American International College celebrates the 2021 Atlantic Hockey Tournament Championship. Credit- Kelly Shea/AIC Athletics

2022 Atlantic Hockey Championship Preview

In the 19 seasons of the Atlantic Hockey Assoication’s existence, American International College and the Air Force Academy have combined for six Conference Regular Season crowns and nine Atlantic Championships, with the Yellow Jackets winning the last two Tournaments. On Saturday night, the most successful program and coach, Air Force under Frank Serratore, faces the two-time reigning AHA Tournament and four-time defending regular season champion AIC, led by Eric Lang.

AIC comes in with the experience and immediate offensive advantage. The Yellow Jackets are the 8th highest scoring team in the country (3.44 goals per game) without the benefit of a 30 point scorer. Blake Bennett (17-12-29) is the closest following hat tricks to close the Bentley series and to beat Mercyhurst in the Semi-Finals. Conference Player of the Year Chris Theodore (10-18-28) provides the heart and soul of the program. Chris Dodero (11-14-25) and Justin Young (11- 18-29) add to the excellent depth of scoring the Yellow Jackets boast.

AIC has also allowed the fewest goals of any Atlantic team and is top-third in the nation for goals allowed per game (2.5 GAPG/18th Nationally). They did this behind the conference’s Defensive Forward of the Year, Jake Stella (0-6-6), the Atlantic’s Defenseman of the year, Zak Galambos (4-21-25), and an all-conference goalie in Jake Kucharski. Though for the playoffs, Kucharski has been unavailable and RPI graduate transfer Alec Calvaruso has stepped in and backstopped the Jackets to their third straight Conference Title game. All of this under the leadership of Atlantic coach of the Year Eric Lang, who’s built the Yellow Jackets into one of the most consistent units in the country.

Their opponent is a new crop looking to re-establish Air Force as a major player in the Atlantic. The Falcons are playing in their first Conference Title Game since defeating Robert Morris in 2018 and subsequently upsetting St. Cloud State in the NCAA Tournament. The only senior on the roster is Alex Schilling and he backstopped the Falcons to a road sweep of arch-rival Army with two overtime wins and though RIT in the Semi-Finals. He’s gained confidence as the season has gone on and will be a tough nut to crack for the crown.

Sophomore Will Gavin (16-12-28) leads the Falcons in scoring and has four points across the three playoff games Air Force has played this season. Willie Reim (11-14-25) adds to the scoring ability and all-rookie teamer Clayton Consentino (7-17-24) shows the best piece of the Air Force program currently: a youthful team earning enormously helpful playoff experience.

Junior defenseman Brendan Koch (3-22-25) made the All-conference third team and scored two goals in the semi-final victory against RIT.

AIC is the deserved favorite in the Title game, but they ought not take Frank Serratore’s squad lightly. Puck drops at 7:35 PM ET at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, NY.