Springfield, MA- American International College began playing Division I Men’s Ice Hockey since 1998. Last season, under second-year Head Coach Eric Lang, the Yellow Jackets ended the year two games under .500 and swept Niagra in the first home playoff series in program history, before falling to Atlantic Hockey’s Regular Season Champions, the Canisius Golden Griffins.
This season, AIC has been at or near the top of the AHC standings for much of the calendar year. On Thursday night, the Jackets entered with a chance to tie the Division I program record in wins and they seized the opportunity against the Holy Cross Crusaders at the MassMutual Center.
AIC came out firing and landed the first punch early when Kyle Stephan whipped a seeing eye-shot on net and beat Crusader goalie Erik Gordon for a lead 4:21 into proceedings. Just after the mid-point of the frame, Jay Mackie sat for a slashing minor. Late in the power play, Chris Dodero and Justin Cole broke in on a two-on-one. Dodero fired a pass to Cole and the freshman from Bryn Athyn, PA, extended the lead to 2-0. Holy Cross only mounted five shots on net in the frame and Zackarias Skog turned away every shot faced.
Holy Cross turned the pace in their favor for the second period, winning the shot battle 11-10. However, they failed to crack the Jacket’s armor in the period. Likewise, they failed to find an answer with ten more shots in the third period and sequences of complete possession control. Again, Skog turned away every shot and secured a 2-0 shutout victory.
The Crusaders drop to 4-13-3 in conference play and 4-9-2 in Atlantic play. “They’re a quick strike team. And if you lose your way there, it ends up in the back of your net” mused Holy Cross Head Coach David Berard.
American International ties their program record for wins, with 11. Their record is 11-11-1 overall and 11-7-1 in AHA play. AIC’s 11 wins are their best-ever conference win total. AIC is four wins from besting their overall single-season win total.
“We wanted to get out and try and jump these guys here” explained AIC Head Coach Eric Lang. “I thought the guys really managed the game well. Really proud of our effort.”
The third-year Head Coach has his team in first place atop Atlantic Hockey for the first time in program history. They are three points ahead of second-placed Air Force.
Zackarius Skog, the junior from Gothenburg, Sweeden, recorded 26 saves in his third shutout of the season and fourth of his career.
Blake Christensen recorded his 16th assist on Stephan’s goal. The point ties the junior from Coral Springs, FL, for fourth in conference scoring, with 25 points, third in conference assists.
The teams rematch in Worcester on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7:05 ET at the Hart Center for the series’ finale. Holy Cross moves on to play at Quinnipiac on Tuesday, the 22nd, and at Sacred Heart on Friday and Saturday, the 25th and 26th. Puck drops at 7 pm for all games. AIC travels to play Mercyhurst next weekend. Puck drops at 7:05 pm ET in Erie, PA, for the two-game set.