The AIC Yellow Jackets have shown steady improvement in recent seasons, but haven’t been able to escape the Atlantic Hockey basement. The problem for AIC is that everybody’s getting better.
“The league has really been surging in terms of the emphasis schools are putting on their programs,” said coach Gary Wright, in his 25th season behind the AIC bench. “Air Force and RIT joining the league really stepped it up another notch.”
Last season the Yellow Jackets played some good hockey at times, tying Rensselaer and defeating RIT twice, but went into a funk at the end of the year, going 0-7-1 in their final eight games.
“We had a tough schedule down the stretch and didn’t respond as I’d hoped,” said Wright. “But last year I think we were a significantly improved team. We had a freshman goalie that played well and were better from top to bottom. But we have to start having it make a significant difference in terms of wins and moving up in the standings.”
Rookie goaltender Dan Ramirez was a bright spot, in net for all eight of AIC’s wins last season. But the Yellow Jackets’ team defense was last in the league, and will be even more pressed to keep opponents at bay as Wright’s squad has graduated four of its top five scorers, including all-star Jereme Tendler.
“How do you replace a guy like that? You don’t,” said Wright. “His skating alone was exceptional. He was a natural scorer and those are hard to come by. But we’ve got a pretty good crop of freshmen and we need our returning players to upgrade their game.”
Mike McMillan, who had a team-high 24 points last season, returns for his junior year, as well as senior David Turco (16 points) and defenseman Frankie DeAngelis (14).
“The bottom line is we need to cut down on our goals against and win more hockey games,” said Wright. “We were out of the basement for a while last season, and it felt good.”