and videos, while Lang is always excited to lead his team, Rigali’s motivation has taken that up even higher. As Lang said, ” he has been getting me excited about our season.” Like Lang, Rigali knows how good this group will be this season ahead, saying that “we are going to have a lot of depth this year. ”

Watching his game, Lang knows another thing Rigali adds, is a high energy aspect to the team that makes everyone better. Brian models the effort he plays with after high energy wunderkinds that made a name for themselves in the NHL like Andrew Shaw, among many more. Lang loves the second and third effort on all shifts that Rigali brings, and knows that will mesh well with the group of good humans he has assembled in Springfield. As for the rest of the offseason, Lang and his staff are being very deliberate with their options in the transfer portal, as they have one more spot they aim to fill this offseason.

They are looking for one more player that checks as many of the boxes of potential Yellow Jacket that Rigali has checked, which is always a tough task to find, but even more so compounded as hundreds of players still remain in the portal, thus making marginal comparisons take longer, comparing the package that hundreds could bring to your group. Lang and his staff are in a best player available mentality to find one more future Yellow Jacket in the portal, position is not the deciding factor, what that person brings to the group is. Rigali will be working on his MBA at AIC, looking to give himself as many options as possible for when his on ice career is done.

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Chris Van Os-Shaw: Looking for a fresh start at AIC

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Chris Van Os-Shaw plays a physical game that he models after Jonathan Toews. That game that he plays meshes well with what Eric Lang’s group can do when it is humming, as it has done a lot during the past three seasons, earning three Atlantic Hockey Championships, two Jack Riley Trophies, and two NCAA Tournament bids. All of those teams have had players on them with the ability to score, and contribute defensively. Van Os-Shaw does all of those things. Despite knowing that AIC is nicknamed the Yellowjackets and that they are on the east coast, Chris did not know a lot about the school despite being recruited a little bit by them coming from the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints. He comes to AIC with two seasons of eligibility left, and brings a lot to the group. On departing from Minnesota State, he said simply, “at the end of the day I needed a fresh start.” Chris was nothing but complimentary of the staff of Minnesota State in helping him out once he went into the transfer portal. Of joining AIC, he said that it ” is the right fit for me.” Furthermore, he added that, “right off the hop it seemed like they cared the most.” He praised the effort of Assistant Coach Cory Schneider in leading his recruitment this spring. He complimented the recruiting process, and now gets to play with former and future teammate Zach Galambos, and one of his friends, Justin Young.

Head Coach Eric Lang offered his thoughts, adding ” We recruited Chris out of junior. He has every tool to be a great player. His elevated role in our program is exactly what he was looking for in our team. He could score 15 to 20 goals for us. We are lucky to have him. Outside of his terrific hockey skills we are getting an elite human.”

Academically, Van Os-Shaw will continue to pursue his degree in business. He wants to become a salesperson when his hockey career is complete. He enjoys something common among many in this game, building relationships with others. During the pandemic-marred season, he played videogames like Fortnite to keep in touch with his friends.

On playing the game in general, the Canadian forward said, “there’s nothing like it.. especially coming from Canada, seeing how passionate people are about their team is kind of cool.” Now, he gets to be a part of a program on the rise in its national profile, while taking on a bigger role than he would have at Minnesota State. The ever-improving player looks to slot in to the top six spot vacated by Tobias Fladeby. Both have strong scoring sense, and both know how to bring some physical aspects to their game.

This offseason, Van Os-Shaw will finish his Covid 19 vaccination course, continue working on his game on his own, and get ready to head to Springfield in August. In him, AIC is getting a good human, and a strong player in all three zones with a top flight shot. With AIC, Van Os-Shaw is getting all he wants at the end of the day, a “fresh start.”

