Dan Wildfong: Leading the Brahmas with details

Hear from AIC Hockey Head Coach Eric Lang on what Lone Star Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong means to College Hockey.

“He is an amazing advocate for his players and if you look at his track record his players are unbelievably successful collegiate hockey players.” Wildfong has developed pro hockey stars, sent players to college hockey and helped prepare them by focusing on details , as Lang went on to say. He noted what he gets when he gets a Wildfong developed player

“They are college ready. He coaches his players hard, has high standards, and has them college ready when they show up on campus.”

As to Wildfong, he has built his program around character and players that strive to learn the details and systems needed to get to the next level. He looks for players with the same competitive drive he had in his decades playing professional hockey.

Off the ice, Wildfong looks for players that understand the value of character and service. The concept is driven home as every week he looks for all of his players to get significant community service time. One phrase that comes out of this is the concept of “petty problems.” That is, Wildfong and his staff make a point to get his players visiting places like local children’s hospitals and shelters in order to put things in a bit of perspective. When the team has adversity on the ice and the staff needs to reel things back in, the phrase petty problems is used a lot. The visits provide the team with a chance to serve the community, and keep things in perspective, both things incredibly valuable in this game.

Wildfong also has built a community of graduates that have gone on to play Division One Hockey for coaches like Lang. One of the transfers for AIC, Alec Calvaruso, helped Wildfong win a Robertson Cup, and Wildfong helped him find a new home.

That is just one example of the many positive relationships Wildfong has built. He noted to look beyond top line numbers for some of his alums as they head to the Division One level. Because of how much good will he has built up in this small hockey world, he knows who to lean on when one of his players need help, or when a player needs to be moved to a place that is a better fit for them.

Looking ahead to the season, Wildfong has a tough team ready to compete for everything. As he said, when asked what he would like a new fan to know about his team. ” We will give you everything we’ve got for 60 minutes or more.” Wildfong’s group opens up at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine this week, where everyone of their players will be seen by Division One scouts from every school, the NHL, and more.

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

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bilek

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

Photo Credit: Patrick Garriepy-Patrck Garriepy Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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

Eric Lang on how AIC is staying game ready

Since the last time we talked to American International College (AIC) Yellow Jackets Head Coach Eric Lang, well not much has changed for his team on the ice, as they have not played a game. They clinched their third straight Atlantic Hockey Association regular season title due to other results. When they could have played this weekend, they were not able to find another opponent to play this weekend, and as a result, will spend 41 days between their last regular season game on January 30, a 3-0 win over Holy Cross, and March 12, their quarterfinal series opener in the Atlantic Hockey postseason.

To make up for this lack of having external opposition to play, Lang is keeping things internal. In his competitive program, he has seized on this moment to provide more competition for his deep team. Controlled scrimmages are routinely played to keep his team fresh. Lang has the ability to play three lines on each side, and have each team get two goalies. As Lang said of the battle level of these games ” we play for just about everything in anything we do here.” This pause due to the spate of COVID 19 cases across Atlantic Hockey has hit AIC, and they are out of the positive test protocol. Since coming back, Lang first wanted to ensure his team”s legs were back, and now he is working on sharpening all of the other skills a Division One Hockey player needs to have. In addition, he is controlling the scrimmages and practice environment to re-introduce contact in a safe way as well.

As for the postseason, Lang noted the benefit of playing in Atlantic Hockey. Stylistically, they benefited from playing a very physical Army West Point team in 2019 that prepared them mentality wise for the NCAA Tournament. Lang said it best when he said that ” the winner of our conference tournament has earned their way into the tournament.” The opponent this team faces in two weeks will be playing to advance, and to spoil AIC’s at large hopes. Both of those things could happen if Lang’s group is not ready, which is why for resuming play Lang said ” we’ve had a really developed strategy.”

