“I want to go out on top!”: Yellow Jackets hope to finish historic hockey season strong

Sophomore+Forward+Elijiah+Barriga+on+the+ice+during+AIC%27s+last+regular+season+game

Kelly Shea

Sophomore Forward Elijiah Barriga on the ice during AIC's last regular season game

Austin Albrecht, Staff Writer

The Yellow Jackets ice hockey team had a historic season, and they broke many different records along the way.

After last year, many people wondered, could American International College do better than their previous run in 2019, when they beat St. Cloud State in the tournament? Well, the answer is yes. They went 20-6-1 in their respective conference. Although out of conference, the Yellow Jackets have struggled a bit since their win against St. Cloud, they seem to play their best when things really start to matter: in the playoffs.

If the Yellow Jackets had won one or two of their conference games, they would have secured a bid to the NCAA tournament without even having to win their league.

As of now, the Yellow Jackets are ranked 20th in the nation, having a better position in the standings than teams such as Notre Dame, Michigan State, and a lot of well-known programs. The team is really starting to draw a lot of attention and there is no sneaking up on anyone anymore. Everyone knows that the Yellow Jackets are the real deal and they mean business, so every night the team gets the very best from their opponents. The team is getting ready for another long playoff run this season and it starts on March 13 and 14 when AIC hosts the second round of playoffs.

Captain Joel Kocur has few regrets about the season. “We played really good hockey for a long period of time,” Kocur said. “Maybe a few games we would like back, but we really can’t complain where we have set ourselves up to make another run.” Kocur is also looking forward to the upcoming games. “We are ready to make another push and make some more noise in the playoffs and in the tournament this year,” he said. “This is the best part of the year, and I want to finish out my senior year on top… making more memories with this group.”

Although the Yellow Jackets are expected to make it to the tournament again, it is no guarantee, and there is a lot of work to be done before getting there. Any team in this league can play good hockey night-in and night-out, so AIC is going to have to be sharp in playoffs in order to get to the tournament and win the Atlantic again. The biggest question mark that the Yellow Jackets have to face before punching their ticket to the tournament lies with the Sacred Heart Pioneers. They have been very solid this year and have beat the Yellow Jackets twice this year. They have one of the best offensive teams in the country and have a lot of firepower.

Freshman goalie Jarrett Fiske has had a rewarding first year as a Yellow Jacket. “This year has been incredible for me,” he said. “Everything since day one has been first-class, and I am very thankful I decided to come here. The two other goalies are very talented and have taught me so many things, off and on the ice. I can’t wait to see how this season shapes up.” Fiske, who goes by “Cheese,” has been the third-string goalie this year. He will play a huge role in the years to come for the Yellow Jackets, and has been a huge part of the team this year. The feeling, it would seem, is mutual. To Fiske, the Yellow Jackets are “one of the best teams in the country, and that I have ever played for.”

Senior Jared Pike is ready to give a strong finish to his college career. “It has been a long journey for this team, and we are more than ready to get playoffs going,” Pike said. “The team from top to bottom has been outstanding this year… I want to go out on top!”

The Yellow Jackets host whatever opponent is the lowest seed after the first round of playoffs at the MassMutual Center on March 13-15. Come out and support this group as they look to make another run for a national championship this year.

Kelly Shea
Sophomore Forward Elijiah Barriga on the ice during AIC’s last regular season game