After showing steady signs of improvement the past few years in their quest to escape the Atlantic Hockey basement, the American International Yellow Jackets took a step backward last season, racking up just five victories.
“We were ascending for a couple of years, and our hope is that we are still making progress,” said AIC coach Gary Wright, who is starting his 26th season begin the Yellow Jackets’ bench. “Our hope is to make valuable progress and develop our young players.”
The loss of all-star forward Jereme Tendler was especially felt last season, as AIC’s offensive output dropped by a half a goal per game to an anemic 1.89.
— American International coach Gary Wright
“It’s obviously goal scoring and goaltending that win games, and we have to get better at both,” Wright said.
A bright spot last season was the play of freshmen Mike Penny (15 points) and Nielsson Arcibal (14 points). In all, the Yellow Jackets return eight of their top 10 scorers and three of their top four defensemen.
Junior Dan Ramirez split time in net last season with the departed Tom Fenton and struggled at times, posting a higher GAA (4.07) and a lower save percentage (.872) than he did his freshman year. Newcomer Ben Meisner (Wichendon School) may see some time in net this season.
Wright is excited about a pair of incoming defensemen. Jeff Ceccacci comes to AIC from the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL), and Chris Markiewicz hails from Calgary, Alberta, by way of the Brooks Bandits of the Atlantic Junior League. Both had strong junior hockey campaigns and are expected to contribute right away.
“I think we’ll be better in all areas,” Wright said. “It’s a tough league with each team getting better each season, but we know what we need to do to compete and we’re ready for the challenge.”