AIC Bounces Back Against LIU: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics)

The Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC) came out in their first effort of the new year and earned a well-deserved 2-1 victory over the Sharks of Long Island University (LIU). Chris Theodore and Aaron Grounds provided the AIC response to a Zack Bross shorthanded goal to earn the series opening victory.

This team played with the same effort it did in its series finale loss to Quinnipiac, except they had more to show for it. Stefano Durante was again stellar in net for this team making 19 saves on 20 shots for an evening where he was not facing much. LIU finished the night with a mere 32 shot attempts to 51 for the Yellow Jackets.

In practical terms that indicates the reality of this game. AIC controlled time and space for the vast majority of it, and if not for Garret Metcalf playing a nice game for the Sharks of LIU, combined with the Sharks blocking 12 of those looks, this score could have better reflected the outcome of the game.

A look at the Goal Scorers

Let’s focus some more on Aaron Grounds for a moment. The six feet, three inches tall Jamestown, North Dakota native seems to be a constant in Head Coach Eric Lang’s ever changing bottom six. His power and ability to be the most physical player on the ice is an ever-constant threat for these Yellow Jackets. On his goal, he was the beneficiary of a nice setup from Parker Revering.

He found Julius Janhonen through the neutral zone who saw Grounds. From there, Aaron walked in and picked the far corner against Metcalf. As Grounds told us, he wants to keep improving on his skating and finesse work and, today was a good indication that the extra dedication to his craft he is putting in is paying off. Eric Lang recruited Grounds for his physical game, and ability to chip in on offense, so far, he has been proven right on both counts.

The Yellow Jackets are themselves a very deep team especially at the forward position. On any given night, Lang has multiple quality forwards that would be in a lot of team’s lineups not playing, and Grounds has had to fight for time against all of them. At the pace he is going on, Grounds could find himself moving up the depth chart very soon if he keeps playing his game as he is.

In addition to Grounds, credit Chris Theodore for his consistency and improvement. He finds himself playing with Tobias Fladeby, one of the leading scorers in the country on Lang’s premier scoring line. Theodore is already two points away from equalizing his highest output at AIC which came in his freshman season with 10 points. That took him 34 games to put up those numbers, he has eight points in an equal amount of games already. As defenses look to match up with Fladeby, Theodore will get more scoring chances himself, and looks ready for that responsibility. The two have excellent chemistry playing together, and are part of one of the more unheralded scoring trios in the game with Elijah Barriga centering them.

As for the Yellow Jackets, they travel to take on these same Sharks tomorrow night at 5:00 PM Central Time. On paper, the team of good humans played a one goal game today and won. In reality, the possession numbers and other metrics like the play of Theodore and Grounds showed a team continuing to improve, and always striving to get better.

With all of this in mind, part of the reason why the score was so close, was Long Island itself. The Sharks did not give AIC many rebound looks, and closed down the inside quite well, throughout the game. Lang’s teams do not often get outworked in the areas around the blue paint, but today they did. AIC has to be better physically tomorrow. The Yellow Jackets have to improve their ability to box out and get to the net a bit better, otherwise, the Sharks will find more chances around the net than Lang would like to allow.

As Lang said of AIC’s opponent, “They are extremely well coached, have high buy in, commitment to playing hard, and playing the right way. I anticipate tomorrow will be no different.”

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: Click Here

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

Aaron Grounds: Tall and Still Growing for AIC

(Photo Credit: Kelly Shea/AIC Athletics)

Aaron Grounds is a 6 feet 2 inches tall freshman forward for the Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC). He makes his living in front of the net providing screens to make goalies’ lives difficult, while providing solid help defending in his own end. The Jamestown, North Dakota native compares his style to Ottawa Senators’ forward Austin Watson. Both are physical customers who use their size to contribute both on and off the score sheet. For instance, in AIC’s 3-1 win over Bentley today, he put home his second goal of the season while playing a defensive role on the fourth line. Over time look for Grounds to use more of his frame and add some more skill in his four years in Springfield.

When he filled out forms during his draft year indicating strengths and weaknesses, the physical nature of his game was near the top of his positives. Over his time learning from AIC Head Coach Eric Lang and his staff, Grounds will look to grow his capabilities to use time and space on the rush and get a bit more creative with his options in the offensive zone, especially on breakaways.

With all of that being said, Grounds had an interesting introduction to hockey, his first and really only sport he has played consistently growing up. His mother, Kristy, was a daycare provider when Grounds was younger, and his first experience with hockey gear came when he saw the gear of one of the older girls at daycare when she brought it in that day That was the first experience with anything hockey related he had as neither Kristy, or his father Micheal played hockey.

Ever since then, the mission has been simple for Grounds. As he said, “ever since I was a little kid I’ve had this dream of playing in the NHL and I don’t plan on letting anybody stop me anytime soon.”

Grounds moved to Minnesota when he was 12, and credits the larger availability of ice in Minnesota for his ability to continue training over summers a bit easier, along with having more time to hone his craft.

As for getting to AIC, well, like a lot of America, his introduction to the Yellow Jackets came when they earned a win over number one ranked St. Cloud State in the first round of the 2019 West Regional in Fargo. From there he did his research and had a little bit of help from one of his assistant coaches during his time with the Fargo Force, Eli Rosendahl. He reached out to Lang and his staff, and it was not long before the connection was made. After that momentous win, and weekend for AIC, Eric Lang told the media he had a lot of good conversations with recruits, and opened a lot of people’s eyes. One pair of those eyes now plays for the AIC Family. How Eric Lang runs his program in all facets of it, combined with the culture there are two of the main reasons Grounds is playing for AIC.

All of Lang’s talented staff takes time each day to make sure their players are doing ok in all facets of their lives. Simple things like asking a question about his parents make a big difference to Grounds and show that the AIC Family the program talks about is a lived, not just promoted value. Lang and his staff value the whole person, not just what shows up on the ice or stat sheet.

Finally, regarding the Yellow Jackets this year, Grounds describes the Yellow Jackets’ program quite well as a small budget one, but he notes that “we have something that I value way more, which is our family which is incredibly important, we will outwork anyone on the ice.” To sum things up, his view is one more of college hockey is coming around to regarding AIC. As Grounds said “we’re starting to be a team that people know about and don’t like to play.”

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: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.