UND hockey fans probably know at least one thing about American International.
The Yellow Jackets were the team that pulled the stunning upset of No. 1 St. Cloud State in the first round of the 2019 NCAA hockey tournament in Fargo's Scheels Arena.
Other than that, American International is an unfamiliar opponent, one of nine Division-I programs that UND has never played in program history.
The Fighting Hawks will take on American International at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Scheels Arena -- the same place the Yellow Jackets pulled that upset two years ago -- in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Seven of the 19 skaters who played in that game for American International are expected to be in the lineup -- forwards Chris Dodero, Tobias Fladeby, Justin Cole, Luka Maver and Elijah Barriga, as well as defensemen Brennan Kapcheck and Jeff Baum. Kapcheck scored the game-winning goal.
Five more current American International players were on the roster in 2018-19, but didn't dress in that game -- forwards Chris Theodore and Matus Spodniak, defensemen Parker Revering and Oskar Stromberg, and goalie Stefano Durante.
Here are 10 other things to know about American International:
1. From doormat to power in AHA
American International, located in Springfield, Mass., moved to Division I in 1998.
It joined Atlantic Hockey in 2003-04 and immediately became the doormat of the league. Its first eight finishes: last, last, last, last, last, last, last and last. The next six years, it never finished higher than ninth of 12 teams.
But things started to change in 2016, when longtime coach Gary Wright, who had been at the helm since 1984 when AIC was a Division-III team, retired and former Yellow Jackets player Eric Lang took over as coach.
In Year 2 under Lang, 2017-18, the Yellow Jackets had a .436 winning percentage, the program's highest in 19 years.
In the last three seasons, American International has won three Atlantic Hockey regular-season championships, the only two Atlantic Hockey postseason tournaments, and knocked off St. Cloud State in the NCAA tournament.
The Yellow Jackets played a down-to-the-wire game against Denver with a Frozen Four berth on the line -- it was 1-0 with four minutes left -- but ultimately lost 3-0.
Atlantic Hockey, once dominated by Air Force, has now been taken over by American International.
2. Moorhead's Bryant Christian led the turnaround
Former Moorhead High player Bryant Christian was one of the driving forces behind AIC's turnaround.
Christian captained that 2017-18 team, which posted the program's best winning percentage in 19 years and won a best-of-three playoff series for the first in the program's Division-I history.
"He has single-handedly impacted this program as much as anyone," Lang told the Forum in 2018. "We're better in the community, our culture, academically, in the weight room. Everything that matters in sports that you can't measure, he has impacted in the greatest way imaginable."
Christian, who played in 149 games and tallied 17 goals and 43 points, suffered a broken leg in his final game at AIC, but asked Lang to skate one final shift, despite the fracture. He did.
Christian, who now lives in the Fargo-Moorhead area, attended the 2019 upset of St. Cloud State, the alma mater of his brother, Jordy. Now, the Yellow Jackets will face the other family school, UND.
Bryant is the son of former UND player Eddie Christian, the grandson of Olympic gold medalist Billy Christian, the nephew of Miracle on Ice team member and UND star Dave Christian and the cousin of former UND standout and current New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson.
3. Lang a coveted coach
As you would expect, after leading American International on its stunning turnaround, Lang has become a hot name in coaching circles.
Fresh off the upset of St. Cloud State, it was widely reported that St. Lawrence attempted to recruit Lang to replace Mark Morris as its head coach.
American International alums were alarmed that the school wasn't acting to secure Lang with a longer-termed, higher-paying contract and thought Lang could be on his way out. But eventually, the school did step up and sign Lang to a new deal. Because American International is a private school, the terms of the contract are not public.
4. A North Dakota connection
Friday's game will feature North Dakotans on both sides.
For UND, it's sophomore forward Judd Caulfield of Grand Forks and freshman defenseman Tyler Kleven of Fargo.
For American International, it's sophomore forward Aaron Grounds of Jamestown.
Grounds grew up in Jamestown and has family members there, but he never played for the high school program. He played U16 and high school hockey in Wisconsin.
He did come back to North Dakota to play junior hockey for both the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League and the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League. Grounds' older brother, Tim, is a goaltender for NDSU's club team.
5. Kapcheck is the NCAA's highest D-man scorer
Kapcheck, a senior, has more career points than any defenseman in college hockey.
Kapcheck has racked up 94 career points during his four-year career.
The five closest behind him are Boston University senior David Farrance (88), UND senior Matt Kiersted (76), RIT senior Dan Willett (70), St. Cloud State senior Seamus Donohue (63) and UND junior Jacob Bernard-Docker (59).
If Bernard-Docker plays Friday -- he missed the last two games with an upper-body injury -- the regional game would feature three of college hockey's current top-six career defenseman scorers.
Kapcheck is having a big senior season.
He's tied with Northeastern's Jordan Harris, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, for most points-per game by a defenseman this season (with 75 percent of team games played). He has 18 points in 18 games, including three in a 5-2 win over Canisius in the Atlantic Hockey title game.
6. AIC's shutdown line
Chris Dodero's point total is the first thing you notice. He's tied for the team lead in points with 18.
But his most impressive stat is that he's only been on the ice for one even-strength goal against all season.
Dodero's center, Julius Janhonen, also has been on the ice for just one even-strength goal against this season.
It happened on Jan. 7, when Army's Colin Bilek -- the NCAA's second-leading goal-scorer behind Wisconsin's Cole Caufield -- scored in the third period with both Dodero and Janhonen on the ice. In the eight games since, they haven't been scored upon at even-strength and the Yellow Jackets have only allowed seven even-strength goals.
Dodero was named Atlantic Hockey's defensive forward of the year.
7. A member of DU's title team
Yellow Jackets forward Justin Cole has spent time with an NCAA national championship-winning team.
