AIC Hockey Head Coach Eric Lang on the one-time transfer rule: “Adapt or get run over”

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Eric Lang, Head Coach of American International College (AIC) Hockey, took some time to discuss the implications of the soon to be passed transfer rule authorizing a one time transfer in all sports without sitting out for a year as one was previously required to do in men’s hockey. Lang is not for or against the rule as written, and was quite honest about what it means for his staff.

As he said rather succinctly:

“Adapt or get run over in this business. Although I am not a proponent of players leaving for greener pasture. I believe just like anything in life their are great instances for how this should and could work. A player who is not playing, a coaching change, a drastic change to an institutional financial  commitment are all common sense measures for why a player should leave. Our concern at AIC is the family advisor back channeling to get a better situation for a player is very dangerous for us. I believe was not the intent or spirit of the rule.”

One thing not addressed in the proposed rule that Lang is concerned about is third-party back channeling via a player advisor.

He explains clearly:

“Our concern at AIC is the family advisor back channeling to get a better situation for a player is very dangerous for us. I believe was not the intent or spirit of the rule.” That is a situation that merits further examiniation by relevant authorities in the NCAA to promote open transperancy if causal links could be found. For instance, if an advisor is steering a lot of their players to a top NCHC school from any Atlantic Hockey school, those conference members would probably want to work with the NCAA to search for a causal link, and improper relationships.

Throughout our many conversations with Lang, it is clear that he is a strong proponent of player development, as of today, AIC has one player in the portal, while it has gotten commits from two fourth or fifth year transfers. Brian Rigali of the University of Conneticut played four years for the Huskies, and Chris Van Os Shaw played three for Minnesota State, in a more limited role than Rugali. For fifth year players, more considerations than on ice time come into play. Not every school wil provide funding for fifth year scholarships to players at an equal measure, and perhaps Rigali’s program was not available for a fifth year either.

As for development, Lang pointed out a pertinent example on his own team of the value of working to grow in this game he has given his life to bettering.

“We have really taken the process and development of a player away. Sometimes in life it is a beautiful thing when you have the sticktuitivness to see something through and come out on the other side. Chris Dodero couldn’t play for us as a freshman as a senior he’s one of the best players in our conference and we play him in every situation.  He didn’t pack his bags and leave. He reinvented and developed himself and is a better player and person because of it.”

That is the balance all staffs will have to strike, while emphasizing the need for further development. While working to keep third parties from influencing decisions, the value of the rule is in helping the player. For example, Matthew Jennings is getting to play two hours away from his home at Alabama Huntsville in a more prominent role than he would have seen at Ohio State. Van Os Shaw comes to AIC with a chance to show the skill that made him highly recruited out of the AJHL. You do not put up 97 points in that league without a lot of skill that he has. Development takes everyone a little different amount of time at this level, and through battling injuries at Minnesota State, he has not had arguably the chance to show what he can do consistently at Minnesota State.

Although Lang guarantees no playing time for anyone on his team, Van Os Shaw will get a closer look at AIC, and every outlet that covers this league will have some reason to list him as a potential breakout player for AIC. For that to happen, he has to earn his shot at AIC through his day to day development, enough to earn a spot in the lineup, then replicate that each game, practice, and day. He is up to the challenge, and Lang is ready for the future of college hockey with the one time rule.

As Lang said in closing ” I come back to we will adapt to this modern day recruiting. I feel it could be dangerous to build an entire team this way.  At AIC we have made a living on being where nobody else is. So it could be an opportunity while everybody has their eyes on the portal we could be somewhere else.”

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.

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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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

NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament: Past Should Not Be Prologue

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Recently, National Collegiate Hockey Conference Commissioner (NCHC) Josh Fenton gave Grand Forks Herald sportswriter Brad Schlossman some thoughts on how to select a 16 team field in this pandemic-truncated season we are playing through.

In that interview Fenton lays out reasoning for why historical data going back to the formation of the Big 10 and NCHC should be used to provide an allocation of at large teams for each conference this year. Even after limiting the number of teams the ECAC teams gets to one , that at most would give two other conferences one extra bid.

As Fenton says

“We’ve got historical data going back seven years now, if you want to go back to when the NCHC and Big Ten first started, where we have an understanding, on average, how many institutions from each conference have been in the NCAA tournament, That’s data that could be used. I fully understand and respect that this year is not the same as last year, a team this year is not the same as a team last year. But when you’re presented with a circumstance of potentially just using an eye test of a committee that I think is watching hockey, but I don’t know is watching hockey across the country to the level to be able to say this team is better than that team.”

