Springfield, MA- American International College was originally scheduled for a home-and-home series against Holy Cross on the new year’s opening weekend. On Tuesday of this week, that matchup was postponed due to a positive Covid-19 test in the Holy Cross program. Yellow Jacket Head Coach Eric Lang immediately looked to fill the open weekend and found a willing participant in college hockey’s newest program: Long Island University. The home-and-home was announced Thursday and the puck dropped for the Saturday matinee at the MassMutual Center just two days later.
In their first ever matchup, AIC and LIU were rewarded for flexible scheduling with a competitive game and a demonstration of both team’s strengths. The Yellow Jackets controlled the offensive pace of the game from the jump, but old rival Garrett Metcalf, a former Mercyhurst Laker, kept the Sharks alive with nine saves, many of those being grade-A chances. The opportunistic Sharks broke the ice on a penalty kill just after the period’s mid point. UMass Boston transfer Zack Bross turned a strong Preston Brodziak feed into the game’s first goal and a 1-0 LIU lead at the first intermission.
AIC cranked up the offense in the second and was rewarded with two goals. First, Aaron Grounds tied the game 10:01 into the stanza on a nifty top corner shot. Then in the late stage of the period, Providence transfer Jeff Baum created a break-in chance for Chris Theodore, who capitalized by roofing a backhander for a 2-1 lead.
The third period was a stalemate that ended in an exciting fashion. LIU pulled their goaltender with about a minute left. Almost immediately, AIC put a puck on net from neutral ice that rang iron. A few seconds later, LIU’s Nolan Welsh clanged a shot off the post on the would’ve been tying shot. The Yellow Jackets never allowed another clean chance and secured a 2-1 win.
“They’re a good team,” said AIC’s Chris Theodore of LIU. “They play hard, they finish every check. We’re going to have to be a lot better tomorrow in order to beat them.”
AIC improves to 6-2 with their first non-conference victory of the season.
“I think the guys did a really good job staying prepared to play this weekend,” commented Jeff Baum after the game. “We started the game off well. We just need to play a full 60.”
Stefano Durante stopped 19 of 20 shots in net.
LIU drops to 2-3 on the season.
Since transferring from Division III UMass Boston, Zack Bross has played three games and scored three goals at the DI level for the Sharks.
Anaheim Ducks draft pick Garrett Metcalf recorded 24 saves on 26 shots faced.
The teams rematch on Sunday night on Long Island, marking the first LIU home game in program history. Puck drop is slated for 6 pm ET at IceWorks, the New York Islander’s practice facility, in Syosset, New York. AIC was originally scheduled to be LIU’s first guest back in December. Due to scheduling hardships, they still have that honor.
AIC is next scheduled for a weekend series at West Point against Army on Friday, January 8th and Sunday, January 10th.
LIU is next scheduled for a two game home series against Niagara University on January 15th and 16th.