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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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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Opinion: Expand the NCAA Tournament to 20 teams

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Fans of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team will remember the old WCHA, the fanbase waxes poetically about it often then moving on to needle the attendance and postseason problems that the members of the current Big 10 Hockey Conference have (these problems have some grounding in truth are sometimes exaggerated). One thing in that Final Five is the chance for a team to win three games in three days to make the NCAA Tournament. If you won your first round series, and had either of the worst two remaining regular season records, you had to play an extra game to advance. Teams that were able to win those three games then got the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of their regular season success, or lack thereof. No one questioned the win of the five seed on the few times it did happen.

This past, pairwise free (it existed, but was not used as we know it due to a lack of significant interconference play) hockey and subjective selection proceedings have left fans of many eastern hockey teams, and a few western powerhouses like Denver, feeling left out.

Now, none of the teams left out did enough to make the 16 team tournament.

With that argument noted, what we are proposing is this.

In future years, when the next cycle of regionals are awarded, standardize the starting dates, and expand the tournament by four teams.

On Friday, you have opening round games between the four and five seed in each regional with the winner earning the right to face one of the four best teams in the country.

On Saturday, you have the first round staggered across the country (for maximum TV ratings of course) play out and make an already great day even better. Instead of six games (two finals, four first round games) we would have eight games take place on one day, and then play the championships on Sunday.

Why?

Well we have a few reasons.

First, for this game to grow, and get more programs in it, expanding the tournament by four teams makes attaining it slightly more reasonable, without having to dilute the value of the regular season. If the tournament expands, more fans and schools can get involved in the greatest part of this game, its postseason.

Second, after hearing arguments about top seeds getting rested enough or not, we would like to note the value of the top seed playing a team that had played the previous day. The coaching staff gets to watch that team play in person, and that team could very well be tired, and in theory should give the top seed an easier path to the regional final.

Third, it adds value to the full season for everyone. Now, teams play to move up or down in the pairwise (all of this is being written for a normal non pandemic-marred season), but the reality is, the top 12 or 13 teams are usually safe every year, while the last two or three worry about conference tournament champions stealing their spot.

This eliminates some of that concern.

If teams 1-13 are locks, the proposal ensures that teams 14-16 all will make it. It would require five teams outside of the top 20 to win their conference championship to hurt the top 16, and ensure that the bottom eight teams would all have to play in the first game. This provides more meaning to what teams 10-12 are doing as the season ends, and ensures every game has more of an impact. If you are playing to get an opening round bye, that adds stakes to your late season play.

Use 2012-2013 as an example, when Niagara finished at the number 10 spot in the pairwise, and Canisius won their postseason tournament, that meant Atlantic Hockey would earn two bids to the tournament. What it also meant was that a 19 win Western Michigan team would miss the tournament. In this system, the only team that would have missed the tournament is number 20 ranked Brown. Atlantic Hockey would have had three teams representing it, and three more programs would have had the chance to compete for a national championship.

We understand that this change would have to wait until the next round of regionals are awarded, and there needs to be buy-ins from coaches, hosts, athletics departments and more all around the country.

Our argument comes down to this.

If this sport is to add more programs over time, something we all want to see, expanding the tournament by four teams now is a way to encourage more schools to potentially join. In addition, for all of those teams just wishing they could have made the tournament this year, this would have let them in. In the future, it will also allow Atlantic Hockey to get at least two deserving representatives into the tournament without harming another team’s chances. Finally, it ensures that the top seeds in each region get to play an opponent who could be tired. If the game is to grow, its tournament needs to do so as well.

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Three Thoughts on UMD-UND: More on history from last night

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Those who attended the Midwest Regional Final at Scheels Arena last night ended up leaving early this morning in a 3-2 Minnesota Duluth win that took a grueling 142:13 to conclude. Luke Mylymok blocked a Jasper Weatherby shot, then took the puck the other way and got a shot on UND netminder Adam Scheel that went five hole and in. Beyond the immediate joy and despair on full display when the puck went in the net last night, there is more from this game that deserves further noting.

