|Assistant captain Karlis Cukste will have to lead a young Bobcats defense against AIC|
AIC Head Coach: Eric Lang (4th season) 46-57-13
2018-2019 AIC record: 23-17-1 (Atlantic Hockey regular season & tournament champions, lost in NCAA West Regional Final to Denver)
All-time vs. AIC: Quinnipiac leads series 25-4-1
AIC Key Players: Blake Christensen (F), Kyle Stephan (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Tobias Fladeby (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Luka Maver (F), Brennan Kapcheck (D), Nicolas Luka (D), Patrik Demel (D), Zackarias Skog (G)
This opening weekend features a match-up of two teams that fell one game short of the Frozen Four. Yes AIC was that close to the Frozen Four. After falling 3-0 to Denver in the regional final, AIC returns its entire team minus two seniors but most importantly its coach Eric Lang who turned down the St. Lawrence head coaching position to continue to build his alma mater. This is the first year for Lang in which he has all the kids he recruited on the roster. The Yellow Jackets are the preseason favorite in Atlantic Hockey as they are now an experienced team with talent returning. No longer a punchline these will be important games especially for Quinnipiac to get off the season on the right foot.
The Yellow Jackets have a talented offense and return 124 goals and 319 points from last years squad including senior Blake Christensen who had 47 points a year ago. AIC has five players returning with ten or more goals including Christensen. Now a senior, Christensen led the team with 121 shots on goal so he has to be the player accounted for the most on the ice by Quinnipiac. Tobias Fladeby led the Yellow Jackets last season in goals with 18 as a sophomore while Kyle Stephan and Martin Mellberg had 27 and 26 points respectively. Those two join Christensen as the seniors to watch up front. The AIC power play a year ago was solid at 18.7% and with everyone back of note outside of Shawn McBride up front expect that unit to possibly be even better this season.
AIC's defense is very experienced with their top four defensemen seniors and juniors. Brennan Kapcheck now a junior had 25 points a season ago and was a plus 12 on the blue remains dangerous on both ends of the ice. Senior Patrik Demel led the team as a plus 15 and also had 17 points from the blue line. Fellow seniors Nicolas Luka and Janis Jaks had 14 points apiece though Jaks was a minus 12 on the blue line. The experience the Yellow Jackets had last season should help the defense this season. One area that could be better is on the penalty kill where AIC was only 80.9% which was in the middle of the pack in college hockey.
Junior goaltender Zackarias Skog took over last season from a struggling Stefano Durante and went on to post a 20-14 record with a 2.68 goals against average and an .899 save percentage and five shutouts. His 33 saves in the West Region Semifinals helped propel the Yellow Jackets to the upset of the tournament and the year. Last season against Quinnipiac Skog struggled in two games against the Bobcats giving up eight goals on fifty shots.
You can follow the BobcatsHockeyBlog on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.