We disagree with this reasoning strongly

The eye test as a metric is used in some measure by every other Division One Committee in some way, outside of Hockey and it seems to work. It worked in selecting a four team College Football Playoff Field this year when most of the teams involved played no non conference games at all. Every conference in this game is a little different, but the ability to play good defense and get timely scoring enough to be at or near the top of your league are easy to spot traits. Every team has a record and stats by the end of the year that show who they are in a comparable way. We compare quantitative data on teams all the time even when they have no common opponents, finding enough quantitative data to prime the eye test should not be a hard task to do at all.

While Fenton makes some good points throughout this interview and provides some reasoning for historical data, Fenton does not explicitly state that past postseason performance should be used. If it did, then one would wonder how many more bids Atlantic Hockey could justify given Air Force and AIC’s wins over St. Cloud State in two consecutive tournaments. In addition, allotments raise another concern. Let’s say that given the lack of a meaningful pairwise due to limited non-conference games we have a situation where Lake Superior State finishes third in the WCHA. Using the allotment formula, they could be left out, even if, like previous years, a gulf opens between the upper echelon of the WCHA and everyone else. Fenton does acknowledge this reality but seems set on using historical data. Given that he runs the conference who has won every national Championship since 2016, it makes sense, yet harms the broader audience of college hockey.

No Magic Formula

No one is going to be completely happy with how the at-large spots are given out this year, given the lack of non conference play. With that being said, there are other things to do that would be more fair to all teams still playing this year. The very eye test Fenton dismisses is how teams are compared all the time in selection for other sports, even when there is no non conference play to look at. You could use tournament performance as a seeding guide to break ties, or to justify a team’s inclusion in the field, but not conference-wide prior season’s data. It is fundamentally not fair or balance to this sport to punish AIC for the fact that Atlantic Hockey plays non equitable non conference games in normal years, where Atlantic Hockey has a lower win rate in a year where you do not have enough data for it to matter. Also, this sport has a first year program this year in Long Island that has no historical data and competes as an independent. Where do the Sharks fit in this picture? We do not know, and suspect no one on the committee does.

To fix the problems of lacking common opponents and other common data, we would suggest changing some of the metrics or find common data to use that equates to success. If an average of all national polls is the best replicate for the pairwise this year, then they should matter and weeks spent in them should be a positive. Using that data seems a more quantifiable and justifiable way of ranking than helping or harming teams, especially teams in Atlantic Hockey or the WCHA for the loses of teams before them.

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

The Fighting Hawks Win the Pod: What’s Next?

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Over the past three weeks, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota have done quite well for themselves in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, valuting into first place as we head into the second of half of an always competitive conference. These past few weeks have shown a lot about this team, with the good far outweighing the things that need working on to ensure a long postseason run, should one be played. Let’s look at the good and areas to improve on in the second half here.

The Good

This team has two capable goaltenders that can stymie the opposition. While Adam Scheel stole the show in the Pod, getting the majority of the reps, Fighting Hawks fans saw what happened last year. Peter Thome took Scheel’s job down the stretch, and given the weeks of having three games in three days this year, we think that Thome’s time in net is only just beginning. His “worst” game in the Pod was the loss to the Huskies of St. Cloud State, where the team in front of him did not do much. Both can start at any time, and for now Scheel is the number one. With that said, Thome has played well enough over his time at UND to get some reps in the second half, and should see it.

The depth of this team is even better than a year ago. Missing two defenders to the World Juniors Tournament, in Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, we have seen Ethan Frisch elevate his game into a Tucker Poolman-esque two way star that can contribute offensively. If Frisch can maintain this level of play this season, the NHL may be on his radar for some development camp invites soon, and perhaps a contract. He is smooth-skating, and seems less out of position than some of UND’s more offensively gifted defenders.

With that said, this team has a lot of good to it this year, and we will close with the most intriguing forward on this team. Riese Gaber has been the most electric player for the Fighting Hawks in this pod. He is in a three way tie for first in goals scored nationally, and yet, 31 teams passed on drafting him over 400 times when you include the drafts he has been eligible for selection in. Gaber is wearing Tyson Jost’s number that he wore as a Fighting Hawk, and has a better release than Jost ever had or will have. For a team built around puck possession and grinding a team down, Gaber off the rush is an extra arrow in their quiver that last year’s NCHC Champions did not possess. His shot alters how teams can attack the Fighting Hawks, and how conservative they have to be in defending the top line of UND. Last year, this group lost games where it turned pucks over and gave up a lot of fast break looks. That has happened this year, and will happen in the future, but Gaber on this roster has kept the team in more of those games and helped them win some more in the second half.