Perspectives on pauses

Minnesota Duluth ended up playing over two games in Fargo this weekend given their first round match against Michigan being declared a no contest. To everyone’s credit the extra rest the Bulldogs had did not in anyway give them an advantage against UND. While it makes you wonder what would have happened should the Bulldogs played Michigan, the reality is you will not ever find that answer out. North Dakota’s first round opponent, AIC, had 49 days between the end of their regular season and the start of their postseason. Despite winning their tournament they had to battle back through similar slumps that they faced against UND that proved insurmountable. Head Eric Lang wished he could have played more games towards the end of the season, and tried to even schedule Clarkson before their season was canceled.

How does this relate to last night’s (this morning’s?) result?

Simply to note that having a pause, whether it be 49 days with AIC, or one extra day with Minnesota Duluth’s case, is not the advantage some could make it out to be. AIC had to battle back in both of their games just to make it to Fargo. North Dakota nearly won the game several times in overtime, with the most notable coming on Jasper Weatherby shooting the puck on to the top of the net, where it sat. The Fighting Hawks looked as fresh as the Bulldogs all night, and outside of an 80 second stretch in the third where the Bulldogs potted the first two goals of the night, UND played arguably their best all around game all year. They only took three penalties on the night, had 154 shot attempts, and played a complete game against a great team in Minnesota Duluth. Sometimes, especially in this sport, you lose those games, where you are the better team on the shot clock.

On Minnesota Duluth

Credit Head Coach Scott Sandelin and his staff for this season. The Bulldogs do not really rebuild under Sandelin, they seem to plug in players to his system and have all of their details refined down to their finest point. This team is one of the most disciplined at keeping to their system in this sport, and last night and this morning it showed. When the Bulldogs looked to have won on an earlier rush that was offsides on the same side of the ice and near the same spot that Mylymok gained the zone, they did not stop. UND threw wave upon wave of chances towards them and the Bulldogs never stopped doing what they did to get them their first lead. They clogged lanes, took away grade a chances, and blocked shots. They had to change goaltenders in the fourth overtime and Ryan Fanti came in relief of Zach Stejskal and while not tested nearly as much as the starter, still had to make a few tough saves to even set up the overtime winner. Scott Sandelin’s system and his attention to detail in every aspect of his program set this historic game up. To beat North Dakota this year, teams had to play their best and make less mistakes than them. The Bulldogs did that.

On North Dakota

For some perspective on this, let’s look at what Army West Point Head Coach Brian Riley said after his group had their season ended in the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals by Canisius in overtime “if this is the worst thing that happens in our lives… then life’s going to be pretty good.” This quote comes from the leader of a service academy school that will not have the extra year of eligibility as an option for any of their players due to the requirements of the service academies.

For the Fighting Hawks, they were the best team in the country for the majority of the season, as St. Cloud State will tell you, that does not always win championships. They will have an elite roster of players signing professional contracts this offseason, and could have some seniors choose to come back as well. This program continuously will have some of the most talented recruits coming through its doors, and while the standard is always high at North Dakota, last night showed why. The Fighting Hawks have a strong program, fan base, and professional legacy of alums playing hockey at the highest levels around the world. None of that changes with the result of last night. Over the coming months, seeing who is coming back for them will go a long way to determining for what next season’s team will look like, as will any transfer portal additions (by the time this season ends, there easily could be over 200 players in the transfer portal). Adam Scheel played the game of his life last night, and showed his improvement from last season, and along the way this year to get to where he is now.

He is ready to sign a professional contract and work his way to the NHL, as are many of the players on this team. Their choice for their next steps is up to them. With all of that said, when you look at things in perspective, last night was a supreme exhibition of skill from both teams, playing in an event we did not get to have last season, where one team had to win and one had to lose. The final score takes away nothing from the effort of the Fighting Hawks, and their efforts in defeat only show how tough of a path the Bulldogs had to travel to win.

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PHOTOS: UND vs. AIC

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Check out some more photos from UND’s 5-1 win last night over AIC, all photos belong to Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography. For the full gallery click the link below.

Full gallery

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.

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.”

