Falcons advance to NCAA Tournament for second straight season
March 19, 2008
The Scoop Air Force (21-11-6 overall) won the Atlantic Hockey Association championship with a double overtime victory over Mercyhurst, 5-4, in Rochester, N.Y., March 16. The Falcons earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Air Force will find out its opponent and regional site on the NCAA Selection Show Sunday, March 23, at 9:30 a.m. The show will be televised on ESPN. The four regional sites are Colorado Springs World Arena, Madison, Wis., Albany, N.Y. and Worcester, Mass.
Radio/Internet/Television All of Air Force's games will be broadcast on the radio on KKML AM 1300 The Sports Animal and on the internet at GoAirForceFalcons.com. Jay Ritchie will do the play-by-play while Dave Toller will do the color. The pregame show begins 20 minutes prior to faceoff each night. All NCAA Regional games are telecast on by the ESPN family of networks. Dates, times and channel are TBA.
Back-to-Back Champions Air Force became the first team in Atlantic Hockey Association history to win back-to-back conference championships. The Falcons defeated RIT, 5-0, in the semifinals to record the first shutout and largest margin of victory ever in an AHA semifinal game. The Falcons then defeated Mercyhurst, 5-4 in double overtime, in the second longest tournament game in league history. Including the AHA quarterfinal round, AFA outscored its opponents, 22-7, in the four games.
NCAA Regional Tickets Fans can purchase all-session tickets for the NCAA Regional at the AFA athletic ticket office at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com, or by calling 1-800-666-USAF or in person at the ticket office in the Falcon Athletic Center.
The Big Dance The Falcons will make their second consecutive trip to "The Big Dance". It is also the second trip to NCAA Tournament in the 40 years of hockey at the Air Force Academy. Air Force is the first service academy team to ever compete in the NCAA Hockey Tournament.
Unbeaten Streak Longest in Nation Air Force's current nine-game unbeaten streak is tied as the longest in the nation. The Falcons are 8-0-1 in the last nine and have outscored its opponents by a combined score of 43-12. AFA has won four of the games by shutout (7-0 at Mercyhurst, 3-0 at Canisius, 5-0 vs. AIC and 5-0 vs. RIT). The streak is the longest in school history vs. Division I teams and the longest since the school-record 11-game unbeaten streak in 1974-75. The current five-game winning streak is the longest since last season's six-gamer.
The Numbers Don't Lie A look inside the stats shows why the Falcons have a nine-game unbeaten streak. The Falcon power play is operating at 26.7 percent (16-60). The penalty kill is at 93.3 percent (48-52). AFA has outscored its opponents, 43-12, for an average score of 5-1. In goal, Andrew Volkening has a 1.27 goals-against average and a .940 saves percentage in the last nine games. The offense has come from everyone as 15 different players have scored in the last nine games and seven players are averaging one point per game.
Rankings Air Force has received votes every week in the USCHO/CSTV poll. The Falcons are also once again receiving votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Based on the number of votes, Air Force is No. 19 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and No. 22 in the USCHO/CSTV poll. The Falcons are also No. 18 in the InsideCollegeHockey.com power rankings poll.
AFA in the NCAA Tournament Air Force is 0-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Air Force, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA West Regional in Denver in 2007, nearly upset Minnesota, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament. Air Force led 3-1 with just over eight minutes left, but the Gophers came back for a 4-3 win.
AFA in the AHA Tournament Air Force is unbeaten in the AHA Tournament with a 7-0 all-time record. The Falcons are in their second season in the AHA and won the AHA title in their first year (2006-07). Air Force was 3-0 last season with wins over Holy Cross in the quarterfinals, Sacred Heart in overtime in the semifinals and Army in the championship game last season. AFA was 4-0 this season after sweeping Bentley in the quarterfinals and then beating RIT and Mercyhurst this season. Air Force is 4-0 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
AFA All-Time in Conference Tourneys Air Force is 11-9 all-time in conference tournaments. The Falcons won four games in this seasons tournament and three last season. Air Force was a member of the College Hockey America conference for seven seasons from 1999-00 to 2005-06. The Falcons were 4-9 in the history of the CHA Tournament. The Falcons won one game in the first three CHA Tournaments, twice beating Findlay and once beating Niagara on its home ice. After consecutive seasons of losing the first game, the fifth-seeded Falcons earned a tournament victory in 2004-05 with an overtime win over fourth-seeded Wayne State, 4-3, in Grand Rapids, Minn. AFA lost to Robert Morris, 4-3, in the first round of the 2006 CHA tournament in Detroit.