What to watch for

With all that good said, these improvements need to happen. This team seems to be turning the puck over a bit more in its own end, which have given teams a lot of grade-a looks. Those turnovers have a cascading effect as they lead into another area of improvement for this team, taking less penalties. The Fighting Hawks average 11.96 penalty minutes per game played, second behind St. Cloud State for most penalty minutes per game. That is another number that needs to come down a bit. While five minute majors and misconducts do affect that, this team can afford to take neither of those in this conference. Eventually, something of this team will regress a little bit as film and scouting over a more series-driven second half, and if the team keeps giving up six power plays per game or so, the penalty kill seems a logical pick.

With all of this said, if not for Boston College’s pedigree and Minnesota’s results, this team would be ranked number one in the nation after a grueling three week stretch of games. There is still work to do for this group, but this team does so from a good vantage point.

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

Eric Lang-Leading a team of Good Humans at AIC

Eric Lang is the head coach of American International College (AIC) Hockey. A few years ago, barely anyone had heard of this school, much less any professional players making the NHL from it. They play at the home of the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL) in Massachusetts, and their initial claim to fame was showing the world what Eric Lang knows. That is, recruiting great humans to come to this school with a chance to be a part of something bigger will yield results. Said great humans helped show the world what this type of hockey can do, as they , the lowest ranked team in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, defeated the number one team, St. Cloud State, before coming within one shot of equalizing a superb Denver side the next night.

One of the great humans on that team was a freshman but integral piece to that team, Brennan Kapcheck. Since his freshman year, he has only gotten better,

Kapcheck has put up 26,25,and 25 points in each of his first three seasons and runs the power play for the Yellow Jackets. He is a puck-moving two-way defender with a strong side of offensive ability to his game, and one of the most coveted undrafted free agents set to graduate in the spring. Lang has had conversations with 15-20 NHL teams about him already, and would not be surprised to see more chat with him as the year moves onward. As Lang said so honestly “Brennan Kapcheck will be one of the most sought after free agents in college hockey. He’s been the best player in our league for the past 3-4 years. He individually has changed the landscape of AIC hockey. There’s really not a lot he cant do.”

Lang noted that scouts have compared Kapcheck to Troy Stecher, Adam Fox, and Anthony DeAngelo. On the ice, those are apt comparisons, as Kapcheck often is a master distributor on the ice, and makes life easier for both his forwards playing on the ice with him, through precision passing to set up grade-a looks, and for his goaltenders as he is not afraid to win puck battles in front of the net, and clear rebounds as needed.

Brennan is one of the reasons the Yellow Jackets persevered against the Huskies and earned the victory (from that day, AIC Media Relations Director Seth Dussault told us “if we win don’t call it an upset”, so we avoid using that term on this site when referencing that evening as best we can).

Onward to Kapcheck’s main staring goalie behind him, Stefano Durante. He has persevered through a lot over his career, including injuries derailing one of his seasons. Durante at his best plays a calm game, and works to limit grade a rebounds that teams like North Dakota are so good at slamming home for easy goals. According to Lang, Durante is in the position he is to earn a shot somewhere at the next level because “there isn’t a more prepared player that I have coached, “every box in his life is checked to the fullest.” Over the next year or two, expect Lang to be getting some calls about Durante as well. NHL teams sign quality people to their systems every year, and Durante definitely meets that definition.

Finally, in this short interview, we were able to touch on the importance of all of the AIC family relevant to what Lang does, running a college hockey program at a small school at the Division One Level. One person that is at the center of that is Seth Dussault. He not only handles media requests from folks like us, and runs social media for the Yellow Jackets, he does it on some level for all of the sports going on at the school, and to top it off, he usually is the voice of AIC Hockey, and calls games with a flair eerily reminiscent of some of the early work of “Doc” Emerick. That is, he brings you along for the ride, and gives you a bit of history, comedy, facts about hockey, and sometimes other things like Frozen references, all while doing the work of eight or more people. As Eric Lang said best ” Seth is an extension of what I like to say our program embodies. He is selfless. We don’t have a lot of superfans across the country, but Seth does as good a job as anybody in promoting our brand. He is a valuable member of our team and our AIC team.  