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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Undrafted Free Agents to watch at the 2021 Fargo Regional

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

This week, we will see four teams converge upon Scheels Arena in Fargo North Dakota to faceoff for a trip to the 2021 Frozen Four in Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks. These teams all have top end talent, and people we will see in the NHL one day. Each team has more than one undrafted free agent worth noting, and we will discuss four undrafted free agents to watch that should have an immediate impact in professional hockey. We selected one from each team to discuss, that we will be watching this weekend.

American International College

Tobias Fladeby

The winger from Asker, Norway has nine goals and 17 total points on the season. Along with his goal scoring prowess, he has proven the ability to do it against the two best teams AIC has played. four of his goals have come against Quinnipiac (2), and Army West Point (2). Head Coach Eric Lang and the staff at AIC love his release and ability to get to key areas of the ice and find the back of the net. If he does not return to AIC, he up front, and Brennan Kapcheck on defense are two of the quietly more popular undrafted free agents on the market that have the speed and skill needed to make the NHL. Fladeby’s greatest skill this past weekend was his off puck awareness. That is, he knows where to go on the ice to get himself space. For AIC to shock some more people in Fargo, he needs to make his presence known this weekend.

University of Michigan

Strauss Mann

If the goaltender decides to go pro, the NHL may be ready for him now. As ESPN Color Analyst for the Fargo Regional, Dave Starman said of what Mann’s game involves, saying that he is. “athletic, aggressive depth, good stick down low, most importantly he is always square to the puck.” He praised how big the 6 feet tall Mann plays, and noted that he reminds him in style of Byron Dafoe. Mann is the Big 10’s Goalie of the Year and a deserving Mike Richter Award Nominee, his ability to keep the Wolverines in what promises to be a close game against the reigning back-to-back national champions, Minnesota Duluth. For all of the star power the Wolverines have, from their numerous high-end draft picks to players that will be drafted in the top 10 this summer, Mann has been the key to this group. If the Wolverines can defeat the Bulldogs, and earn a trip to the Frozen Four, Mann will be a big part of that. His style of play, and fundamental skill lends itself well to the next level, and he should have offers to choose from this summer. If we returns to Ann Arbor, he will have two years of eligibility left.

Minnesota Duluth

Louie Roehl

While Roehl is not the offensive defender that fans of the Minnesota Duluth Men’s Hockey team have been lucky to see in Dylan Samberg or Scott Perunovich, he plays the game the right way, and is superb at making life tough for the skilled forwards he sees on a nightly basis in the NCHC. As we said in our NCHC preview of Roehl “A responsible defender with improved skating to compliment his high hockey IQ, this 5-foot-10 senior may not possess Perunovich’s point-producing upside, but he makes up for it with solid play in his own end. Roehl can be counted on to maintain a slot presence and keeps loose pucks out of harm’s way or show poise under pressure when a line change is in order. Roehl is not flashy by any means, but he should be an intriguing long-term option for an NHL club in need of a mature defensive defenseman at the AHL level.” If Roehl can develop and earn his way up in a system needing veteran leadership, he could work his way to an NHL job within a few years. For now, his calmness under pressure, and ability to make the life of scoring forwards he faces quite tough are two things that the Bulldogs will need as they look to advance to the Frozen Four.

North Dakota

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Adam Scheel

For the Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team, they are blessed with two goaltenders in Adam Scheel and Peter Thome who are both capable of playing professional hockey. One of them, Adam Scheel, has wrested control of the net all for himself most of the season, and its not hard to see why. The Lakewood, Ohio native has gotten considerably better at maintaining his positioning throughout the game. His biggest improvement is not so much his positioning, but in how he plays the game. That is, he rebounds quickly from goals he allows, and lets the number one team in front of him find a way to get the goal back. Regardless of what he chooses to do, he will most certainly end up at an NHL development camp this summer, and he may earn a contract pretty soon after UND’s season ends. Teams that get athletic goaltenders that know how to manage the ebb and flow of a game, typically like what the see. The Lakewood, Ohio native has all of those traits and more. His ability to manage games is one reason why the Fighting Hawks have a strong enough team to earn their ninth NCAA Division One Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship this 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

