With seven straight wins, Scott Langer now has the milestone of 500 career North American Hockey League coaching victories to celebrate.
And, with the end of the regular season and the start of the Robertson Cup playoffs rapidly approaching, his Aberdeen Wings team has the momentum and a defensive style of play in place to make it dangerous.
“It’s the right time to be playing well,” Langer said. “Our guys came back from Christmas break and certainly have been really determined since and, as we head into the last six games, our team is playing some real good hockey.”
That is most noticeable on the defensive end of the ice.
The Wings have not allowed more than a single goal in any game during the winning streak, allowing five total in seven games, including getting through overtime in one of the games to win in a shootout.
“I think our guys have done a good job defensively most of the year, but as of late, they’ve really done a good job,” Langer said. “It’s not just in net or from our defensive group. It’s complete team defense."
“They’ve done a good job buying in and understanding the importance of defense. When you’re holding teams to very few chances, you have a chance to win every night and I think our guys believe in that now.”
As the winning streak has grown, the Wings have clinched a playoff berth and opened a 10-point lead in the Central to move closer to a division title.
“I think it comes down to mentality,” Langer said. “It’s just making sure that we continue with the same mentality and not just be happy with the fact that we’re 10 points up.
“At this point in the season, there are bigger things to come. Our focus is to win the Central Division in the regular season and we don’t just want to be content with that. We have a group of guys here that when they’re working and competing, they’re tough to beat.
“We just can’t get lackadaisical down the stretch.”
Langer said the Wings (35-15-3-1) could not be allowing so few goals without the entire team contributing to the defensive mentality and without six defensemen all performing well and able to be used in every role.
Keenan Spillum, a 21-year-old from Arizona who is a veteran of 212 NAHL regular season games over four seasons, leads that unit.
“Keenan Spillum is one of the better shut-down defenseman I’ve ever had,” Langer said.
Tim Makowski, Andrew Sinard, Jack Kelly, Logan Britt and Filip Dusek all entered this season with at least some NAHL experience already.
Britt, a 1999 birthyear player from Crystal Lake, Illinois, leads the team’s defensemen in scoring with the help of 12 assists on the power play.
Langer’s 500th win came March 16 with a 3-1 victory over the Brookings Blizzard.
NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld was among those offering congratulations to Langer.
“Scott is one of the most dedicated and professional coaches I’ve had the pleasure to know,” Frankenfeld said, according to a story on the league website. “Scott takes the recruiting, developing and promoting responsibilities very serious and has developed some unbelievable young men and hockey players.
“It is not by accident that all the hard work and commitment he puts forth for his players that the byproduct has produced success on the ice and in the win column.”
Langer went to Aberdeen after the 2015-16 season and is 64-39-11 in two seasons leading the Wings, who he led to the Central Division’s playoff title after a fourth-place regular-season finish a year ago.
In 14 seasons as head coach, all in the NAHL, Langer is 501-218-71 with the Topeka RoadRunners, Santa Fe RoadRunners and Aberdeen.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.