This AIC team hopes to play the Bentley Falcons in a home-and-home this weekend in snow-socked Massachusetts. The Yellow Jackets are facing a team with previous (won December 8,2020) Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week in their net, in Nicholas Grabko, in what expects to be another challenging matchup in the often overlooked, but always tough Atlantic Hockey Association.

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

Alabama Huntsville and Atlantic Hockey: Four Reasons This Match Makes Sense

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville have already shown massive on and off ice improvement from years past to start the season. Today, they lost a 3-2 tough game against the Lakers of Lake Superior State that included the Chargers playing from behind while showing speed and dominance for the middle third of the game. Now, this team is on its way to Ferris State to play the Bulldogs to close out the 2019 portion of their schedule.

This article is about the long run, and some simple commentary on the future of the Chargers barring a change of heart from the CCHA. Based on what we know, the other conference that they have been working on trying to get to is the Atlantic Hockey Association which make some sense for the Chargers going forward.

Here are some reasons why:

System Matters

Stylistically, after seeing AIC and Air Force knock off the number one seed in the last two Regionals, we have noted that Atlantic Hockey typically plays the type of game the Chargers are now playing. Watching a lot of it in that time confirms that as well. When AIC won their tournament game, they did not do so with flash, but grit and determination. The Yellow Jackets got key turnovers at the right times, and played a grinding game to win. This Charger team, with its speed infusion over the summer, combined with its defense corps stocked with skill and physicallity reminds us a bit of that AIC team.

Location Matters

When the Chargers ventured north to play Robert Morris, they traveled roughly about three hours less by bus to play the Colonials than they did to play the Lakers. That is six hours round trip of savings for the school, and it allows the Chargers to play split schedules which are a hallmark of Atlantic Hockey (play two teams in two days per weekend). For their opponents, Huntsville is anywhere from a 10-15 hour drive but it would be a quick flight to Nashville and a drive, or given the times we live in, the longest bus trip most of them would need to make.

Attendance Matters

Last year, on an average attendance basis, the Chargers did better than eight of their potential future conference mates despite winning only two games. Hockey demand in Huntsville is real, as evidenced by the fact that ,well, the Chargers still are an active program. The town and those that love what Charger Hockey means stepped up and mobilized in an unprecedented way to help this team, and during the first season with no venue capacity restrictions, we think the Chargers will be near the top of the league.

The Advisory Board

The Advisory Board has been the biggest Revelation to this program, and we are glad that the board and school now have 17 million dollars over the next decade guaranteed to help this program compete at the level it needs to win. In addition, the public show of support from the school in comitting to back this program in its goals to get into a new conference means a lot for Atlantic Hockey given the growing institutional support for each of its schools.

Going forward, this board is the biggest difference for Huntsville and any conference they end up joining. Not only do you get a school that works hand-in-glove with NASA, and one with a strong tradition of excellence they are trying to bring back, you get the board. Because of the board, you get a group of advocates working to better market a team which should in turn help the conference out. Given that the President of the Nashville Predators is a part of this board, it is not at all outlandish to see an Atlantic Hockey Showcase at Bridgestone Arena, or a yearly holiday tournament that the Chargers host. This board is on the front lines of hockey in the southeast, representing the only Division One Team there, and has every incentive to grow Atlantic Hockey along with UAH Hockey.

The Chargers still have work to do to get into a conference, a much needed part of their plan to get back to the mountaintop of this game, and we think based on location, style, attendance, and the board that Atlantic Hockey makes the most sense. Feel free to follow us on Twitter @SeamoreSports and tweet some other reasons Atlantic Hockey makes sense as the new home for Charger Hockey.

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 Charger Hockey, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Fighting Hawks earn sweep with 3-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Fighting Hawks cemented a series sweep over Denver with a 3-1 hard-earned victory. Matt Kiersted, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby (empty net) all notched markers to help the Fighting Hawks get closer to the next goal, winning the NCHC Penrose Cup.

How did it happen? Well Peter Thome was arguably the best player on defense fo the Fighting Hawks. He managed to make 25 saves on 26 shots tonight. To add to that, UND Head Coach Brad Berry said that he did it ” in style”. The Pioneers through streches of the second and third period played peskier hockey and turned UND over. Multiple times they had multiple looks in close on Thome, but to his credit he handled the challenge well. His counterpart, Magnus Chrona played really well making his first start at the Ralph. He finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots in a game fans may see again in St. Paul at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, or perhaps at the Frozen Four in Detroit this April. This game not only had the feel of playoff hockey, but a top-end, herculean battle worthy of the national spotlight,

Now What?