Beyond the moment, AIC is one of the most deep teams in the country. As Lang has noted, the fifth line of his team is good enough to make the staff’s life diffucult in setting up a line chart each weekend. In addition, the work this team does to develop everyone on their roster has paid dividends throughout the regular season. In the postseason, should AIC make the national tournament, Lang notes that the biggest strength of this team is what they do right, which is a little bit of everything. For them to do well they must , as he said ” be able to possess the puck.. and shorten the game.” For this group to make it beyond the first round, they have to play the best game of their season, and make the opponent earn every inch of ice.

Going forward, Lang’s philosophy of finding the best group and building depth matters a lot to him. That depth will grow next year as Lang is open to bringing back any of their seniors. He feels that giving them the more traditional experience over a full season matters, and the staff is open to any senior taking them up on that. For everyone in this group right now, the opportunity that they have in a few weeks to progress to the national tournament is not being taken lightly. Atlantic Hockey’s postseason is tough for all its participants, and Lang’s group will be ready for it.

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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For the NCAA Tournament consider Army: Here’s why

The Black Knights of Army West Point earned another victory last night with a 5-1 win against the Falcons of Bentley. This win gave them a sweep on the weekend, their sixth straight win, and tenth straight game of earning at least a point in Atlantic Hockey. In raw points earned, the Black Knights are third behind an AIC and Robert Morris team that both deserve at-large consideration.

Last night’s efforts, given the Selection Committee’s need to use some sort of “eye test”, in our minds moved Head Coach Brian Riley’s team into the at large category, if the season ended today. Riley was proud of his team both nights this weekend, but thought they actually played better in the Friday night overtime victory than last night in a 5-1 game that turned into a blowout pretty quickly. The Black Knights scored four unanswered goals to provide the final margin, featuring on the evening one from Hobey Baker candidate Colin Bilek, and two each from Brett Abdelnour and Thomas Farell.

This Army team is deep, and has a pretty extensive comitee that Riley relies on for goal scoring. Everyone of his lines are capable of taking over the game at times, and all of them have their own strengths. The line lead by Colin Bilek always seems to be on the ice for big moments, and last night was no different.

The most unique thing about this team is their selflessness. Riley personified that through discussing Bilek, in noting that he is the leader of this team, and being recognized for his goals sure, but that Bilek also sacrifices himself for the team at every signle opportunity. Colin Bilek’s ability to transition from a shot block to a goal scoring chance on the same shift is one of the better ones in the country. He inspires the team up front to push forward, and has made the many goal scorers on this team better.

In net, Trevin Kozlowski is a consistent rock for this team. His ability to play a calm and consistent game, along with having a short memory on conceding less than ideal goals is just some of the reason why he is 9-3-1 on the year, and skyrocketing up the Mike Richter Award discussion, as he should be. Riley knows that his team is not in a poistion to fight for an at large bid without Kozlowski in net.

Let’s now look at why Army should be under consideration for an at-large spot. First, this team is complete, on its face, and in how it plays. They are disciplined, and able to compete with most teams in the country. In addition to this, they have been able to win many different types of games as of late, but seem to almost thrive more when the score is close, as the Tournament normally is. This team has shown it can beat the best opponents on its schedule, when it is all you can do in a year of virutally no non conference games. They are the last group to beat an AIC teamm one that should earn an at large bid, in regulation. They are able to play with everyone because of who Riley brings in and how he and his staff develop them. Like his protégé, Eric Lang, Riley has his teams play defense first, and be able to, when playing well, score in waves. Only three skaters of Riley’sgroup do not have at least a point, of those who have played at least one game.

Finally, given the dearth of teams playing in the ECAC, and the likelihood of Quinnipiac winning the tournament, we expect that conference to earn only one bid. If that holds, and the Big 10 earns two spots, there will be more spots to go around. Why not, during this season, given adverse conditions, give the extra spot to a team full of people who, if their trajectory holds will have earned the selection, and a group of people training to lead soldiers in adverse conditions all around the world. Brian Riley’s group has proven its ability to thrive under adverse conditions, what better place to showcase that then at the NCAA Tournament, for the first time in this storied program’s history?

