Falcons open season with Alberta exhibition, Oct. 5
Oct. 1, 2008
The back-to-back Atlantic Hockey Association champion Air Force Falcons will open the 2008-09 season with an exhibition game against the University of Alberta, Sunday, Oct. 5, at 5:05 p.m. at the Cadet Ice Arena. There will be no admission charged for this event and this will be the only exhibition game of the season. Alberta is playing at Denver on Saturday, Oct. 4, and then at Colorado College, Monday, Oct. 6. Air Force opens the regular-season on the road as the team travels to Milford, Conn., for a two-game league series with Sacred Heart, Oct. 10-11. The first regular-season home series is Oct. 17-18 vs. Bemidji State at the Cadet Ice Arena.
Atlantic Hockey Preseason Poll
The back-to-back Atlantic Hockey Association champion Air Force Falcons were the preseason choice by the league’s coaches to win the AHA in 2008-09, as announced at the AHA annual media day at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. Being the coaches’ choice to win the league is a first for Air Force hockey. The Falcons collected seven of the possible nine first-place votes and 79 of the possible 81 total points in the poll. Mercyhurst was picked to finish second with one first-place vote and 70 points. RIT collected the other two first-place votes and 68 total points to finish third in the poll. Sacred Heart was fourth (55 points) followed by Army in fifth (40). Holy Cross was sixth (38), Canisius was seventh (34), UConn was eighth (29), Bentley was ninth (26) and AIC was 10th (11 points). The poll is on page two of this release. “I think that based on what we have done the last two years and what we have coming back, we were the logical choice in the preseason poll,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “However, I’m certainly not calling Jostens to order our rings just yet. This league is going to be tougher than it has ever been. I don’t think the top end is going to be any better than it has in the past, but the teams that were at the bottom of the standings have elevated and all have good classes coming in. In my opinion, we are the favorite in a tightly bundled group.”
Preseason National Poll
Air Force was among the other veceiving votes in the preseason USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national poll, coming in at No. 20. This marks the second straight season, and the second time in school history, that Air Force received votes in the preseason poll. AFA was also 20th last season in the same poll last season. In the final poll at the end of the 2007-08 season, Air Force was No. 20 in the USCHO/CSTV poll and No. 16 in the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Air Force finished the 2007-08 season with a 21-12-6 overall record. The Falcons won the Atlantic Hockey Association championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. Air Force finished third in the AHA with a 14-9-5 record. The Falcons were the third seed in the AHA Tournament. AFA swept Bentley in the quarterfinals, then defeated RIT in the semifinals before edging fifth-seeded Mercyhurst, 5-4, in double overtime.
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
Air Force made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and for the second consecutive time, lost a one-goal game to one of the top teams in the nation. In 2007, Air Force led Minnesota, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, 3-1, with just over eight minutes left. The Gophers came back for a 4-3 win. Last season saw the Falcons take Miami, the overall No. 2 seed in the tournament, into overtime, before falling, 3-2. AFA led 2-1 with seven minutes left in the third period. Miami tied the game on the power play and then won the game just under five minutes into the extra period.
AFA has won back-to-back AHA titles and earned consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament
AFA fell to second-ranked Miami in overtime, 3-2, at the NCAA Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.
Frank Serratore has led Air Force to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 18 years
AFA’s 21 wins were the most Division I victories in school history
AFA has won a school record 40 games the last two years (20 at home and 20 on the road)
AFA had four players with 10 or more goals and seven players with 25 or more points last season
Greg Flynn was fifth in the nation in points by a defenseman with 31 points and earned second-team all-AHA honors.
Andrew Volkening played every minute in the nets in the last 22 games. He was 10th in the nation in GAA at 2.08 and had a .911 saves percentage. Both marks set new school records
Volkening was named to the all-tournament team at the NCAA Northeast Regional, the first Falcon to ever earn the honor, and was selected as the team’s MVP
AFA was eighth in the nation in scoring offense and 12th in the nation in scoring defense
The top six scorers and 11 of the top 13 will return for the 2008-09 season. Also, four of the team’s top six defensemen and starting goaltender all return. Junior Andrew Volkening played every minute in the second half of the season and set new school records with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .911 saves percentage. Senior Greg Flynn, a second-team all-conference defenseman last season, returns to lead the defensive corps along with returners Michael Mayra, Brett Nylander and Brad Sellers. Those four defensemen did not miss a game during the season. Senior Brent Olson and junior Jeff Hajner tied for the team lead with 38 points. Flynn, who ranked fifth in the nation in scoring by a defenseman, had 31 points. Junior Matt Fairchild had 29, senior Josh Frider had 27 and sophomore Derrick Burnett had 26. Air Force returns 84 percent of its goal scoring (109 of 130) and 80 percent of its points (294 of 366) from last season.
