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

Photo Credit: Air Force Academy Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic Credit: Total Package Hockey

Photo Credit: Ohio State University Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Army West Point Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Liam McCanney: Humility and growth on and off the ice

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

He added ” back to work.”

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

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

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Jonathan Young- A dependable Northeast General looking for his NCAA home

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Family, honesty, and growth. If you could string together three words that describe the most important things to North East Generals’ forward Jonathan Young, those three sum up the values of one of the most consistent players on the Generals. Young is so humble about his NAHL career, he did not even realize that he was about to hit the 100 point milestone until his mom Karen told him a few days before he did it against the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks.

Young enjoys being only an hour away from his family in New Hampshire. They attend his games whenever possible. Young’s singular most favorite food is Karen’s chicken parmesan (it would be his last meal, if he could eat anything). As homemade chicken parmesan is considered to be reliably a source of strength and comfort for those who enjoy it, Young’s consistency this year has been a source of comfort to Generals Head Coach Bryan Erikson. Under his tutelage Young has turned himself into a reliable, and dependable two way forward who models himself on the game of his favorite player on his favorite team, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. Now he is in the final stretch of figuring out where he will play next year. As of now, all of the schools interested in him are Atlantic Hockey schools, which all play a rugged game chock full of players with the upside, potential, skill and talent like Young’s. On choosing his school, Young said it best on where he wants to go saying he would like to be “somewhere I’ll play… and somewhere where I can set myself up for the rest of my life.” He is undecided on a major but has interest in being an entrepreneur following his hockey career, and plans on taking business classes as part of his academic journey in college.

On how Erikson has helped him grow, Young said “I’ve probably never played for a coach like him before.” Young will forever cherish his experience with the Generals program as great. He is looking to join a college with a similar feel to the Generals. He wants to play for whichever school will give him the best chance to thrive, and an atmosphere that feels like home to him, similar to what Erikson and the Generals have done for him. He praised the #CommitJYoung campaign started by current General Manager Matt Dibble. Every time Young dazzles on the ice, the team highlights it with the hashtag. In most any other year, most players with Young’s pedigree would have some sort of scholarship offer in hand and a commitment made. He acknowledged how tough the extra year of eligibility for all players who played the college game this year has made things for players with a 2000 birth year. With that said, he and the Generals are undeterred in helping him find his next home. When he was also the general manager Erikson saw the future potential in Young that colleges are seeing now. In addition, Erikson was effusive and detailed of his growth saying the following

“Jonathan was always a player I coveted. Big, can skate and can rip the puck. The one knock on him was that he was just a goal scorer. That he didn’t use his size. And I felt with the way we emphasize the forecheck he could thrive in those areas of his game that needed work. But I think as he matured so did his game. I also believe that the relationship he has with the organization has helped him. He trusts us. We asked him to change his game a little and he bought in completely. He is now very very physical, has learned to be a great penalty killer, is a weapon on the Power Play and is a guy I rely on in the defensive zone. Those are parts of his game that he maybe wasn’t forced to do before. But he has come here and worked so incredibly hard both on and off the ice to improve. I am so proud of him as a person. Just a wonderful kid that craves knowledge. Always reading, always wanting to get more knowledgeable about whatever the topic is, space, science, history, habit building you name it. Just a curious kid that works hard at everything and you are seeing that hard work pay off with his production on the ice. He is not only going to be a very successful division 1 hockey player he is going to be an extremely successful person.”

As for what Young wants to accomplish with the Generals in his final games of junior hockey. He still sees potential in a group looking to extend its win streak to five this weekend in their two game road trip to Danbury. As he said of this group, featuring a team that has spent most of its year on the road “I think we could do something special this year.”

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Here come the Generals: Northeast earns home sweep with 5-1 win over Danbury

Photo Credit-Patrick Garriepy-Patrick Garriepy Photography

Every coach we have interviewed has articulated a version of what Northeast Generals Head Coach Bryan Erikson came right out and said tonight, of his general coaching philosophy.

“All of the blame should go to me and all the credit should go to the players.”

Tonight, there was plenty of credit to go around for all as Erikson’s group, the Northeast Generals look to be trending in the right direction. They earned a 5-1 win tonight over the Junior Hat Tricks of Danbury in a needed win to get back into the playoff hunt. AIC recruit Hugo Haas finished with 34 saves on 35 shots faced. He kept his group in the game, even making 16 saves in a sterling third period to secure the win. As Erikson said about Hugo’s play,” there’s the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings in the building and hopefully they like what they saw. “Haas was, as his head coach said ” in control” all night, and the only goal he conceded came on a net-front deflection on the power play. After that, the Junior Hat Tricks could not solve the Opava, Czech Republic native’s abilities in net.

