No. 15 Falcons face No. 3 Michigan in NCAA Tournament
March 26, 2009
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This Week No. 4 seed Air Force (27-10-2, 20-6-2 AHA) makes its third straight trip to the NCAA Regionals, this time facing No. 1 seed Michigan (29-11-0, 20-8 CCHA) at the NCAA East Regional, Friday, March 27, at 3:05 p.m. ET at the Arena at Harbor Yards in Bridgeport, Conn. No 2 seed Yale (24-7-2, 15-5-2 ECAC) faces No. 3 seed Vermont (20-11-5, 15-8-4 Hockey East) Friday, March 27, at 6:35 p.m. ET. The winners meet in the regional final on Saturday, March 28, at 5:30 p.m. ET. Tickets for the East Regional are available by phone at 1-800-666-USAF or online at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com. Tickets for all three games are $75.
Television The Air Force-Michigan game will be televised live on ESPNU Friday at 3:05 p.m. The regional final will also be on ESPNU. ESPNU is available on DirecTV channel 614 and on Dish Network channel 148. ESPNU is not available on Comcast in Colorado Springs.
Radio/Internet All games will be broadcast live in Colorado Springs on KCSF AM 1300 and on the internet at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com by clicking on this link http://goairforcefalcons.cstv.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/m-hockey-live-audio.html. The pregame show begins 20 minutes prior to faceoff. Jay Ritchie will call the play-by-play while Dave Toller will provide the analysis.
The Big Dance
The Falcons will make their third consecutive trip to "The Big Dance". It is also the third trip to NCAA Tournament in the 41 years of hockey at the Air Force Academy. Air Force is the first service academy team to ever compete in the NCAA Hockey Tournament.
One of Six Air Force is one of just six teams in the nation to go to three straight NCAA Tournaments, joining North Dakota, New Hampshire, Notre Dame, Michigan and Miami. The Falcons are the only team in the field to win three straight conference tournament titles.
Rankings Air Force is currently 14th in the PairWise. The Falcons are ranked 18th in the USCHO/CBS College Sports poll and No. 15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Michigan is ranked No.3 in both polls. Yale is No. 5 in both polls. Vermont is No. 10 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and No. 11 in the USCHO/CBS College Sports poll. Michigan is No. 3 in the PairWise while Yale is No. 5 and Vermont is No. 9.
AFA in the NCAA Tournament Air Force is 0-2 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. Last season, Air Force was the No. 4 seed in the Northeast Regional and fell to No. 1 seed (No. 2 overall in the tournament), Miami, 3-2 in overtime. Miami tied the game midway through the third period and then won at 15:21 of overtime.
Series Record AFA and Michigan have only met once in the history of the two programs. Michigan defeated Air Force, 7-6 in overtime, in the Flint Tournament in Flint, Mich., Dec. 27, 1973.
Air Force vs. the CCHA The matchup with Michigan marks the second consecutive season that the Falcons will face a team from the CCHA in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Miami came from behind for a 3-2 overtime win over Air Force in the 2008 NCAA Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. The Falcons made their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007 when Minnesota overcame a 3-1 deficit with eight minutes remaining in the third period to defeat Air Force, 4-3, in regulation. Air Force's last win over a team from the CCHA was a 2-0 win over Miami at the Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage, Alaska in 2003.
Scouting the Opponent Michigan is 29-11 overall and fell to Notre Dame in the CCHA Championship Game, 5-2. The Wolverines have won 14 of their last 17 games with their only losses to Notre Dame (twice) and Ohio State, both tournament teams. Michigan has been to 32 NCAA Tournaments, including 19 straight. The Wolverines own nine national championships and have played in 23 Frozen Fours.
Michigan Connections Despite the teams only playing once in the hockey history of the two programs, there are several major connections between the schools. Air Force's first head coach Vic Heyliger took the Falcon program from the club level to the Division I level. He coached the Falcons for six seasons and earned an 85-77-3 record from 1969-74. Prior to coming to Air Force, he spent 13 seasons at his alma mater, Michigan, and won six national championships while collecting a 228-61-13 record from 1944-57. One of Heyliger's most decorated players was John Matchefts, a two-time All-American, played on three of those national championship team from 1951-53. Matchefts served as Heyliger's assistant at Air Force from 1972-74 and served the Falcons' head coach from 1975-85. He won 154 games, a record that was broken by Frank Serratore. While Heyliger was the recruiting coordinator at Michigan, he recruited a football player from Charlevoix, Mich., named Jim Bowman. A football letterman at Michigan, Bowman came to the Air Force Academy as a football coach and later became the associate athletic director for recruiting. He spent 49 years at the Air Force Academy.
