Falcons to face Miami in NCAA Northeast Regional, March 29
March 25, 2008
The Scoop Air Force (21-11-6 overall), winners of the Atlantic Hockey Association, makes its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The fourth-seeded Falcons face the top-seeded Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (32-7-1), the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. The teams meet in the NCAA Northeast Regional at the DCU Center (Capacity 14,800) in Worcester, Mass., Saturday, March 29, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN U. The winner advances to the regional final, Sunday, March 30, at 4:30 p.m. to face the winner of the Boston College-Minnesota game. The regional final will be televised live on ESPN U. The winner of the regional final advances to the Frozen Four in Denver, April 10-12, at Pepsi Center.
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 30 minutes prior to faceoff each night. All NCAA Regional games are telecast on by the ESPN family of networks. The Air Force-Miami game will be televised live on ESPN U, marking the third time this season Air Force has been on national television.
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.
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 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.
Slap Shots * Air Force's nine-game unbeaten streak is the longest in the nation (8-0-1) * AFA has outscored its opponents, 43-12, in during the streak * Since getting swept at Army, AFA is 9-1-2 * AFA has won back-to-back AHA titles and earned consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament * AFA is 0-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Minnesota, 4-3, last season in Denver * Frank Serratore has led Air Force to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 18 years * AFA's 21 wins are the most Division I victories in school history * Eric Ehn is a game-time decision, recovering from fractured fibula and ligament damage, Jan. 19 * AFA has won a school record 40 games the last two years (20 at home and 20 on the road) * AFA has four players with 10 or more goals and seven players with 25 or more points * Greg Flynn is fourth in the nation in points by a defenseman with 31 points * Brent Olson leads the team with 18 goals and 38 points. * Jeff Hajner has 15 goals and 37 points * Andrew Volkening has played every minute in the nets in the last 21 games. He is 10th in the nation in GAA at 2.08 and has a school-record .912 saves percentage * AFA is eighth in the nation in scoring offense and 12th in the nation in scoring defense
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.
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.
All-American (Almost) While many college hockey players come from Canada, the Northeast Regional will feature some of the best talent from the United States. There are just five Canadian players in the entire regional among the four teams combined. Air Force's 28-man roster is All-American as, after graduation, they will enter the United States Air Force. Miami has just two Canadian players on the 27-man roster. In the AFA-Miami game, 53 of the 55 players will be from the United States. Boston College has just three Canadian players on their 23-man roster. All 24 Gophers are from Minnesota. In total, there are 97 players from the United States of the 102 players in the regional.
Series Records The Falcons have played Miami twice all-time and are 1-1 vs. the RedHawks. The teams have not met since the 2003-04 season. The teams first met in the season opener of the 2002-03 season and Miami defeated Air Force, 12-1, in the first game of the Lefty McFadden Tournament, Oct. 4, 2002, in Dayton, Ohio. The next season, Air Force beat 21st-ranked Miami, 2-0, in the consolation game of the Nye Frontier Classic, Oct. 18, 2003, in Anchorage, Alaska. Air Force and Minnesota have met twice in the last 372 days after never having played before. The teams first met in the NCAA West Regional in Denver and the Gophers came from behind for a 4-3 win. AFA led 3-1 with just over eight minutes remaining. The teams played earlier this season in the consolation game of the Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis and skated to a 2-2 overtime tie. Brent Olson scored both goals for Air Force, including the game-tying goal after Air Force pulled the goaltender with 1:02 remaining. Boston College and Air Force have played five times and the Eagles have won all five meetings. Most recently, BC beat AFA, 8-2, in the first game of the Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. BC scored three in the first and three in the second for a 6-0 lead entering the third period. The loss was the worst Air Force has suffered since 2004. Nathan Gerbe had four points (1-3-4) for the Eagles.
The Coaches Air Force coach Frank Serratore (Bemidji State, 1982) is in his 11th season with the Falcons and his 15th as a collegiate head coach. He has an Air Force record of 170-200-30. His overall mark is 219-292-39. Miami coach Enrico Blasi (Miami, 1994) is in his ninth season with the RedHawks with a school and overall record of 186-137-28. Boston College is led by legendary coach Jerry York (Boston College, 1967) who is in his 14th season at BC and his 36th overall as a collegiate head coach. He has a 332-180-450 record at BC and a 799-515-84 record overall. He ranks second in all-time coaching victories and has the most among active coaches. Minnesota coach Don Lucia (Notre Dame, 1981) is in his ninth season with the Gophers and his 21st overall as a collegiate head coach. He has a 239-112-38 record at UM and a 518-267-67 record overall. He ranks third in career winning percentage and seventh in career victories among active coaches.