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Bryant Christian: Relationship Builder

Photo Credit: RJB Sports

When picking where to play his college hockey, the pinnacle of his goals in playing the sport he has nearly as a native Minnesotan, Moorhead native Bryant Christian said of his choice to play for American International College (AIC) that, “I wanted to be a part of some type of movement.”  

Christian wanted to be a part of something greater than himself and expand his network beyond hockey. He also said that of AIC when he committed there “no one knew about them.” In hockey and in life, Christian is about building relationships and working with people to make things better, along with unifying people. That was evident in his hockey career that culminated as a captain of AIC, and in his post-hockey career as a Financial Advisor, running his own Edward Jones firm in Moorhead. In addition to his day job, that AIC prepared him for with his major in Accounting, he helps with all levels of hockey in Moorhead up to the middle school level.

When it comes to the impact that Bryant Christian has had on American International College Hockey, we will let his coach for his last two seasons Eric Lang explain how his impact resonates today first.

Lang says the following:

“Bryant Christian playing in his last playoff game on a broken leg had been the foundation poured for our program. He wanted to wear that sweater one more time, immediately instilling a long lost pride that our program so desperately needed. [He is] an inspirational leader who immediately bought into what we trying to accomplish. When I think of our success we have had it would have never been achieved without Bryant”

Lang knew Bryant well before he became his coach in Bryant’s junior year as a Yellow Jacket. During his time as an assistant at Army West Point, he nearly got Bryant to come be a Cadet. One of Bryant’s proudest moment’s as a Yellow Jacket actually came with Lang on the other bench. As a sophomore, he scored an overtime winner to extend AIC’s season in game two of a first round series against the Cadets. It was the first win AIC earned in the postseason since Atlantic Hockey went to a series format across all rounds before the final weekend. As Christian put it regarding Lang that evening, “he should remember that I scored that goal.”

A few weeks later, Lang would take the AIC job, and set the foundation for the program’s success with Christian at its base. Throughout his time at AIC and beyond, Christian has shown that he, like Lang believes strongly in relationship building. He praised Lang’s ability not to just coach hockey, but coach. Of bringing people together, he compares Lang’s abilities in that regard to something like what Vince Lombardi was able to do in unifying a group for a common cause. In addition, he praised Lang’s relationship with alums across the world saying that on program building, his dedication to all AIC Hockey alums around the world is the best thing this program has. Christian is a part of the ever growing AIC Family Lang is building.

Christian also took time to praise Seth Dussault, Coordinator of Athletics Communications. For those not aware, Seth is the lead broadcaster for AIC, and the sole media contact on staff for all of its sports. AIC does not have its story told as well as it does without Seth’s consistent hard work. Of his effort, Christian said that ” “I don’t know if he ever sleeps, and AIC is fortunate to have him.”

The community of AIC, Moorhead, and everywhere else Christian chooses to go with his wife, who he first met in high school, and married in June after his graduation, are all better for having Christian in it. Christian’s wife is an incredibly important member of the Fargo-Moorhead community as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse. Furthermore, Christian’s ability to build relationships is key in the ever-complex world of financial advising, and it allows him to have conversations and further work with people all around the world.

Fundamentally, Bryant Christian’s professional career, and the relationships he has made and continues to foster to this day are all examples of the benefits of the great sport of College Hockey extending far beyond the ice. Christian lived his dream of playing this game, and now he is giving back to up-and-coming players in his hometown while helping his growing base of clients better manage their money to ensure they can all live their dreams as well.

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 is grooving: Head Coach Eric Lang explains why

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

The Yellow Jackets of American International College (AIC) are playing at one of the best clips in the country. They are 26-4 in their last 30 games , and have just one conference loss in twelve conference games played this year. Head Coach Eric Lang is leading a team that has three goaltenders with wins, and rotates five lines of forwards, eight or more defenders, and has had four goalies see the ice.

