Springfield, MA- With reminders of last year’s successes hanging above their ice, the American International College Yellow Jackets welcomed the team they beat for their first Atlantic Hockey Tournament crown and NCAA Tournament bid, the Niagara Purple Eagles. Both teams entered their final series of the semester looking to climb the standings and earn some momentum going to exams. On Friday afternoon at the MassMutual Center, AIC found the edge and claimed the first game of the series.
The Yellow Jackets swarmed the net early and often, outshooting Niagara 16-1, including nine shots spread across three of their six power plays. Only Brian Wilson standing on his brain kept AIC from scoring in the opening frame.
The penalty parade saw Brandon Stanley sit for a cross-check early in the second and AIC finally capitalized. Tobias Fladeby cleaned up a puck in front for his ninth goal of the season 2:02 into the frame. Niagara answered at the 6:53 mark when Ludwig Stenlund scored his fifth of the year on the third Purple Eagle shot of the game. Niagara notched ten total shots in the frame with Zackarias Skog stopping nine of them to keep the game tied 1-1.
AIC dictated the pace and physicality of the final frame and were rewarded with two tallies. First, Chris Dodero scored his second of the year on a wrap around at the 7:34 mark. Following a series of penalties and some strong Niagara chances, Brian Wilson went to the bench and Luka Maver deposited the puck into the empty net for a 3-1 final.
Niagara drops to 4-9-2 (4-5-2-1 AHA). They stay tied with Bentley for 7th in the conference.
Wilson stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.
AIC improves to 8-8-0 (8-4-0 AHA). The Yellow Jackets move into a tie with Robert Morris for fourth in the conference with 23 points.
Skog stopped 18 of 19 shots.
The teams conclude their series on Saturday at the Mass Mutual Center. Puck drops at 1:05 pm ET. After the series conclusion, Niagara doesn’t play until January 3rd and 4th against Penn State in Happy Valley. Their next conference series is back at Dwyer Arena on January 10th and 11th, when they face the Holy Cross Crusaders.
After Finals, AIC next plays on Sunday, December 29th against the Maine Black Bears in Orono. Their next conference series is on January 3rd and 4th against the Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs.