Things are headed in the right direction for AIC, but not fast enough for coach Gary Wright.
The team got off to a horrendous 2-14 start before finishing the season 6-11-1 and taking points in all but two of its last eight league series. The Yellow Jackets won a first-round playoff game at Canisius before falling to Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals.
“The start and finish were a bit different,” said Wright. “It was a number of different factors. We lost our starting goaltender (Tom Fenton) to injury for eight games. That’s not the end-all excuse because the other guys made some pretty good saves. We weren’t putting the puck in the net either. The second half of the schedule was a little more reasonable as well.”
If the Yellow Jackets can start this season the way they ended their last campaign, they might be able to fight their way out of the AHA basement for the first time in a couple of years. To do this, AIC has to get better with the man advantage, where it converted on just 10.5% of chances last year.
“I think it goes hand in hand with our struggling to score goals in general,” said Wright. “[Jereme] Tendler had 15 goals for us and the next closest guy had seven.
“The power play has been disappointing, and we are so aware of it. Your mission on the power play is to put the puck in the net and we haven’t been able to find a way to do that. We’ve had good puck movement but have had trouble finishing.”
The Yellow Jackets’ two captains, seniors Tendler and Bryan Jurynec, will be looked to remedy that situation.
“They’re players with different styles,” said Wright. “Tendler is a wonderfully gifted skater, he’s big and rangy. And Jurynec is a great worker, one of the most intense competitors I’ve ever had here. He just never stops, be it in practice or in game situations.”
Expect Fenton to get the majority of starts in net, but Wright is also going to give freshman Dan Ramirez a look.
But it will be the 14 upperclassmen that Wright will lean on the most.
“We need to use our experience,” he said. “We have a talented senior class and they need to lead.”