The Falcons added seven newcomers to the roster this season. Sophomore Jacques Lamoureux was on the team last season, but unable to play due to NCAA transfer rules. The Grand Forks, N.D., native played at Northern Michigan in 2006-07. The Falcons add six freshmen to the mix this season, three defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender. Three of the six freshmen come from the USHL. Defensemen Mark Williams (Potsdam, N.Y./Cornwall Colts/CJHL), Scott Mathis (Cyrstal Lake, Ill./Cedar Rapids Rough Riders/USHL) and Tim Kirby (Austin, Minn./Southern Minnesota Express/NAHL) will look to fill some holes in the Falcon defense due to graduation. Forwards Paul Weisgarber (Fargo, N.D./Waterloo Blackhawks/USHL) and Greg Burgdoerfer (Setauket, N.Y./Des Moines Bucaneers/USHL) along with goaltender Stephen Caple (Rice Lake, Wis./Westside Warriors/BCJHL) will all battle for playing time.
The 2008-09 schedule has the Falcons playing 17 regular-season games at home and 17 on the road. Air Force plays nine home games before the holiday break and eight home games after. Air Force will again play 28 conference games, 14 at home and 14 on the road. The home schedule is highlighted by national power Colorado College on Nov. 28 and a two-game league series with Army, Jan. 23-24. AFA ends the regular-season on the road at RIT, Feb. 27-28.
New League Playoff Format
The AHA has adopted a new playoff format for the 2008-09 season. The first round of the playoffs will be a single-game play-in, Saturday, March 7, between the No. 7, No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10 seeds. No. 7 will host No. 10 and No. 8 will host No. 9. The winners will advance to the AHA quarterfinals, March 13-15. The bottom four seeds will travel to the top four seeds for a best of three series. The four winners will advance to Rochester, N.Y., for the AHA Final Four. The winner of the Final Four will represent the AHA in the NCAA Tournament.
Volkening Returns After Record-Setting Season
Junior goaltender Andrew Volkening set four school records during the 2007-08 season. His season goals-against average (2.09) and saves percentage (.911) set new school records. The previous record for saves percentage was .907 set by Marc Kielkucki in 2000-01. The previous record for GAA in a season was set by Ben Worker with a 2.25 in 2006-07. Volkening also set a new school record with 21 Division I wins. He set a new school record with a shutout streak vs. Division I teams. From Feb. 9-23, he blanked Mercyhurst and Canisius for 133 consecutive minutes. In his last 21 games after an 8-2 loss to Boston College, he allowed more than three goals just three times and all three went into overtime (a 4-3 overtime loss to RIT, a 4-4 tie with Bentley and a 5-4 double overtime win over Mercyhurst in the AHA Championship Game). Beginning with the 2-2 tie with then-12th ranked Minnesota, Dec. 30, Volkening had a 1.79 goals-against average and a .921 saves percentage in his last 21 games. In the nine-game unbeaten streak entering the NCAA Tournament, he had a 1.27 GAA and a .940 saves percentage. He ranked 10th in the nation in goals-against average.
Junior winger Mike Phillipich will wear the “C” in 2008-09, his second straight season as the captain. Senior winger Brent Olson and junior center Jeff Hajner will be assistant captains. Serratore is All-Time Winningest Coach at AFA Head coach Frank Serratore is the all-time winningest coach in the history of Air Force hockey. Serratore earned his 155th victory with a 3-2 win over UConn, Nov. 16. Serratore passed Chuck Delich (1986-97) and John Matchefts (1975-85) who each won 154 games at Air Force. Delich earned 154 wins in 12 seasons. Matchefts collected 154 wins in 11 years. Serratore’s 155th win came in just over 10 full seasons. Serratore reached two milestones in the Quinnipiac series. The win on Friday was his 150th at the Academy. The win on Saturday was his 200th as a collegiate head coach. He finished the 2007-08 season with 170 wins at Air Force and 219 as a college head coach. Returning All-Conference Player Air Force had two players on the all-conference teams, defenseman Greg Flynn was a second-team selection while senior center Eric Ehn (graduated) was a third-team choice. Flynn, a senior this season from Lino Lakes, Minn., was second in the league and fifth in the nation in points by a defenseman with 31 points (8-23-31). His +15 tied for the team lead and was 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 six 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. 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.