Falcons conclude regular season at Wayne State
This Week: Air Force (9-19-1, 6-12 College Hockey America) closes out the regular season with a two-game, College Hockey America series at Wayne State (6-20-6, 3-10-5 CHA). The Falcons and Warriors play Friday-Saturday, March 3-4, at 7:05 p.m. EST each night at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Detroit.
Radio/Television/Internet: No television or radio.
What's on the Line?: This weekend's Air Force-Wayne State series will determine fifth and sixth place in the CHA. Air Force is one point ahead of Wayne State in the standing. The fifth-place team will play fourth-place Robert Morris in the first round of the tournament. The sixth-place team will face the third-place team which could be Bemidji State, Alabama-Huntsville or Niagara. Placing fifth is of great importance to both Air Force and Wayne State.
The CHA Race: Alabama-Huntsville swept Wayne State last week to move into sole possession of first place. Although, three teams could still win the division as UAH, Bemidji State and Niagara are all within four points of each other. Robert Morris is locked into fourth place while Air Force and Wayne State will battle for fifth.
Scouting the Opponents: Wayne State (Detroit, Mich.) is in sixth place in the CHA, one point behind Air Force. The Warriors were swept last week at Alabama-Huntsville by scores of 2-1 and 6-1. The Warriors are just 1-7-2 in its last 10 games. Sophomore forward Adam Krug leads the team with 22 points. Jason Bloomingburg and Nate Higgins each have 10 goals. WSU is averaging just 2.56 goals and allowing 4.03 goals per game.
The Coaches: Air Force coach Frank Serratore (Bemidji State, 1982) is in his ninth season at Air Force and his 13th as a collegiate head coach. He has a 128-172-19 record at AFA and an overall mark of 177-264-28. Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson is in his seventh season at Wayne State and his 24th season as a collegiate head coach. He has a WSU record of 101-119-24 and an overall record of 414-420-77. He spent 17 years as the head coach at Western Michigan.
Earlier This Season vs. Wayne State: Air Force and Wayne State played at the Cadet Ice Arena, Dec. 2-3, and the teams split the series. WSU won the first game, 4-3, while Air Force won the second game, 7-6. In the first game, the Warriors scored two goals in a span of three minutes in the first game for a 2-0 lead. Goals by Eric Ehn and Brian Reese tied the game early in the second period. Ehn's second goal of the game tied the score at 3-3 midway through the second. Dan Iliakis scored the eventual game-winner late in the second as neither team scored in the third period. WSU out-shot AFA, 39-33, in the game. In the second game, Each team scored two goals in the first period. The Falcons then erupted for the next five goals to take a 7-2 lead early in the second period. The Warriors made it very interesting with four goals in the final 13 minutes of the third period. Jason Bloomingburg's goal, after WSU pulled its goalie, came with 1:47 remaining and made the score 7-6 and that was how it ended.
Series Record Vs. Wayne State: Air Force and Wayne State have played 25 times and the Warriors hold a 15-7-3 lead in the series that began in 2000. In the last seven games, each team has won three with one tie. Six of the last seven games have been decided by one goal or ended in a tie. The teams have played 10 times in Detroit and Wayne State holds a 7-2-1 advantage on its home ice. WSU has a six-game unbeaten streak against the Falcons in Detroit. The teams skated to a 3-3 overtime tie last season. The last Falcon win in Detroit was a 5-3 victory in 2003.
Six CHA Wins Ties School Record: Air Force's six CHA wins this season tie the school record. AFA joined the CHA for the 1999-00 season. In seven seasons, the Falcons have won six games four times (1999-00, 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2003-04). The 2000-01 team set the school record for league points with 16 (six wins and four ties).
Why we win and why we lose: Prior to the RMU series, the Falcons had won four of five. The reasons were simple ... goaltending and special teams. The Falcons have been out-shooting teams all season, but that alone is not enough. In the four wins, the Falcons' saves percentage was 94.1. In addition, Air Force's special teams were terrific. In the four wins, the power play clicked at 28.5 percent (8-for-28). The penalty kill was at 95 percent (17-for-18). In the Robert Morris series, the Falcons out-shot the Colonials, 78-42. However, Air Force's saves percentage was 81.0 while RMU's was at 96.2. RMU had four less power plays than Air Force but was 2-for-6 (33 percent). Meanwhile, AFA was 0-for-10 on the power play.
Close Games: Six of Air Force's nine wins this season have been by one goal. The only games the Falcons have won by more than one goal was the 9-2 blowout over Union and the sweep of Alabama-Huntsville. Air Force has played in 12 games decided by one goal and the Falcons are 6-6 in those games. AFA has also played in five games decided by two goals and the Falcons are 1-4 in those games.
