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NA Now: Aberdeen Wings

August 7, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head 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.

Aberdeen Wings

Head Coach: Scott Langer (19th season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 30-24-6, 66 pts. (2nd in the Central Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Nikolai Tishkevich (43 points)

2023 Playoffs: Lost to St. Cloud in the Central Division Semi-Finals, 3-0

2023-24 Division: Central

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Corpus Christi IceRays

Home opener: Friday, September 22nd vs. Bismarck Bobcats

Head Coach Scott Langer returned to the Wings last year and initially was in the role of General Manager and President of Hockey Operations but took over behind the bench in early October. Langer entered the season as the NAHL’s all-time wins leader with 637 wins also carrying numerous accolades including NAHL GM of the Year (2009-10, 2020-21) and NAHL Coach of the Year (2010-11, 2020-21). He also led the Wings to a Robertson Cup National Championship in 2019, and a Presidents Cup Championship in 2020-21.

Langer’s arrival was just part of the big roller coaster ride of a season for the Wings, which saw them clinch a playoff spot for the seventh straight season on the final day of the regular season. It was so close in fact that if the Wings had lost on the final day to St. Cloud, they would have finished in 5th place and been out of the playoffs. However, a 7-3 win over the Norsemen in the final game vaulted the Wings into 2nd place. Despite winning their last four games of the regular season by a combined 23-6 over the Norsemen, the Wings found it much tougher sledding in the Robertson Cup Playoffs against St. Cloud. The offense went cold, and the Norsemen turned the tables with a 3-0 sweep with Aberdeen netting just one goal in the three games.

“It was a hard season, just because it seemed we never had a complete line-up on the ice with all the injuries and sickness that we had. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Langer. “Our guys battled hard, and I think finishing 2nd in the division may have been a little bit of an over achievement, but it wasn’t good enough for what we want in Aberdeen. We have a sour taste of getting beat in the first round of the playoffs, but we just weren’t good enough and I credit St. Cloud because they played well.”

Watch: NA Now video with Scott Langer

With another solid showing with 13 NCAA commitments for the Wings and a 30-win season, Langer said that it hopefully will set a foundation for bigger things in 2023-24. “Winning a cup and seeing players get an NCAA commitment go hand in hand and it’s something that never gets old. The NAHL is unique because you really see a player evolve quickly and go from a junior hockey rookie to NCAA prospect in just a few years. It’s really special. I know the league takes a lot of pride in it and we take a lot of pride in it. It is always fun as a coach to hear a player has committed and earned it while playing in the NAHL,” said Langer.

With the tender signing season, the NAHL Draft, and tryout camps now over, Langer said there was emphasis on two main needs heading into this season. “We needed to key on some goaltending. We had to go out and find a couple of goalies and we also lost a lot down the middle, so we needed to find some centers who can create some scoring,” said Langer. “We need to put a premium on scoring goals because all the teams in the Central Division are very tough defensively and traditionally have great goaltending. Most of the coaches in the division are seasoned guys and do a great job, so there is a premium on seasoned guys who have a lot of skill. You aren’t going to get by with just a couple guys here and there, you have to be deep.”

A part of the Wings success in 2023-24 will be the ability of the returning and veteran players to produce on the ice, but also to create the right culture in the lockerroom. “The key is going to be understanding the culture and how our leadership in the lockerroom is going to be able to handle that. We want to embrace every guy that’s never played here before and let them know how special it is to play for the Aberdeen Wings. I think the core group of players we have coming back can be great leaders and if we want to get back to where we were in years like 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021, those guys are going to be the key,” said Langer.

Some of the key returning players will be forwards Logan Gravink (22 points) and Luke Backel (17 points), along with defensemen Zach Reim (18 points), Luke Lindsay (11 points), and Nick Comfort (9 points). “The players and our great ownership keep me coming back. The players are great people and getting to teach them is something I love to do. Winning is fun and the best thing ever. Sometimes it takes losing to realize that. We are going to go to work every day and get Aberdeen back to the top of the NAHL,” said Langer.

Next up: Amarillo Wranglers

 
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