He was a forward on Denver's 2016-17 squad that won the NCAA Frozen Four in Chicago. Cole wasn't there for the Frozen Four, though. He left to go back to junior hockey after not playing in the first semester.
Cole has turned into a key player for the Yellow Jackets, who don't have to worry about him spending time in the penalty box.
This is the second-straight season that Cole has not been called for a single penalty.
Cole played 17 games this season and 24 games last season without taking a penalty. You have to go back to the end of his freshman season, March 2, 2019, for the last time he was called for a penalty -- a minor for cross-checking against Sacred Heart.
Cole, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior from Pennsylvania, won Atlantic Hockey's sportsmanship award this season. He also was the MVP of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.
8. A UNLV transfer at center
American International's first-line center, Elijiah Barriga, has a unique career path.
After playing two years of junior hockey with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the British Columbia Hockey League, the forward from Los Angeles suburb West Covina opted to play club hockey for UNLV in Las Vegas.
He played one season for the Runnin' Rebels before transferring to American International.
During the last three seasons, Barriga has been a fixture at center for the Yellow Jackets. He takes a majority of the team's faceoffs and is winning 55 percent of them.
9. Durante topped Bast, Makar in RBC Cup
One UND player may have a recollection of Yellow Jackets starting goaltender Stefano Durante.
In 2017, Durante led the Cobourg (Ont.) Cougars to the RBC Cup, a five-team event to decide Canada's Junior A national champion.
In the semifinals, Durante stopped 27 of 28 shots as Cobourg knocked out the Penticton Vees 3-1. UND senior defenseman Gabe Bast was on that Penticton team, which also had several other prominent college players -- former UND forward Nick Jones, Omaha's Taylor Ward, Colorado College's Grant Cruikshank, Bemidji State's Owen Sillinger, Minnesota's Sam Rossini, Omaha's Jonny Tychonick, Denver's Griffin Mendel, Boston University's Ty Amonte and former Minnesota goalie Mat Robson.
In the championship, Durante stopped 41 of 43 shots against a Brooks Bandits team that had the NHL's reigning rookie of the year and former Hobey Baker Award winner, Cale Makar. Cobourg won that game 3-2 despite being outshot 43-23.
That's Cobourg's lone RBC Cup title.
Durante has been starting ahead of Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Jake Kucharski, who transferred in from Providence.
10. Otto's return from cancer fight
American International doesn't have to look far for inspiration.
They can get it from forward Eric Otto.
The Burnsville, Minn., product arrived on campus in the fall of 2018. That September, a couple of weeks before the start of the season, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
According to Inside Hockey, Otto went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy. He sat out two seasons while fighting cancer (he did attend American International's upset of St. Cloud State in Fargo).
On Dec. 15 of this season, he made his return to the ice, playing his first collegiate hockey game -- his first organized hockey game of any kind in 963 days -- against Army. Otto tallied an assist and American International won 4-1. Army's entire team congratulated Otto after the game.
Otto scored his first goal on Jan. 10 against Army.
11. NCAA tournament-bound family
It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Revering family of Alexandria, Minn.
American International defenseman Parker Revering, the team's co-captain, will be the second member of his family to compete in an NCAA tournament in the span of eight days.
Revering's younger sister, McKenzie, played in the NCAA Frozen Four with Minnesota Duluth last week. The Bulldogs won their regional final game against Colgate, then lost in overtime in the Frozen Four semifinals against Northeastern in Erie, Pa.
Like her older brother, McKenzie served as a team captain, wearing an 'A' for the Bulldogs.
Parker played junior hockey in Brookings, S.D., after his high school hockey career. His junior coach was Moe Mantha, one of UND coach Brad Berry's former Winnipeg Jets teammates.
12. Seeing a crowd for the first time
The anticipated crowd of roughly 1,500 people in Scheels Arena will be the first time American International has played in front of any significant number of fans this season.
According to official box scores, the largest crowd the Yellow Jackets have seen during this pandemic-altered season is 7 people. Another game's crowd was listed at 6 and a third at 1. The rest list 0 as the attendance.
13. Championship-winning teammates
Although American International and UND don't traditionally recruit from the same regions, there are some players who have won championships together in the past.
UND alternate captain Jasper Weatherby and American International defenseman Zak Galambos won the BCHL's Fred Page Cup with the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild in 2018. Their coach was Minot's Bliss Littler.
Galambos played one season at Minnesota State-Mankato before transferring to American International.
Yellow Jackets forward Austen Long, of Minneapolis, and UND defenseman Matt Kiersted won the USHL's Clark Cup with the Chicago Steel in 2017. UND goalie Peter Thome was briefly on that squad as well.
14. Buoyed by transfers
In case you didn't pick up the theme earlier, American International has had a lot of success with transfers.
The Yellow Jackets have six transfers on the roster, several from perennially successful teams: Kucharski (Providence), Baum (Providence), Cole (Denver), Galambos (MSU-Mankato), Barriga (UNLV) and Justin Young (Alaska Fairbanks).
15. No games in February
Due to COVID-19 protocol, American International recently went a month and a half without playing a game. The Yellow Jackets did not play at all during February. They had nine-consecutive games wiped out.
The Yellow Jackets' Atlantic Hockey semifinal game against Niagara on Friday was their first contest since Jan 30.
After a slow start, American International used two third-period goals to beat Niagara and advance to the title game. In the final, American International was tied with Canisius 2-2 after two periods, but the Yellow Jackets outshot the Golden Griffins 20-4 in the third period and scored three times.
American International enters the NCAA tournament on the country's longest winning streak, seven games. Its last loss was Jan. 10 against Army. American International's only other two losses came against Quinnipiac in December.