Lamoureux Named a Hobey Finalist Air Force sophomore center Jacques Lamoureux was named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given each year to college hockey's top player. The top 10 Hobey finalists advance to the Selection Committee, which decides the eventual winner. This committee is composed of print media, electronic media, NHL scouts, the American Hockey Coaches Association (college hockey coaches), a member from USA Hockey and from the second-round of online fan voting at HobeyBaker.com. Lamoureux is the second Air Force player in school history, and the second in the last three years, to be named a finalist. Eric Ehn was a finalist, and also named to the Hobey Hat Trick as one of three finalists, in 2007. Lamoureux leads the nation with 32 goals, 15 power-play goals and nine game-winning goals. He is currently second in the nation with 1.38 points per game (32-20-52) and 52 points. Lamoureux is also the second service academy hockey player ever selected as a Hobey finalist, which was first awarded in 1981 to Minnesota's Neal Broten.
Quotes from the press conference
Opening statement from Head Coach Frank Serratore "It's great to be back in the tournament. It's great to be here in Bridgeport. We enjoy coming here. There's great competition and great restaurants. Hopefully we can follow that up with a great performance against Michigan."
On what a NCAA win would mean for the program: "First of all, this group of young men has accomplished a lot. They've put the Air Force hockey program on the map. We've won four championships within the league (Atlantic Hockey) - three playoff and one regular season. Within the last couple of years we've beaten Denver when they were No. 3 in the country (last year)...and Colorado College (this year). When you look at Coach Serratore's bucket list, these guys have eliminated a lot of items."
"Coming to the tournament three straight years and having heartbreaking losses the last two, it's not just about getting to the tournament now. Winning a game is something that we'd like to accomplish, but when you're a No. 4 seed, there are no easy draws in the NCAA Tournament.
"If we have some unfinished business, it's finding a way to slay Goliath. We get another shot on Friday."
"The biggest thing is the attitude. When we played Minnesota the first year, there was nothing tangible in our history that showed that we could beat Minnesota. Obviously, you believe, but there was nothing tangible. (Since then), we've won three championships within our league. Right now, coming in, we have some tangible history to draw from. We like to think as a group that if we can beat Denver when they were the No. 3 team in the country and they go on to win the WCHA, then why can't we beat Michigan when they are No. 3 in the country."
Thoughts on the Michigan team: "I watched their film last night and it was not a good move because then I didn't sleep. Michigan has extraordinary skill and speed for a college team. As a group, I think we skate well. We played Yale they skated very well. But as a group, this Michigan team has to be the fastest group in country. That's big reason why they are No. 3 in the country,are ranked as high as they are and have done as well as they've done.
"When you come in play anyone in the tournament, let alone a No. 1 seed, you've got your work cut out for you. We can't stop Michigan's speed with the way that the new rules are. The only thing that we can hope to do is contain it. That's going to be big part of our game plan.
On having the two programs that Vic Heyliger was associated with playing each other: "Vic Heyliger was the first coach at the Air Force Academy. It's an interesting story. Vic coached Michigan to six national championships. Back then, the Frozen Four was at the Broadmoor World Arena (in Colorado Springs). Vic's teams were so good and he liked it so much that he decided to retire here. Vic in many respects can be looked at as the father of Michigan and Air Force hockey."
What has to go right to win? "We have to hang in there, just like Notre Dame did against Michigan in (CCHA Tournament) title game at Joe Louis (Arena). I watched the film and Michigan dominated for two, two and a half periods. Notre Dame hung around and manufactured a bounce, another bounce, and then Michigan gets a little tight.
"We've got to get to the third period. You're not going to win many games in the first period, but you can lose it there. We've got to keep the score close. The later the game goes, the pendulum can swing our way a little bit. They've got a heck of a team...If we can keep it close and get to the third period like we did the last two years, then we've got a chance."
"We have a resilient bunch that has overcome lot adversity at our own level. We've been behind in games. There are two attributes that you have to have to get here to the NCAA Tournament. To be a champion, you have to have the ability to come from behind and win on the road. We've been very good at doing both of that over the last few years. I would venture to guess that if look at all teams here, they all posses those attributes...Especially in collegiate sports, where you're one and done, you either acquire those attributes in your body of work or you don't. If you do, then you've got a good chance to be here. If not, then you're probably watching ESPN."
Senior forward Brent Olson General thoughts: "I think that the last couple of seasons we have proved that we can not only play with bigger schools, but can beat them too. Friday, we get another chance. Like coach said, we'll go out and take our swings and see where chips fall