D In the Play: Air Force has two of the three top scoring defensemen in the CHA. Freshmen Michael Mayra and junior Brian Gineo are two and three, respectively, in scoring in conference games. Mayra has 14 points in 13 CHA games while Gineo has 13 points in 18 CHA games. Senior Brooks Turnquist is close behind with nine league points to rank ninth in the CHA. In all games, Gineo ranks second in the league with 20 points while Mayra is seventh with 16 points.
Great Class: Air Force's freshmen class is small in numbers but large in talent. Defenseman Michael Mayra is by far the highest scoring freshman defenseman in the league in CHA games. He leads the league in scoring by a defenseman with 14 (3-11-14) points in 13 CHA games. He is the only freshman defenseman with more than four points. Winger Mike Phillipich is third in the league with six goals in CHA games. He stands sixth in the league in scoring by a freshman with 12 points (6-6-12) in 18 CHA games. Wingers Josh Frider and Brent Olson have become regulars in the lineup and have been solid contributors. Frider has six points while Olson has four. Defenseman Greg Flynn's solid play has earned him a regular spot in the lineup. He has played in 15 of the last 17 games and has three points.
Get the First One: As most hockey people know, getting the first goal is extremely important. However, for Air Force this season, that fact has determined the outcome of games. When AFA's opponent scores first, the Falcons are 2-14-1. When the Falcons score first, the team's record is 7-5. After eight losses and a tie, the Falcons finally came from behind for a victory against Niagara, Jan. 13. Niagara scored first and had a 2-1 lead entering the third period. AFA scored three goals in the third and then netted the game-winner in overtime. The Falcons also came from behind to beat Niagara, Feb. 10. Niagara led 1-0 after the first period, but the Falcons came back for a 3-2 win.
It Doesn't Add Up: Air Force's record of 9-19-1 this season is certainly not indicative of its play this season. The number of shots on goal in a game is a good indicator of the territorial play in the game. If the shots were fairly even, than usually the game was fairly even. However, in Air Force's case, the Falcons have controlled the possession time and have dominated the shots on goal category. The Falcons have out-shot their opponents in 22 of the 29 games this season and have won just nine of those games. The opponent has only out-shot Air Force seven times all season and has won all seven. Air Force has out-shot its opponent in 14 of the last 15 games and has a 5-9 record in those contests. In 29 games this season, the Falcons have out-shot the opponents by a total of 187 shots (917-730).
It Comes Down to Special Teams and Goaltending: Special teams and goaltending often determine the out-come of games. Despite the shot differential this season, the Falcons' special teams and goaltending have struggled. The Air Force power play, which is much improved over second half of the season, ranks 40th in the nation out of 59 teams at 15.8 percent. Just four weeks ago, the power-play percentage was last in the nation. The penalty kill is 58th at 77.5 percent. The team's saves percentage of 85.8 is last in the nation as the NCAA average is approximately 91.0.
Power Play Getting Better: The Air Force power play is much improved in the second half of the season. On the season, AFA is now at 16.7 percent on the power play to rank 33rd in the nation. However, in the second half of the season, the power play is much improved. After going 0-for-13 against Army, the Falcons hit a low-water mark at 6.2 percent (4-80) to rank last in the nation. In the last 19 games, AFA is connecting on 21.1 percent (26-for-123). The 21 percent clip in the last two months would rank fifth in the nation. In 16 CHA games, Air Force is fourth in the league in power play at 20.4 percent.
Thank You Fans!: Air Force began keeping official attendance, as opposed to estimated, in 1996-97. The average attendance this season of 1,590 is the second highest in the last 10 years. The school record of 1,680 as set last season. The Falcons enjoyed two crowds of more than 2,000 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena. The attendance of 2321 against Denver was the season high. The last game of the season against Robert Morris drew 2,107 fans. Below are the official attendance numbers since the 1996-97 season.
2005-06 1,590 2004-05 1,680 2003-04 1,481
2002-03 1,418 2001-02 1,452 2000-01 1,529
1999-00 1,264 1998-99 1,337 1997-98 1,531
On Deck: Following the WSU series, the Falcons return to Detroit for the CHA Tournament, Friday-Sunday, March 10-12, at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum. The winner of the CHA Tournament advances to the NCAA Regionals which begin March 25.
Last Week: Air Force and Robert Morris entered the weekend tied for fourth in the CHA. However, Robert Morris earned four points by sweeping the Falcons. RMU won the first game, 3-2 in overtime, and took the second game, 5-1.