Scouting the Opponents The Miami RedHawks (32-7-1 overall) finished second in the CCHA and lost to top-seeded Michigan, 2-1, in the CCHA championship game, Saturday, March 23. The RedHawks spent the majority of the season ranked first or second in the nation. Miami had won seven straight before losing in the championship game. A look at the national stats will show the RedHawks at the top of nearly every category. Miami is the top scoring team in the nation, averaging 4.08 goals per game, and is second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 1.80 goals per game The RedHawks' penalty kill is first in the nation at 89.6 percent. Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, a draft choice of the Los Angeles Kings, ranks first in the nation in saves percentage at .934 and is second in goals-against average at 1.67. The team also boasts the nation's top rookie scorer in freshman Carter Camper (1.23 points per game). Ryan Jones leads the nation in goals scored with 30 and is tied for the national lead with seven game-winners. The RedHawks have six players with 30 or points and have six NHL draft choices. One of the draft choices, Justin Mercier, was a sixth-round draft choice of the Colorado Avalanche. Mercier is second on the team with 24 goals and 39 points. The team also has six players who are 6-foot-2 or taller, including two that are 6-foot-6. Boston College (21-11-8) won the Hockey East Tournament with a 4-0 win over Vermont. The Eagles needed triple overtime to beat top-seeded New Hampshire, 5-4, in the semifinals. BC has won five straight after a five-game winless skid in prior to the playoffs. Nathan Gerbe is one of the most dynamic players in college hockey and leads the nation in scoring with 1.46 points per game (57 points in 39 games). Freshman Joe Whitney leads the nation with 39 assists and is second in the nation in rookie scoring with 1.18 points per game. Freshman John Muse has played every minute in the net this season and has a .919 saves percentage and a 2.26 GAA to rank 20th in the nation in both categories. The Eagles are fourth in the nation in scoring offense (3.52) and 12th in scoring defense (2.35). They also rank seventh in the nation in power-play percentage at 22.1. The Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-16-9) are the third seed in the Northeast Regional. The Gophers are 7-3-2 in their last 12 games and needed double overtime to defeat Minnesota State in the third game of the WCHA quarterfinals to reach the league Final Five. After upsetting top-seeded Colorado College, 2-1 in overtime, the Gophers fell to Denver, 2-1, in the championship game. In nine days from March 14-22, Minnesota played six games and just under 23 periods of hockey, including overtimes. UM has been to overtime 16 times this season, 13 in the second half of the year. Blake Wheeler leads the team with 15 goals and 34 points. Freshman Alex Kangas has emerged as the team's top goaltender with a .932 saves percentage and a 1.92 GAA to rank fifth in the nation in both categories. The Gophers are 43rd in the nation in scoring offense (2.43) and 16th in scoring defense (2.36). Minnesota is 52nd in the nation in power play at 12.7 percent and seventh in penalty kill at 87.3.
Common Opponents Air Force and Miami have both played Canisius this season. Miami won both games, 4-0 and 11-1, in Oxford. AFA played Canisius four times and had a 2-0-2 record vs. the Golden Griffins. The teams skated to back-to-back 3-3 overtime ties at the Academy in December. AFA then swept Canisius, 3-0 and 4-3, in Buffalo, Feb. 22-23. AFA outscored Canisius, 13-9, this season. Air Force and Boston College have both faced RIT. BC beat RIT, 6-0, Dec. 30. AFA was 3-2 vs. RIT this season. The teams split the series at each site. AFA then beat RIT, 5-0, in the AHA semifinals. AFA out-scored RIT, the No. 2 seed in the AHA, 18-11, this season. Air Force and Minnesota have both faced Denver, Colorado College and RIT this season. Minnesota was 1-2 vs. Colorado College, 0-3-1 vs. Denver and 0-1 vs. RIT for a combined 1-6-1 record. Air Force was 0-1 vs. Colorado College, 1-0 vs. Denver and 3-2 vs. RIT this season for a combined 4-3 record. All three losses were by one goal and two were in overtime.
The Air Force-Miami Connections Both Air Force and Miami have one player from the opposing team's home state. Air Force senior winger Josh Print is from Timberlake, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland and about 270 miles northeast of Oxford. Print went to high school at Lake Catholic in Mentor, Ohio and played his junior hockey in Billings, Mont. Miami junior defenseman Michael Findorff is from Colorado Springs, about 10 miles south of the Air Force Academy. Findorff was born in Long Beach, Calif., grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and played junior hockey in Springfield, Ill., and Indianapolis. Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was an assistant coach at the University of Denver and coached current Air Force assistant coach Mike Corbett from 1995-97.
The Air Force-Minnesota Connections There are numerous ties between Air Force and Minnesota. Air Force junior defenseman Greg Flynn is the older brother of Minnesota sophomore forward Ryan Flynn. The two played against each other in the NCAA West Regional last season. The two did not play against each other earlier this season in the Dodge Holiday Classic as Ryan was playing for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. Greg has played in 38 games and ranks fourth in the nation in scoring for a defenseman with 31 (8-23-31) points in 38 games. Ryan, a sixth-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators in 2006, has 15 points (4-11-15) in 37 games. To say that Don Lucia and Frank Serratore know each other is a gross understatement. Serratore, 50, grew up in Coleraine, Minn., on the "Iron Range". Lucia, 48, grew up in Grand Rapids, just seven miles from Coleraine. Air Force has 10 players on the roster from Minnesota: Bryan and Matt Becker and Josh Frider (Moorhead), Matt Charbonneau (Stillwater), Brandon Johnson and Scott Kozlak (Duluth), Greg Flynn (Lino Lakes), Tim Krystosek (Maple Grove) and Brett Nylander and Brent Olson (Baudette).
Is This the Mariucci Classic? Earlier this season, Air Force travelled to Minneapolis, Minn., for the annual Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena. Three of the four teams in the Northeast Regional, Air Force, Boston College and Minnesota were in the tournament. RIT was the fourth team. Boston College won the tournament with a 6-0 win over RIT in the championship game. Air Force and Minnesota tied in the consolation game, 2-2 in overtime.
Week Off - No Problem
Air Force is the only team in the Northeast Regional that did not play last week. The Falcons' last game was a 5-4 double overtime win over Mercyhurst, March 16, in the AHA Championship game. Back in mid-February, Air Force had a week off and the Falcons didn't miss a stride. Air Force's 7-0 win over Mercyhurst started the current nine-game unbeaten streak. Following the win on Feb. 9, AFA was off the weekend of Feb. 15-16. The next weekend, Air Force swept Canisius in Buffalo.