#17 Air Force faces Mercyhurst in AHA Final Four, March 16

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    March 14, 2012

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    This Week No. 17 Air Force (19-10-7) advances to the Atlantic Hockey Association Final Four at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., Friday-Saturday, March 16-17. The Falcons face fourth-seeded Mercyhurst (20-15-4) on Friday, March 16, at 4:05 p.m. ET. In the other semifinal game, second-seeded Niagara (17-10-9) faces third-seeded RIT (19-12-6) on Friday, March 16. The game will begin 60 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. The two semifinal winners meet on Saturday, March 17, at 7:05 p.m. in the championship game.

    Radio/Internet All games will be broadcast in Colorado Springs on The Sports Animal AM 1300 and on the internet at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com Pregame show begins 30 minutes before faceoff each day. Jay Ritchie will call the play-by-play while Dave Toller will be the color analyst. All AHA games and all home games will be video streamed with audio by America One Television. Subscriptions can be purchased at www.americaone.com/college.

    What¡¦s at Stake The winner of the AHA Tournament gets the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and will be one of 16 teams to play in one of four NCAA Regionals. The four regional sites are: Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The NCAA Frozen Four will be played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., April 5-7.

    Last Week in the AHA The top four seeds, who all hosted the quarterfinal series, all advanced to the AHA Final Four Second-seeded Niagara was the only team to sweep the series, taking two from Robert Morris (3-0 and 2-1). Third-seeded RIT lost the first game to Bentley and then came back to win the next two, including game two in double overtime. Bentley won the first game, 4-1 while RIT won 5-4 (2OT) and 3-0. få Fourth-seeded Mercyhurst needed a third game to win the series from fifth-seeded Holy Cross. Mercyhurst won the first game, 2-1, while Holy Cross won game two, 3-1. The Lakers won the series with a 3-1 win on Sunday.

    The Series vs. Mercyhurst Air Force and Mercyhurst have played 20 times and the series is tied at 9-9-2. The series began in 2007 when AFA joined Atlantic Hockey. Mercyhurst was one of just three teams in the league to win the series against Air Force (Holy Cross and Bentley are the others). Mercyhurst took two of three from the Falcons this season, winning the only game in Erie, Pa., and splitting the series at the Academy Five of the games have gone into overtime and nine of the last 12 games have either ended in a tie or have been decided by one goal (not counting empty-netters). The teams have met twice in the AHA Final Four and Air Force won both games. AFA won 5-4 double overtime in the 2008 championship and then defeated the Lakers, 2-0, in the 2009 championship game

    This Season vs. Mercyhurst Air Force and Mercyhurst met three times this season and the Lakers won two of three. In Erie, Pa., Nov. 12, Mercyhurst beat Air Force, 3-2. The Lakers scored twice in the first period on goals by Tyler Shiplo and Chris Bodo. Nick Jones gave the Lakers a 3-0 lead early in the third. Air Force battled back as Chad Demers scored on the power play. After pulling the goalie while on the power play, Tim Kirby scored to make the score 3-2 with 2:40 left. AFA outshot MU, 34-23. Stephen Caple made 20 saves while Max Strang made 32. At Air Force, Feb. 17-18, the team split the series. AFA won game one, 8-0. John Kruse, Stephen Carew and Chad Demers each scored two goals. Kruse had four points in the game. AFA outshot MU, 35-20. Jason Torf stopped all 20 shots he faced. Jordan Tibbett made 16 saves in two periods and was replaced by Jimmy Sarjeant in the third period. Game two was completely different. Cole Gunner gave Air Force a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Nick Jones tied the game in the second. MU¡¦s Paul Chiasson scored the game-winner at 6:25 of the third period. AFA outshot MU, 51-19. Torf stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced. Strang made 50 saves

    Scouting Mercyhurst The Lakers, 20-15-4 overall and 15-8-4 in the league, arrive in Rochester after taking two of three from Holy Cross last weekend in Erie, Pa. MU won the first game, 2-1, but Holy Cross won game two, 3-1. The Lakers won game three, 3-1. Mercyhurst was outshot 116-70 in the series vs. the Crusaders. Goalie Max Strang made 111 saves in three games. Daniel Bahntge scored two goals on Friday while Matthew Zay scored two, including the game-winner, on Sunday. MU has won four the last six games Strang, a senior, has a 2.63 GAA and ranks 13th in the nation with a .939 saves percentage. The team¡¦s top three scorers are all freshmen. Bahntge leads the team with 31 points and 21 assists. Nardo Nagtzaam is second with 30 points while Bodo is third with 25 points. Nagtzaam and Bahntge are ranked in the top 17 in the nation for points by a freshman Junior Paul Chiasson leads the team with 14 goals. Nick Jones is the team¡¦s top scoring defenseman with 24 points, including two goals against Air Force this season.

    AFA in the AHA Playoffs Air Force joined Atlantic Hockey for the 2006-07 season and has won two regular-season titles and four tournament titles. AFA was the No. 4 seed in 2007; No. 3 seed in 2008; No. 1 seed in 2009; No. 3 seed in 2010; No. 2 seed in 2011; and the No. 1 seed in 2012 AFA is 19-3 all-time in the AHA playoffs AFA is 8-1 all-time at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. After winning the AHA Tournament three straight years (2007, 2008 and 2009), AFA suffered its only loss in the Final Four in 2010 The Falcons won the tournament title in 2011 In the nine games at Blue Cross Arena, AFA has played two overtime games (one of them went double overtime) and five one-goal games

    The Rankings Air Force cracked the top 20 in the USCHO.com poll for the first time this season, Feb. 27, as the Falcons entered the poll at No. 20. Air Force is currently ranked 17th in the USCHO.com poll for the week of March 12 The Falcons are among the ¡§others receiving votes¡¨ in the USA Today/USA Hockey top 15 poll Air Force has been among the ¡¥others receiving votes¡¨ in both polls most of the season

    The Senior Class Saturday¡¦s home game vs. UConn marked the final home game for four Falcon seniors: Stephen Caple, Tim Kirby, Scott Mathis and Paul Weisgarber. The class has won two AHA Regular-Season Championships, two AHA Tournament Championships and competed in two NCAA Tournaments in the last three years. The class has already combined for 83 wins with 28 as freshmen, 16 as sophomores, 20 as juniors and 19 this season. The 83 wins are the third most in school history. The class of 2011 holds the school record with 85 wins (85-50-20). The class of 2010 won 84 games.

     

     

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