AFA Set School Record with 21 Division I Wins Air Force's 21 Division I wins this season are the most in school history. The 21 wins are the third-most overall in school history. The 1971-72 team won 25 games while the 1974-75 team won 24. The previous record for Division I wins was 19 set last season. The 21 wins are the most in 11 years under Frank Serratore.
Winning Season Clinched Air Force has clinched a winning season for the second consecutive season. The Falcons are 21-11-6 overall this season. Head coach Frank Serratore has led the Falcons to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in his 11 years. It also marks the first time in 18 years (1988-89 and 1989-90) that Air Force has had consecutive winning seasons.
Ehn Injury Update -- Practicing and Upgraded to Questionable Air Force senior center Eric Ehn, a 2007 All-American and one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, has been upgraded to questionable for the NCAA Tournament due to an injury suffered vs. Colorado College, Jan. 19, at the Colorado Springs World Arena. Ehn was skating down the slot with Tiger Bill Sweatt and was taken down on the play. He then slid into the end boards feet first. Ehn suffered a fractured left fibula (the smaller of the two shin bones) and some ligament damage in the left ankle. Ehn had surgery on Jan. 22 to stabilize the ankle joint. During surgery, a pin was placed in the ankle to hold the joint in place. His cast was removed Feb. 5 and began rehabilitation. He skated for the first time on Friday, March 7 and has been practicing with the team.
Falcons on All-Conference Team Air Force had two players on the all-conference teams. Junior defenseman Greg Flynn was a second-team selection while senior center Eric Ehn was a third-team choice. Flynn, a defenseman from Lino Lakes, Minn., is second in the league and fourth in the nation in points by a defenseman with 30 points (8-22-30). His +15 is tied for the team lead and best among the Falcon defensemen. He was named the AHA Player of the Week, Oct. 22, the first league honor of his career, when he scored three points (1-2-3) in AFA's sweep of 14th-ranked Quinnipiac. Flynn is one of just four defensemen in the nation to have 30 or more points and is the first Falcon defenseman with 30 or more points since Beau Bilek had 37 points in 1994-95. He had four points in the AHA quarterfinal series vs. Bentley, March 7-9, to help Air Force advance to the AHA Final Five. Ehn, a center from Dexter, Mich., is an assistant captain and ranks seventh in the AHA in points per game with 1.04 (25 points in 24 games). He is also third in the AHA and tied for 13th in the nation in assists per game with 0.79 (19 in 24 games). Before suffering a leg injury vs. Colorado College, he led the league in assists and was second in points. Fifteen of his 19 assists this season have been first assists. He was the AHA Player of the Week when he scored five points in the Holy Cross series. He has missed the last 12 games with a fractured left fibula and ligament damage in his left ankle suffered in the Colorado College. Ehn ranks 11th in career scoring at the Academy with 145 points in 130 career games. He has scored more points than any other Falcon in the last 22 years.
Falcons on the All-Tournament Team Three Falcons earned all-tournament honors at the AHA Final Five. Junior Brent Olson was on the team and was also the tournament's most valuable player. He led all scorers with five points (3-2-5), including two goals in the semifinal win over RIT. Defenseman Matt Charbonneau had three points in the tournament with three assists in the win over RIT. He was also a +2 and had seven shots. Sophomore goalie Andrew Volkening was the all-tournament goaltender for the second straight year. He earned two wins and had a 1.70 GAA and a .948 saves percentage, including a shutout win over RIT in the semifinals. He also had a career-high 49 saves in the championship game. One player who was not selected to the team was junior winger Josh Frider. Frider had four points (2-2-4) in the tournament. He tied the championship game vs. Mercyhurst with a goal in the third period to force overtime. He then scored the game winner 56 seconds into the second overtime.
The Air Force -- Not the Bus Force Over the last two years, Air Force has been the best road team in Atlantic Hockey. Air Force's 10 Division I victories away from home (road and neutral) this season tie the school record set last season. AFA's 20 Division I road wins are the most in back-to-back years in school history. The 10 road wins are the second most in school history and the most since AFA won 11 road games in 1971-72 (mostly against non-Division I teams).
Seeing Double The last two seasons mark the two best years in 40 seasons of Air Force hockey. The Falcons have won back-to-back league championships, played in consecutive NCAA Tournaments and have won a school record 40 games in two season. Of the 40 wins, 20 have come at home and 20 on the road.
Special Teams Greatly Improved
In the last nine games, Air Force's penalty kill is at 93.3 percent (48-52) and the power-play is a 26.7 percent (16-60). Air Force has scored at least one power-play goal in each of the last seven games and in 11 of the last 13. The Falcons had killed 32 of the last 34 opponent power plays. AFA had killed 30 consecutive opponent power plays until Mercyhurst scored a 5-on-3 goal in the second period of the championship game.