24 in 24: Aberdeen Wings
AUGUST 13, 2018
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2018-19 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 24 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 (3rd season)
2017-18 record: 39-16-5, 83 pts. (1st in the Central Division)
2017-18 leading scorer: Nathan Burke (56 points)
2018 Playoffs: Lost to Minot in the Central Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 2.
2018-19 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 19th vs. Minnesota Magicians
Home opener: Friday, October 5th vs. Brookings Blizzard
For record book purposes, last year was statistically the best season for the Aberdeen Wings since their emergence into the NAHL back in 2010. Led by head coach Scott Langer, who is currently the NAHL active wins leader with more than 500 regular season wins to his credit, the Wings were kings of the Central Division during the regular season, posting a team-high 39 wins and 83 points. The Wings rode the momentum with a veteran group who was fresh off a Robertson Cup Final Four appearance in 2017, when as the #4 seed, they were an overtime goal away in the final game of the National Semi-Finals of advancing to the National Championship Game. That veteran leadership was evident from the start as the Wings displayed a potent offense and even stingier defense on their way to the Central Division crown and #1 seed in the playoffs.
However, in the Central Division Semi-Finals, the tables turned from the year prior as the #4-seed Minot Minotauros defeated the #1-seed Wings in five games to end Aberdeen’s season prematurely. “Big picture, there is no question last year was a great season and it was one of the best team’s that we have had here in Aberdeen. Falling short was tough, but we ran into a very good team in Minot, who had a really hot goaltender. It’s not like we played bad because the series went to five games. It just became a matter of who was playing better at that moment in time and who got some bounces and breaks,” said Langer.
While it put a short-term sense of disappointment over the promising group, which included a stable of 15 players with NCAA commitments by the end of the season (11 of those NCAA Division I commitments), Langer said that it did not diminish the overall success that the team had last season. “We are proud what we continue to build here in Aberdeen. We feel we have become a premier destination for players and have developed the right kind of culture. We don’t just have solid hockey players, but solid young men as well, and that’s very important to what we are trying to do here in Aberdeen.”
Thanks to those 15 NCAA commitments that are advancing onto the next level, many of the faces on the 2018-19 Wings roster will be new. Aberdeen’s top 5 scorers from a season ago all made NCAA commitments. “We are in a rebuilding situation and it is a great opportunity for guys to come in, develop, and make an impact. Being able to have the NCAA commitment success, both from a team and league perspective we have had in recent seasons, enables all of us to bring in and attract better players,” said Langer.
While the Wings won’t return many players, they are getting back some key pieces from their 39-win team a year ago. One of those is in goal with the return of Matt Vernon. Vernon appeared in 23 regular season games last year and posted a sparkling 17-5-1 record with a 2.01 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Vernon was also the go-to guy in the playoffs, where he was even better with a 1.63 GAA and .934 save percentage. “It is great to have a veteran guy like Matt between the pipes to start the season. It has been a while since we have a veteran return in goal, so we will be looking to him for stability with a younger group,” said Langer.
Another key returner will be forward Nic Sicoly, who will be the team captain for the 2018-19 season. Sicoly didn’t join the Wings until November last season, but many believe that was the spark the team used to push them to the top of the standings thanks to his 41 points in just 46 regular season games. He also had a very good playoff series against Minot with four points. “Nic was a huge addition to last year’s team, so we are really excited about what he brings to the table. He will be relied upon for team leadership,” said Langer.
“We want to be one of the top teams in the league every year, but anything is possible in the Central Division. I have a huge appreciation and respect for the parity and competition that exists there,” said Langer. “It seems like every year it is a battle to the very last weekend to see who is going to win the division and who is going to make the playoffs and then once that is settled, the #4 seed is just as likely to advance as the #1 seed as we have seen from recent seasons. Coming out on top is a goal of ours every season, but it is a big challenge.”