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

Hugo Haas on why he chose AIC, and more

Photo Credit Patrick Garriepy- Patrick Garriepy Photography

Hugo Haas has come a long way just to play in the North American Hockey League for the Northeast Generals. The Opava, Czech Republic native has always had goaltending on his mind. His father, Rotislav was his inspiration. He had a 17 year career playing across different professional leagues in Europe, culminating in finishing with the team he now coaches goaltending for, the Augsburg Panthers in the DEL, the top professional German Ice Hockey . When Hugo discussed his style of goaltender he tries to be like, he shared something his father told him that he takes to heart. The saying, as Hugo noted is “stealing is bad, but stealing with your eyes is a good thing.” That is, Haas is inspired by other goaltenders, of which he watches many on a daily basis, and tries to play his own game in the process. He wants to develop his game and his off ice skills with time, and enjoys the steady grind of improving his game. Hockey has been his life, but he knows that playing college hockey will give him not only a better chance to make the NHL, but he appreciates being able to get his degree.

As he said on the opportunity to be seen and develop. “Just the exposure that it has… Obviously you have an education to it..its a little different than Europe.. I think it’s a good route to develop”, Haas is undecided on what he wants to do for a major yet, but is looking forward to begin that internal process of deciding soon, given that he just announced his decision to come to AIC today. He did note that, unlike the European system, he appreciates being able to earn a degree along with playing hockey instead of having to choose between the two when his junior hockey career is complete.

Haas was methodical about choosing where to play. On why he will be a Yellow Jacket, he said “ I just liked the way that they overall presented themselves.” He praised the international history of the program, and their European connections. He felt that the school does a good job working with players from all around the world, and he also is a teammate of Alexander Tertyshny who will join AIC next year. Haas plans to join the program for the 2022-2023 season. He called Alexander his best friend, and noted the frequent friendly competitive battles the two have during practice. Head Coach Eric Lang has talked about the growth of the program being in part because of “players recruiting other players,” with Hugo, that could also extend the saying to recruits recruiting other recruits.

As to how he came to the North American Hockey League, and is playing for the Generals this and next year, Head Coach Bryan Erikson said, that “I first saw tape of him from one of his Coaches Mike McCarthy and then I saw him play in a showcase over here. Wanted to get him over last year but he had visa issues. So we got him over here for this season and we were not disappointed! What jumps out at you when you watch Hugo for the 1st time or 50th time is his composure. He is just so calm no matter what is going on around him. He is such a calming influence on the game. He is aggressive with his positioning and he plays the puck and passes it better than most D men. That’s what jumped out and still continues to impress me.”

This year, he has been a calming presence in net for a Generals team looking to go on a run late in the season to earn a playoff spot in their division. Erikson may have set the team on the right path in that regard, as he used a timeout as a reset when the team was trailing the Johnstown Tomahawks 4-1. The team quickly scored two goals to get back in the game, and then Tertyshny scored the next two to give the Generals two badly needed points. Haas played his best, and did not concede another goal, putting up 26 saves on the day, and the Generals won 5-4.

As to the pressure of being in net, well, Haas thrives on it. He enjoys the mental challenge of being in net all game, and sees the game pretty well. His ability to stay calm in net, combined with his positioning are two things that stand out when watching him. One reason he can also handle the puck so well is because of his background. He did not play goalie full time until he was 12, and he attributes his puck handling prowess to that consistent development.

One adjustment Haas has made this year is to North American rinks. Since coming over to the NAHL, he has gotten used to increasing workloads (the width on North American rinks is 15 feet shorter than rinks in Europe, leading to faster paced, higher shot total games) and facing high shot volumes. In a way, he embodies Eric Lang’s quote on preparing for the Atlantic Hockey Tournament after a 49 day pause in between games, “pressure is privilege.”