For Denver, well, if you are Head Coach David Carle, you show your team the video of the weekend in two parts. First, you show them all the good things they did to get looks. Last night Denver had more shot attempts and different types of looks for Thome to see. Tonight, were more close-in rebounds, but tough shots never the less. In part two of the film, you question what you need to do better as a team in the rest of the regular season and postseason to bury more of those looks. Denver had plenty of chances to earn a win tonight, even while missing one of the best rookies in the country, Bobby Brink, on a play last night where Cole Smith clipped him and avoided any sort of penalty somehow. Denver being able to put together arguably a better game without Brink in the lineup bodes well for the Pioneers,

Why?

Well Denver is a younger team this year akin to the last two UND has fielded. The difference here is overall team speed. The Pioneers are much faster than the last two UND iterations. The difference between the groups is the ability of speed to make up for a wide array of mistakes. Turning play over quickly on defense and transitioning is a hallmark of Denver Hockey, and this team is no different in that sense. Doing it with more depth players involved bodes well for the national tournament as speed and transition often sets the tone for goaltending and everything else. Ask AIC how much speed mattered to them earning the win over St. Cloud last spring, they will probably spend hours discussing it.

For UND, this weekend showed a lot of things good and bad. A lot more good was shown, but we will talk about both here in some measure. First, to the good, again Jasper Weatherby and Shane Pinto were solid up the middle for the Fighting Hawks. each won a large majority of their draws (11-5, 10-2) and set the tone for the forwards all night. Weatherby’s ability to play defense and utilize his frame has grown in his time at UND, and tonight he rewarded himself for his work with the empty net goal to seal things.

Peter Thome played well, again. His ability to track pucks through traffic, and pick up that complete skill in one offseason has been a sight to behold. He does not overreact to goals any more, and the one allowed tonight came on a shot off the boards going right to Brett Edwards who fired a goal to the middle part of the right side of the net before Thome could react. In close Thome seemed to get better with each multi-save sequence, and as we have been saying here all year, has been worthy of more looks and he has run with them. We would like to see some more of Adam Scheel as the year winds down but when the postseason starts, until proven otherwise it is Thome’s net to defend, every night his watch begins anew now (for those who do not know, Thome has the Night King on his mask and is a huge Game of Thrones fan).

What should UND work on off this weekend before facing a resurgent St. Cloud on the road next weekend? Well i do not think many crews will let as many things grow as the one run by Voss and Wieler did this past weekend. On both sides, a lot of uncalled penalties were left to slide, and other officials we be tougher on the physical game UND plays, seeing the team adapt to different officiating styles will be something to watch, especially in the NCAA Tournament as you never have an official from the NCHC officiating a UND or any other NCHC game.

All in all UND had a good weekend, Denver had some good moments to build on and has some things to fix, like finding the net more, and a great weekend of college hockey took place. Now for the Fighting Hawks, St. Cloud State awaits, take them lightly at your own peril fans.

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, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

Fighting Hawks hang on in 5-4 thriller to earn sweep: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this weekend, Jasper Weatherby had a lot to show for his efforts this season. Routinely, the sophomore Sharks’ prospect is the first choice to take faceoffs in key moments and he has continuted to get better with his net front presence to the point where his screens have helped contribute to multiple goals this season. He had not tallied a goal to match his efforts. This weekend,with one on each night his goals total has started to get a little closer to matching the hard work he has put in for a Fighting Hawks side that has found its replacement for Rhett Gardner in big moments to take faceoffs.

The Fighting Hawks earned a sweep of the Miami Red Hawks with a 5-4 thrilling win on Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, in large part thanks to Weatherby’s efforts, combined with the consistent play of Colin Adams who put up two goals on four shots.

His game has continued to grow as well as he finished the night 11-3 on faceoffs, complimented by Weatherby’s 9-5 mark. Again, the faceoff dot is a recurring strength for this team, as the Fighting Hawks finished 40-23 on the evening.

That consistency setup a strong first two periods which featured all of UND’s scoring as Adams, Weatherby, Westin Michaud, and Jordan Kawaguchi would all find the twine for UND on this wacky night replete with offense from both sides.

