Falcons face top-seeded Minnesota in NCAA West Regional
March 21, 2007
This Week: Air Force (19-15-5 overall) enters the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. The Falcons are the No. 4 seed in the West Regional at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. Air Force faces top-seeded Minnesota (30-9-3) on Saturday, March 24, at 1:30 p.m. MT.
Playoff 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. Fans can purchase single-session tickets at www.ticketmaster.com
Radio/ Internet: All of Air Force's remaining games can be heard on the internet at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com and in Colorado Springs on ESPN 1300 AM The Sports Animal. Jay Ritchie, in his 10th season of Air Force hockey and 19th season of Falcon athletics, will do the play-by-play. Dave Toller will do the color. The pregame show begins 20 minutes prior to faceoff.
The Big Dance: The Falcons will make their first ever trip "The Big Dance" when the team takes on Minnesota, Saturday, March 24. Air Force is the first service academy team to ever compete in the NCAA Hockey Tournament.
The Bracket: The West Regional bracket is considered by many to be the strongest field in the 16-team tournament. The region features three of the top eight teams in the nation (USCHO/CSTV poll). AFA plays top-seeded/No. 2 ranked Minnesota in the first semifinal game. No. 3 seed/ No. 6 ranked North Dakota faces No. 2 seed / No. 8 ranked Michigan. The four teams have combined for 21 national titles.
First Conference Championship: Air Force's 6-1 win over Army in the AHA championship game gave the Falcons their first ever conference championship. The Falcons had never advanced past the semifinals in any of the seven previous conference tournaments.
Scouting the Gophers: Minnesota is 30-9-3 overall this season. The Gophers won the WCHA regular season and Final Five titles. Minnesota earned a No. 1 seed for the sixth consecutive year and is making its nation's-best 31st NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gophers feature 14 players who have been drafted, led by freshman defenseman Erik Johnson who was the No. 1 overall pick of the St. Louis Blues 2006. Blake Wheeler, Kyle Okposo and David Fischer were also first-round picks. Freshman forward Jay Barriball leads the team with 41 points. Okposo has 39 points while Wheeler has 38, Alex Goligoski has 35. The Gophers have nine freshmen and five sophomores on the team. Kellen Briggs and Jeff Frazee have split time in the nets. Briggs, a senior from Colorado Springs, has a 2.10 GAA and a .918 saves percentage with a 16-7-2 record. Frazee, a sophomore from Burnsville, Minn., has a 2.34 GAA and a .901 saves percentage with a 14-2-1 record. The Gophers are third in the nation in scoring offense (3.69), sixth in scoring defense (2.26) and seventh in the nation in power play with 20.6.
Series Record: Air Force and Minnesota have never played.
The Coaches: Air Force coach Frank Serratore (Bemidji State, 1982) is in his 10th season at Air Force and his 14th as a collegiate head coach. He has a 149-188-24 record at AFA and an overall mark of 198-280-33. Minnesota coach Don Lucia is in his seventh season with the Gophers with a school record of 182-86-24. He has an overall record of 471-241-53.
Interesting Matchups: The Air Force-Minnesota game brings some interesting matchups. Both teams rank in the top 15 in the nation in scoring. Minnesota averages 3.69 goals per game to rank third while AFA ranks 14th with 3.31. Air Force has three players with 40 or more points. Minnesota has just one player over 40, but has six players with more than 30 points. Minnesota is seventh in the nation in power play percentage (20.6) while Air Force's penalty kill is 54th (79.6). AFA's top line of Ramsey, Ehn and Phillipich have 62 goals and 154 points. Minnesota's top scoring line of Barriball, Wheeler and Gordon have 48 goals and 110 points.
The Lucia-Serratore Connection: To say that Don Lucia and Frank Serratore know each other is a gross understatement. Serratore, 49, grew up in Coleraine, Minn., on the "Iron Range". Lucia, 47, also has roots to northern Minnesota, growing up in Grand Rapids, just seven miles from Coleraine.
Conference Awards: Two Falcons earned all-Atlantic Hockey Association honors at the AHA Banquet, March 15, in Rochester, N.Y. Eric Ehn was named the league's player of the year and was a first-team all-league selection. Andrew Ramsey earned second-team honors.
Ehn A Percentage Point Back of National Scoring Lead: Junior center Eric Ehn is .01 out of the national scoring lead entering the NCAA Tournament. Ehn is averaging 1.64 points per game while Michigan's T.J. Hensick has 1.65. Ehn has 64 points in 39 games while Hensick has 66 points in 40 games. Ehn is also 13th in the nation in goals per game (0.62) and second in assists per game (1.03). He has led the nation in points in 14 of the last 18 weeks. Ehn has scored in 31 of the 39 games this season and has 18 multiple-point games and eight multiple-goal games.
Ehn a Hobey Finalist: Eric Ehn has become Air Force's first ever finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and the first ever service academy player to be among the elite 10. The top three for the Hobey Baker award, the "Hobey Hat Trick" will be announced March 28. The winner will be announced on April 6 at the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Louis. Ehn is currently ranked fifth on the CSTV.com Hobey Baker watch list. Ehn first appeared on the CSTV list on Jan. 3 and was No. 10. He has been between fifth and 10th in the last eight weeks.
Vote for the Hobey: The second phase of the fan voting is underway and Ehn is the top vote-getter. He has 33 percent of the vote (more than 26,000 votes). He has more than twice as many votes as the other nine candidates. The closest player to Ehn is Notre Dame goaltender David Brown who has 16 percent of the vote (a little more than 13,000). Fans can vote for the Hobey by going to the official web-site at www.HobeyBaker.com.
Winning Streak Second Best in Nation: AFA's six-game winning streak is the second-longest in the nation. The Falcons won the second game vs. Canisius, Feb. 17, swept at AIC and then beat Holy Cross, Sacred Heart and Army in the AHA Tournament. Boston College has the nation's longest winning streak at 10 games.
Six-Game Division I Winning Streak Best in School History: Air Force's six-game Division I winning streak is the longest in school history. It is the longest against all teams since a six-game winning streak (including two Division III victories) in 1997. The school record winning streak is 10 games set in 1975.
Road Warriors: Air Force has 10 Division I victories away from home (road and neutral combined) to set a new school record. The previous record of nine was set twice, most recently in 2005-06. 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).
The Flynns from Lino Lakes, Minn.: Air Force defenseman Greg Flynn is the older brother of Minnesota forward Ryan Flynn. Ryan, a freshman who played for the U.S. National Development Team and is a draft pick of the Nashville Predators, has 13 points (5-8-13) in 41 games and is a +13. He is second on the team in penalty minutes (54). Greg, a sophomore who played junior hockey for the Billings Bulls of the NAHL, has 14 points in 38 games (1-13-14).
Minnesota Boys: Air Force has 10 players who are from Minnesota: Greg Flynn (Lino Lakes), Brian Reese (Brainerd), Josh Frider (Moorhead), Jay Medenwaldt (Monticello), Brandon Johnson (Duluth), David Martinson (St. Louis Park), Matt Charbonneau (Stillwater), Brett Nylander (Baudette), Ben Worker (Thief River Falls) and Bryan Becker (Moorhead).
Last Week: Air Force won the AHA Tournament and earned the team's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament with a 5-4 overtime win over Sacred Heart in the semifinals and a 6-1 win over Army in the title game, March 16-17, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.