AIC ice hockey redeems loss against Army

Redshirt+Sophmore+forward%2C+Luka+Maver

Kelly Shea

Redshirt Sophmore forward, Luka Maver

Hunter Johannes, Staff Writer

The American International College men’s ice hockey team played a home-and-home series against Army.

The Yellow Jackets lost 2-1 at West Point on Friday, November 1, but they defeated the Black Knights on Saturday, November 2 in Springfield. This was the first time that the two teams have met this season, and they will face off again at the end of November.

Last season, the Yellow Jackets posted a 4-1 record over the Black Knights over the course of the 2018-19 season.

On Friday, November 1, AIC traveled to Tate Rink at West Point, New York for the Atlantic Hockey Conference contest at 7:05 P.M.

Elijah Barriga, a sophomore, commented on the trip by saying, “Army’s campus is really unique. It’s almost like they have their own little village.” Barriga is a communication major with a minor in business marketing.

“It is just a really cool place to play,” Barriga added. “The atmosphere is always fun at Army.”

The United States Military Academy is located about 130 miles southwest from American International College in West Point, New York.

Senior goaltender for AIC, Zackarias Skog, commented on playing at Army by saying, “It’s a lot of fun. They have such a historic barn (arena) and a beautiful campus with the Hudson River going right by it.”

The first period of the game was full of battles and physical plays from both sides. The teams rushed up and down the ice creating chances to score, but the goaltenders proved to be strong. The period ended scoreless.

Shortly into the second period, Justin Cole of the Yellow Jackets made a cross-ice pass to Blake Christensen, who fed the puck to Chris Dodero in front of the net. But his chance to score was denied.

Minutes later, Army took a penalty, giving AIC a power play. Army broke the puck out to the neutral zone where Dominic Franco made a pass to Colin Bilek on a breakaway, who scored a shorthanded goal.

The second period ended 1-0 in favor of Army.

Some of the players practice rituals between periods. Yellow Jacket forward Elijah Barriga explained, “In between periods, I re-tape my stick and I like to make sure I drink enough fluids or maybe even have a banana to stay ready.”

With the start of the third period, there was a quick faceoff in the AIC zone. Army’s Brett Abdelnour won the faceoff, then shot and scored from the top of the circle to give them a 2-0 lead.

Four minutes and forty-six seconds into the period, the Yellow Jackets found the back of the net. Senior Patrik Demel put a shot to the net that was bobbled by the Army goalie. Redshirt sophomore Justin Cole came flying in to bang home the rebound to give AIC the first goal of the night.

The Army Black Knights were able to hold on to the 2-1 win for the first game of the series.

With eight saves for AIC in the first game, Zackarias Skog talked about the Black Knights. “They are a very tough team,” Skog said, “and we know we’re always going to get their best.”

Skog continued, “All we can do is regroup [for tomorrow] in the best way possible for a hungry team on the other side.”

On November 2, AIC hosted the Black Knights at the MassMutual Center in Springfield at 1:05 P.M.

This game was extra special for everyone involved with American International College. For the first time in program history, the Yellow Jackets were able to hang an Atlantic Hockey Conference champions banner after their terrific season last year. This game was also alumni night for all Yellow Jackets.

Like the night before, the first period ended scoreless, but the Yellow Jackets received a penalty towards the end of the period. This gave Army a power play to start the second period where they scored their first goal of the game.

The Yellow Jackets responded right away. The senior from Latvia, Janis Jaks, made a shot from the blue line that was saved, but Elijah Barriga was there to tap it in for his second goal of the season.

Looking back on it, Barriga said, “It’s always great to get the first goal and get some momentum going.”

From then on, AIC seemed to have found a spark. Freshman Hunter Johannes scored his first collegiate goal with assists from Joel Kocur and Nicolas Luka.

Towards the end of the second period, senior Jared Pike scored a rebound goal by out-muscling defenders in front of the net. Janis Jaks was given his second assist of the night and the Yellow Jackets ended the period 3-1.

The Yellow Jackets played strong defense, and ended the game with an empty net goal by Jared Pike, his third of the year, earning AIC a 4-1 win.

Following the weekend, AIC sits fourth in the Atlantic Conference and Army is right behind at fifth.

The Yellow Jackets had a weekend off before they took a road trip to Erie, PA to play the Mercyhurst Lakers on November 15-16. The Friday game was played at 7:05 P.M. and Saturday was played at 4:05 P.M.