He has another year to lead the Generals, regardless of how this year finished, and given that they will have at least two high impact players coming from the National Champion (Premier and Elite) Charlotte Rush program in the USPHL, combined with Haas in net, and a developing group around him, next year in Attleboro Massachusetts for Hugo presents an opportunity for him to finish his junior hockey career as a part of a veteran team looking to improve from whatever this year’s result is.

For this year, Haas will finish playing with one of his best friends, looking to help the Generals go on a late run to the playoffs, in two years, 94.6 miles away from Attleboro the two will be together again, playing Division One College Hockey on their path to earn a degree, and further hone their skills together for a staff with similar values to the ones Erikson and his staff preach and practice.

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AIC wins AHA Conference Tournament Championship, after facing a tough Canisius opponent: Now what?

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

Coming into the Atlantic Hockey Association Conference Tournament Championship game tonight, Head Coach Eric Lang’s AIC Yellow Jackets knew that they would get everything the Canisius College Golden Griffins would throw at them. Trevor Large’s Golden Griffins controlled the first ten minutes of the game, and had AIC hemmed in their own end a few times. After that, the game started to open up, and like yesterday, Lang’s group had to battle through adversity, trailing 1-0, and 2-1 to a team that had another night of standout goaltending from Jacob Barczewski, who finished with 31 saves on 34 shots, and was a big reason why it was a one goal game, before AIC added two empty net goals.

The turning point of this game came late in the second period. After a fracas behind the net, no one quite understood why the officials were reviewing the play for a five minute major. It turns out that, Mitchell Martan cross checked Chris Dodero in the back of the head, and he encouraged Lang to challenge the non call and get a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct given.

Despite Canisius limiting the quality looks for AIC on the major power play, they finally cashed in with two seconds left on it with the go-ahead goal as Dodero’s goal into an open net proved to be the difference on the evening.

Lang was proud of his entire group, those both playing and not, and praised the depth and team-first mentality his group has. One example of that came in net, as Stefano Durante earned the start in both games, despite Lang having three goalies who have won games for him to choose from. He did note that had AIC had to play Bentley last week, Jake Kucharski, the freshman draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes probably would have played to give Durante more time to recover from a knee injury. As Lang said, ” if we played two weeks ago, it wouldn’t have been Stef.” With that said, Lang praised his consistent preparation and work to earn the net both nights. He got better in AIC’s scrimmages last weekend, and put up a shutout in the second one. Then Lang sensed that Durante was ready, and Eric Lang ended up having the right sense for his goaltending selection.

Senior AIC Captain Brennan Kapcheck also called Durante a “gamer” who always is ready to go. His consistency in net, combined with AIC’s ability to work to the fine details, they only took one penalty in two games, and none tonight, make them a team that has shown it can compete with anyone in the country. The ability for this team to stay within themselves regardless of the moment is an intangible asset that has taken Lang and his staff time to develop, but it has shown itself in a group that graduated ten seniors and had a lot of holes to fill. The staff of AIC was under pressure this summer to make sure that they had a full roster ready to go, and to prove that their first two years of winning regular season championships were not the limit of this team’s success. This team and North Dakota are the only two number one seeds to win both their regular season and postseason tournament championships.

With that being said Lang, and Large have to some degree or another both advocated for two teams to come from Atlantic Hockey. This tournament experience has shown that this conference has no walkover games at all. Niagara made it to Springfield by defeating one of the most veteran-heavy and skilled teams in the league in Robert Morris. Canisius was able to defeat Army, a feat last done by Lang’s group early in January. AIC played Quinnipiac pretty close at even strength in two games, and forced them to defend in their own end for large swaths of the series finale. The winner of this tournament always competes and represents their conference well in the postseason.

The Atlantic Hockey Tournament experience, combined with this conference’s rigorous schedule, plus the depth that Lang has on this team, will make this group as formidable as any of the past two League Champions that Lang has coached. What comes next? Well, Lang and the rest of us will find out the full bracket tomorrow night on ESPN U at 6 PM Central Time.

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