23 in 23 Series: Aberdeen Wings
AUGUST 14, 2017
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Scott Langer (2nd season)
2016-17 record: 29-24-7, 65 pts. (4th in the Central Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Kevin Fitzgerald (59 points)
2017 Playoffs: Lost in the Robertson Cup National Semi-Finals to the Aston Rebels, 2 games to 1
2017-18 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 20th vs. Springfield Jr. Blues
Home opener: Friday, September 29th vs. Brookings Blizzard
After a regular season that saw the Aberdeen Wings battle through adversity and claim the final spot for the NAHL’s Central Division Playoffs, something then clicked as the underdogs headed into the chase for the Robertson Cup. With veteran NAHL coach Scott Langer at the helm for his first season in Aberdeen, the Wings put together a run for the ages. They took down top-seeded Minot Minotauros in the Central Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 1, which included winning the opening two games on the road. That was followed by an epic clash with the Minnesota Wilderness in the Central Division Finals, which extended all the way to Game 5 on the Monday of the week of the Robertson Cup Championship. The Wings would once again prove they were the cardiac kids as they kept their Cinderella story going with an 1-0 overtime win in Game 5.
Three days later, they faced the Aston Rebels in the Robertson Cup National Semi-Finals and true to form, they put up an incredible fight that saw the club on the verge of making the National Championship Game. After falling in Game 1, the Wings stormed back for another overtime win in Game 2. That set the stage for the dramatic Game 3. After being deadlocked at 2-2 after regulation, the Wings were a goal away from advancing to the Finals, but it was not meant to be as the Rebels struck in overtime to end the Wings Cinderella story.
It was arguably the most memorable season for the Wings in their seven-year history in the NAHL. Not only did they almost complete a dream season of winning the Robertson Cup, but the Wings were also at the top of the NCAA commitment list with 16 NCAA commitments coming out of last year’s team. “One of our big things that we pride ourselves on is moving players on and putting them into college,” said head coach Scott Langer. “We raised the bar on the ice with what we accomplished, but it is about development with our players. We set the bar high with what was accomplished and it is something we are striving for again. It was pretty gratifying to see this group come together and then leave as a cohesive unit and family.”
After a season like last year, it is clear a new standard has been set in Aberdeen. With one of the best collections of fan support in the entire league, the Wings have become a destination for the player with NCAA aspirations. While the Wings will see many of their key players depart to the NCAA, one of the main strengths coming back will be the defensemen, as the Wings are set to return all seven players from last year’s team along the blueline.
“It is the first time in my NAHL coaching career that many players are coming back on defense,” said Langer. “It is huge for us and will provide the foundation and core of what we hope will be another strong team. We have the kind fan support makes guys want to come here. We have an ownership group that gives everyone the tools to be successful. It gives us plenty of optimism that we can keep setting the bar higher and higher.”
For the 2017-18 season, the Wings will be strong on defense, but there will be holes to fill. Three of Aberdeen’s top four scorers from a season ago all age out and are headed off to the NCAA, including leading scorer Kevin Fitzgerald (59 points, St. Cloud State) and Carter Roo (53 points, Wisconsin-Stevens Point). The Wings will also have to find a replacement for goaltender Forbes Ploszaj, who was arguably the team’s most valuable player last season and also the Central Division goalie of the year.
While Langer didn’t elaborate on individual names that will be key members to the line-up, his experience behind the bench is a key component into molding a team in 2017-18 that will be able to meet expectations. “We are heading in the right direction as a team and as a league. The players that have gone on to the NCAA and beyond are doing a fantastic job. There has been a lot of growth in recent years and I think that lends itself well to the NCAA coaches who are watching our players,” said Langer. “With the finish we had last year, the long-term bar has been set pretty high. Short term, we are going to work on developing and getting a new group of players to trust the process that will lead them towards success.”