Bridgeport, CT- American International College entered the 2021-22 season as the consensus favorite to win their third straight Atlantic Hockey Championship. The Yellow Jackets slumped out of the gate with a 4-9-1 start but found their stride. AIC sought their ninth straight win on Friday night against the Sacred Heart Pioneers and found it in Bridgeport.
Sacred Heart had the quick start, outshooting the Yellow Jackets 12-6 in the opener. But the visitors stung first when Justin Young tipped in a Luis Linder shot 11:19 into the game.
AIC doubled the lead near the second period’s middle point. Jake Stella netted his eighth goal of the season 7:54 into the frame. Sacred Heart finally got on the board by way of an Austin Magera top right corner ripper, but surrendered another goal 33 seconds after. Robert Morris transfer Brian Kramer potted a backhander off a transition play to stake AIC to a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.
The third period was the messiest. Of the ten penalties and 31 minutes of penalties, all but two penalties and four minutes occurred in the final stanza. Chris Van Os-Shaw started the mess with a major penalty and game misconduct for contact to the head. During the five minute power play, Brian Kramer took a slashing minor giving the Pioneers a full two minute two man advantage. They failed to score on that advantage. The Yellow Jackets got a power play chance and pinballed a puck in to seemingly ice the game. However the officials disallowed the goal as a kicked in goal. SHU did eventually net a power play goal on the final AIC infraction; a Parker Revering slash. Nick Boyagian potted his second goal of the season to put the Pioneers in striking distance. They got no closer. Austen Long potted an empty netter to close the scoring at 4-2 for American International College.
AIC improves to 11-9-1 overall and 9-4-0 in Atlantic Hockey play. The Jackets lead the Atlantic Conference standings over Bentley by six points.
This is the program’s ninth straight win, tied for the longest winning streak in the country with Minnesota State’s stretch from November 27th to January 8th and Quinnipiac’s run from November 20th to present.
Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Jake Kucharski stopped 29 of 31 shots with 12 saves in the opening stanza.
“He’s a high end goalie coming into his own,” said AIC Head Coach Eric Lang of his net minder. “He takes up a lot of net… He’s as good a goaltender as there is in the League.”
Luis Linder recorded two assists. In fact, Friday was the first multi-point game for the Spittal an der Drau, Austria native. Senior Chris Theodore also notched two assists. Alaska-Fairbanks transfer Justin Young recorded a goal and an assist for a multi-point game.
Sacred Heart drops to 9-9-3 overall and 7-6-2 in conference play.
“AIC was very opportunistic,” commented Pioneer Head Coach CJ Marottolo. “They’ve got very skilled forwards. You give them an inch, they take a yard. We didn’t do a very good job boxing them out. On the five-on-three, we’ve gotta score and we didn’t.”
Justin Robbins stopped 13 of 16 shots faced in the Pioneer net.
AIC and SHU meet again on Saturday afternoon at Webster Bank Arena to complete the weekend series. Puck drops at 1:05 pm ET.