Coming into the season, Lang, the ever humble person that he is, expected his team to be good, but is impressed by the consistency of this group. They are doing all of this after graduating 610 points of offense, and the goalie who set a lot of program marks at the Division One Level. As Lang said of his team, “we’re grooving pretty good right now.”

One reason that AIC has found their groove is the emergence of its depth in all parts of the lineup. Up front, the only constant player on Lang’s fourth line is Aaron Grounds, who has provided secondary scoring to compliment the physical game he plays. He is not alone for rookies having success on this team. There are plenty that have, like Hurricanes’ draft pick, Jake Kucharski who has filled in admirably for Stefano Durante when needed. Ryan McInchak also had a hand in the sweep over Holy Cross this weekend, playing the final 40 minutes of the opener, and all of the finale. What he was able to do is quite impressive as AIC noted.

As AIC noted ” The rookie goalkeeper, who came on in relief of redshirt freshman Jake Kucharski in the previous night’s win, has stopped all 37 shots he has faced so far in his collegiate career. He is the first goalkeeper to earn a shutout in his first start in the Division I era of program history.”

This depth is in addition to the scorers on this team. AIC soundly defeated Holy Cross without senior forward Tobias Fladeby. He is a scoring forward on AIC’s first line with a sound shot and prolific skating skills. His linemate for most of the year, Elijah Barriga is a junior center that came to AIC from UNLV. A top six forward on a nationally ranked team came from one of the better club hockey programs in the country. Lang noted that Barriga went to UNLV in part to work on his academics for a year before he was able to even play at the Division One level. His staff was undeterred, as Lang said ” we were scouring everywhere”, and because of where Elijah was playing after his time in junior hockey ended, he did not have to sit a year and was eligible right away. Lang wondered where Barriga went to school initially, researching where he went to school. He credits UNLV’s staff for supporting Elijah in his move to the Division One level, and now Barriga is one of this team’s many leaders on the ice, and in the classroom.

Another scoring forward for this team that has come on strong is Julius Janhonen. Lang could not say enough good things about the Finnish forward who is only in his first year in North American hockey. The staff was lucky to even get Julius to campus, as he had some issues getting into the University of Massachusetts to play for the Minutemen, where he originally committed.

As Lang noted, Julius liked the strong European representation in AIC’s recent history, and made the choice to come to AIC. Lang is over the moon about the potential of Janhonen, saying “we got pretty lucky on him” coming to campus, and that ,” he could be an NHL prospect at the end of the day. Janhonen has eight points in 13 games played, and uses his speed to find the open areas of the ice to make plays. Like so many players on this team, he can play anywhere as a forward, in every role Lang needs him to, and has the potential to succeed at each one. There is so much depth to this team, the staff can rotate players in and out to preserve effectiveness, and not have to rush players like Durante or Fladeby back to game action before they are both ready to come back to the lineup.

When making the case for his team Lang harkened back to the series loss at the hands of Quinnipiac in December. While the Bobcats handily won the Friday affair, AIC had more chances at even strength, but could not stay out of the penalty box against one of the most organized power plays in the game. They followed that up with a battle at home on a Saturday and lost 3-2 despite getting a fair amount of good looks. In a year with limited non conference opportunities, Lang took the time to note the history of this program in the NCAA Tournament, their 26-4 record in the last 30 games, and more.

At the end of the day, depth is this team’s biggest advantage over its opponents. As Lang said “This is the deepest team I’ve ever had.” That depth, and competitive drive his players have extends off the ice as well. As Lang took the time to mention, his program is one of the very few, and potentially the only program to have either a valedictorian or salutatorian for the past five years.

When you look to who may be in the postseason in March, AIC, on the strength of their conference record, and consistency throughout the year, combined with past history, is a strong candidate for an at-large bid, according to Lang.

More importantly, his team of good humans is leafing the way on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community of Springfield and beyond. Lang’s team reflects the person who coaches them. They are all competitive, humble, and ready to do more on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.

Donate: To help us cover more games and 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