All of UND’s goals to some degree involved getting Miami goalie Ryan Larkin to have to move off his spot laterally, he typically was not fast enough for the skilled shooting of the Fighting Hawks combined with their superb playmaking showcased throughout the evening. The goal that best personified that was on the power play for the Fighting Hawks, as Westin Michaud made a wonderful backhand pass to Weatherby in space. In mere milliseconds the puck was off his stick and in the top opposite corner of the net, far away from Larkin. Weatherby burying a few more like that, combined with Adams’ ability to help out in the faceoff dot and develop his scoring touch gives UND even more options going forward, which they will need to take on Denver next weekend.

The defense, and now what?

While the goal scoring was quite nice for UND, they did show some vulnerabilities on defense. Goaltender Adam Scheel made some key saves as he does, but at points looked positively human. Miami at times took the game to the Fighting Hawks and made Scheel move laterally, and like Larkin, it seemed as if Scheel had some trouble doing so with any frequency, as the Red Hawks often had sucess burying turnovers, especially on the rush, and through the five hole. While Scheel does not often have nights like this, how this team responds to the issues laid bare at home tonight will go a long way to determining its fate. Keep an eye on the Denver series and look how the Pioneers attack Scheel. They play a speed game and like to score goals off the rush with goalies being forced to move around.

Like the Mankato series, and to some degree tonight, UND could find themselves chasing games if they stay a little too loose in their own end defensively as teams will be more willing to open up their systems a bit more against a Fighting Hawks team that defensively seems more vulnerable on the rush compared to being beaten on a long shift. What happens against Denver remains to be seen, but this team showed that it can score sometimes at will, a welcome upgrade from the morass of great effort but little results this team found itself in last season for vast swaths of it.

In the postseason, being able to win games in multiple ways can often extend your season, we now see that UND can win high-flying games. They have until Friday night at Magness Arena to sure up some things to limit the need to play in more of them, but know that they can play this style if needed.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

Superb Six

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into today the University of North Dakota Women’s Soccer Team had a lot of things going for them. The team defense has been consistently strong once again. This young team with only three seniors is showing that it is developing chemistry quickly. The depth of this team has shown through as multiple freshman and multiple attackers had lead the way in each game.

There was one thing that needed to be improved on and was a consistent theme of every chat with UND Head Coach Chris Logan. This team needed to be better in putting home chances found in the run of play. Scoring a goal this way means not relying on set pieces especially corners. Three of UND’s four goals scored on the season coming into today had been on corner kicks. While it is nice that this team is able to score from set pieces, it is always better, like in any sport, to have diverse ways to score to keep your opponent on their heels.

Today, UND changed the routine as this team put home six goals in the run of play against a Chicago State side that, early on, stymied them with an offside trap defense that worked a few times as the Fighting Hawks were finding their footing. Mara Yapello lead the way for the Fighting Hawks with two goals to open up the scoring ledger for the Fighting Hawks. Yapello now leads the team with three scores on the season. All of that simply set the stage for what was to come in a four goal second half packed with perfection from the Fighting Hawks.

The first two goals from UND in the second came from sophomore Cassie Giddings who has proven very effective as a super sub off the bench for this team. She finished the day with a superb strike into the far corner for her goal and she would later set up Hannah McAra for her first of the season. Later on, Bailey McNitt unleashed an unstoppable ball that came from her left foot on the edge of the box and went across the goal into the top left corner.

Logan was excited to see McNitt tack on some goal scoring to her technical prowess, and this one did not disappoint. She put home arguably the most beautiful goal of the season for these Fighting Hawks to this point. Ashley Ebeling completed the scoring with a header on a superb Emma Bangert cross 77:39 into the matchup.

In goal, Catherine Klein had a deceptively quiet day for the Fighting Hawks. While she only had to make four saves on the day and was perfect doing so, she made some tough saves during the first half and spurred offense for UND immediately in one case. Even though she was not tested frequently, the quality of chances she had to stop today were arguably a bit better.

Going forward, these Fighting Hawks will face a different challenge on Sunday against Hawaii. The Hawaii side they will be facing, according to Logan, plays quite strong up the middle and through balls to the talented group of forwards that UND has will be tougher to come by. Look for these Fighting Hawks to focus on utilizing the speed of their wingers, chief among them players like Mimi Eiden.

Despite putting nothing on frame today, she was able to utilize her speed consistently to force Chicago State defenders to make tough decisions. Sunday afternoon at Bronson Field will provide another marker of where this team stands before Summit League play begins.