Falcons to face Miami in NCAA Tournament, March 29
March 28, 2008
AIR FORCE-MIAMI TO MEET IN NCAA NORTHEAST REGIONAL, MARCH 29
U.S.A.F. ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force, the fourth seed in the Northeast Regional in the NCAA Hockey Championships will face No. 1 seed Miami (Ohio), Saturday, March 29, at 4:05 p.m. ET at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The game will be televised on ESPN U.
Air Force, 21-11-6 overall, is making its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Falcons, the Atlantic Hockey Association champions, are 0-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament after losing a heartbreaker to top-seeded Minnesota, 4-3, in the NCAA West Regional in Denver last season.
The Falcons, the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, won the AHA Championship with a 5-4 double overtime victory over fifth-seeded Mercyhurst, March 16, in Rochester, N.Y.
Air Force senior center Eric Ehn will return to the lineup. Ehn has been sidelined since Jan. 19 when he suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage to his left ankle.
From Head Coach Frank Serrratore
`We are thrilled to be here. We had the opportunity to play in the NCAA's last year. A lot of people have asked if our experience we gained last season will help us this year. I don't think it will help us in this game because every game, every period, is different. But I really think our experience we gained last year helped us get here. The veteran players know what a big deal it is, how special of an opportunity it is playing in the NCAA Tournament, really helped us get here.
"We lost our highest ranking player Eric Ehn to an injury and as a team you decide to go one way or the other way. When you lose a player like Eric Ehn, the culture of your team changes. We struggled for a bit with a couple close losses and then all of the sudden we scored seven goals in one game. There were situations where Ehn was going over the boards for a big faceoff or a power play and now it was different people filling those roles. I think it took a while for our team to adjust. It ended up being a good thing because it proved to a lot of people that we were not a one-man band. We have a lot of good players. Accomplishing what we have and the run we have been on late, proves that our strength is not one player, it is our competitive depth. We have good players, determined players, very driven and with all the character attributes. When you play us, that is what you are playing against, not just one guy."
"Eric will play tomorrow. I don't expect him to single handedly lead us to promised land. I asked him, `can you be better than our 12th forward, can you keep up, can you win faceoffs, can you defend in our zone' and he felt like he could do that. That's good enough for me. If there was any way that he could be even close to playing, I want him in that game with me."
"We watched a lot of film on Miami and that would be categorized as a nightmare. They are a deep team and very well-coached. Obviously to win 30-plus games and to come out of the CCHA you have to do things right. You look at film to exploit weaknesses and we haven't been able to find any. They are very good and we need to hit on all cylinders and be very detailed in our game."
"The biggest challenge in front of us is maintaining what Atlantic Hockey teams have done in the tournament the last few years. I'll take you back a few years. Mercyhurst took Boston College into overtime. (Head Coach) Paul Pearl and Holy Cross slay the giant of Minnesota two years ago. Then we took Minnesota to the wire last season. Atlantic Hockey teams have done a very good job in representing the league in the NCAA Tournament. If there is pressure we feel, it is that the bar has been established. You can say what you want about the AHA. It's not Hockey East, its not the WCHA or the CCHA. Our league is cyclical. We don't have programs that reload every year, But I really believe the best team that is on the high cycle and the team that comes out of the AHA and CHA are teams that can play. We might not have the depth, but the best teams in our league are pretty darn good teams."
From senior center Eric Ehn "I'm ecstatic. It's been a tough ride for me, but my teammates have made it easy on me. I thank them, they have been great. I'm just happy to add to the team whatever I can. Right now, I'm the 12th forward going into the lineup and I'll at least take care of that. If I have more in the tank, I'll take care of that is the opportunity presents itself."
"I hope the ankle withstands the constant grind of playoff hockey. It will be different than during the season. There's a lot more corner work and it will be a matter of outwilling the other guy. Late in the game you could get tired and could be a half step slow. That's mostly what I'm worried about but it should be problem."
"The ankle feels pretty good. It is as good as can be expected right now. It's come along way in nine weeks so I'm happy where I'm at."