As to the players in front of Haas, tonight’s result kind of dovetailed with Erikson, and his staff’s mission to help get players on their last year of junior hockey a commitment in the college ranks. The staff is currently working to get its scoring leader Jonathan Young a Division One scholarship, and is running the #CommitJYoug hashtag on Twitter to highlight his achievements. Tonight, he had his 14th goal of the campaign, and was plus two, as the Generals did not give up a goal at even strength. He plays a defensively responsible game, and brings some physical power to his game that will play well initially on a bottom six role next season at the next level. His path in junior hockey, including winning the Dineen Cup with the Islanders Hockey Club at the NCDC level of the USPHL, has been a long and winding one. His resolve to keep focusing, as Erikson likes to do ” on the next game.” is a reason why Young stands on the cusp of playing at the next level.

Multiple other uncommitted players scored tonight. Ricky Boysen put home his third goal in two games, and has steadily provided the Generals another two way presence that focuses on consistent development. The Generals had five different goal scorers tonight, and Boysen’s line was one of the more noticeable groups on the ice tonight.

Quietly, from the back end, Alexander Tertyshny put up two assists and played the brand of hockey AIC will soon see. He played an intelligent game, and helped Haas by leading his defense in limiting shot quality, if not the volume of them.

Going forward, Erikson credits the hire of Matt Dibble as the General Manager for the suceess of the Generals as of late. Dibble’s additions to the team, combined with the striaght forward philosophy of his group, and the buy in of the players for the recent sucess of the team. While they have a way to go in order to make the playoffs, Erikson sees the bigger picture. He runs a program built around good people. As Erikson said, his” focus is on us getting better everyday…. my job is to get kids to be really good college hockey players and really good people.. I want them to be impact people.”

The impact people in this program, that have finally had a home weekend after playing their last 32 games on the road, combined with its leadership are how this group will progress the rest of the season. If the Generals stick to what works for them, playing a relentless puck-hunting style of offense with a sound system on the back end, they still have time to make things interesting in their division. The next chance to do so comes on the road April 9 against the same Danbury team.

Opinion: Send the NHL back to school, end puck over the glass penalties

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Men’s College Hockey game is not perfect, and there are some things it can learn from the NHL. With that said, this rule being in the NHL, where in college hockey it is treated like an icing is a clear example of a rule that needs to change.

Why?

Well, what is the point of this penalty at the NHL level, to punish players for shooting the puck out of their own end and over the glass.

What does icing itself do to the defending team?

Punish the defending team for clearing the puck out of their own end. They cannot change skaters, and are often tired on the ensuing faceoff.

What does the delay of game penalty do?

Give the other team a two minute power play where, ironically enough, four fresh players come on to the ice to kill a penalty (we know five is often better than four, but would you rather have your best penalty kill on the ice or your bottom three forwards on a minute plus long shift? Different opinions may result here, your thoughts may very). The point of the rule is well intentioned, but often times lends itself to a grey area in this sport’s highest level that, is not ideal, to say the least.

If you treat this like an icing, we would posit that the percentage of goals scored in the next shift would actually end up being equal to, or higher than power play goals scored on the power play .College hockey, both men’s and women’s, needs to change some rules to mirror the National Hockey League, this is one area where the NHL is clearly in the wrong for having this as a penalty. It allows fresh skaters on the ice to kill the penalty, does nothing to speed the game up, and is not in line with rules players have in other leagues. In a league that makes a lot of money, like the NHL, it seems mildly absurd that we would potentially allow a game seven of the Stanley Cup to be decided because a puck meant to go high off the glass and out of the zone goes one millimeter above the glass and into the stands. Hockey at all levels needs less grey areas in its rules.

Why now

This seems like an easy one that already has some backing from the many fans that give the NHL their ever increasing sums of money on a yearly basis. If you want a goal scored in a playoff overtime, when this is often the only penalty called, would you rather force five tired skaters to stay on the ice, or allow four fresh ones on it? That is the crux of the issue.

The league has tended to prioritize offense, while a power play sounds great, plenty of goals are scored after an icing on a long shift, and this would also simplify things for everyone. This is an idea worthy of its time, and one that would save millions of fans around the world the need to break out a magnifying glass, or elementary knowledge of hockey puck physics in determining if their team gets the power play or not.

Removing the puck over the glass penalty for delay of game, and making the consequence be keeping every skater on the ice seems a more apt punishment. In addition, it forces shorthanded teams to clear the puck properly without relying on reaming the puck around the boards and risking sitting in the box in the process.

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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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.

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.