Falcons host first-place Sacred Heart in battle of top AHA teams
Nov. 28, 2006
This Week: Air Force (8-7-1, 5-2-1 AHA) hosts Sacred Heart University (9-4-2, 7-2-2 AHA) in a two-game Atlantic Hockey series, Friday-Saturday, Dec. 1-2. Friday's game is at 7:05 p.m. while Saturday's game is at 7:35 p.m.
Rankings: Air Force is unranked while Sacred Heart is receiving votes in both major polls.
Radio/Television/Internet: No radio/internet broadcast or television for the series. Live stats will be available at www.GoAirForceFalcons.com and go the hockey page and then the schedule.
Toy Trick: For the seventh consecutive year, the Air Force hockey team will help brighten the holiday season for area children. At the Sacred Heart series, Dec 1-2, fans can bring a new stuffed toy, wrapped in plastic, and when the Falcons score their first goal in each game, fans can throw the stuffed toy on the ice. All fans with a toy donation will receive admission for just $1. The toy trick will be offered both nights. The toys will be collected and then distributed to children in local hospitals and clinics during the holiday season. In the first six years of the Toy Trick, the team collected and distributed more than 3,300 toys. Last year, the hockey team collected more than 600 toys and made visits to the Children's Hospital at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and also to Denver Children's Hospital during the holidays.
Why the Time Change?: The Air Force-Sacred Heart game on Saturday begins at 7:35 due to a busy day at the Cadet Field House. The men's basketball team plays IPFW at noon on Dec. 2. The women's basketball team is hosting the Air Classic with games at 2:30 and 4:30.
Scouting the Opponents: Sacred Heart (Fairfield, Conn.) is in first place in the AHA with 16 points and a 7-2-2 record. The Pioneers split with UConn last week, losing 4-1 on the road and winning 3-2 at home. Sacred Heart is 7-1-1 in the last nine games. Senior forward Pierre-Luc O'Brien leads the team and is second in the league (behind Eric Ehn) with 11 goals and 25 points. Senior Jason Smith, a draftee of the New Jersey Devils, is the top goaltender. He has played 73 percent of the team's minutes and has a 7-3-1 record with a .892 saves percentage and a 3.41 goals against average. Sacred Heart owns a win over 16th-ranked RPI this season. Two of the team's four losses are to ranked teams (7-5 vs. fourth-ranked Michigan State and 3-2 vs. 20th-ranked UMass)
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 135-179-20 record at AFA and an overall mark of 184-271-29. Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah is in his 11th year with the Pioneers with a school and overall record of 152-155-27.
Ehn Leading the Nation: Junior center Eric Ehn is leading the nation in goals (15), and goals per game (0.94). He is tied for the national lead in points (30) and points per game (2.00). Ehn has led the nation in goals since Oct. 21. He moved into the national lead in points on Nov. 20. Ehn has scored in 13 of the 16 games this season and has six multiple-point games.
Among the Best in the Nation: Several Falcons rank among the national leaders in various categories. Along with leading the nation in goals and points, Ehn is 14th in assists per game (0.94) and tied for 10th in power-play goals (5). Andrew Ramsey is tied for first in the nation in game-winning goals (3), is 30th in points per game (1.27) and 27th in goals per game (0.64). Mike Phillipich is 44th in the nation in points per game (1.20) and 38th in assists per game (0.80). Goalie Ian Harper is 21st in the nation in goals-against average (2.38). Harper also has a 4-2-1 record to rank 20th in the nation in winning percentage (.643). The Falcon offense ranks 20th at 3.31 goals per game while the defense is 28th at 2.94 goals allowed per game. The Air Force power play ranks 40th (15.1) while the penalty kill is 55th (75.6).
The Rolaids Relief Award: Major League Baseball gives it top closer the Rolaids Reliever Award. If Air Force hockey did that, Ian Harper would be the winner. Twice this season, Harper has come off the bench and earned a victory. He leads the team with four wins this season. Against UAH in the Tampa Tournament, Oct. 27, Harper replaced Peter Foster midway through the second period with the Falcons leading 5-4. After UAH tied the game, AFA went on to a 7-5 victory as Harper stopped 11 of 12 shots he faced. Harper did it again on Nov. 26 vs. Robert Morris. Harper replaced Andrew Volkening midway through the second period with the score tied at 2-2. AFA went on to win the game, 4-3. He stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced. In relief this season, Harper has a .913 saves percentage (21 of 23) and has two wins with a 2.00 GAA.
Series Record: Sacred Heart and Air Force have played four times and the Falcons hold a 3-0-1 lead in the series. AFA swept the series in 2000, 6-1 and 7-3, at the Academy. The teams met in the first round of the UConn Tournament in 2003 and skated to a 2-2 overtime tie. In 2004, the teams met in the first round of the RPI Tournament and Air Force won 3-2 in overtime.
Over the Hump: Air Force moved over the .500 mark for the first time this season with the sweep of AIC to improve to 7-6-1. With a split last weekend vs. Denver and Robert Morris, AFA is now 8-7-1 overall. The Falcons are over .500 for the first time since the middle of the 2004-05 season. AFA was 12-11-2 on Feb. 4, 2005, before finishing 14-19-2. AFA did not get over .500 at any point last season. Streaking: The Falcons were just 1-3 in the first two weeks of the season, but are now 5-2-1 in the last eight games. One of the two losses was to 10th-ranked Denver on the road.
About the Home Stand: Air Force's home stand ends this weekend with the Sacred Heart series. The Falcons will have played five of the last six games at the Cadet Ice Arena. The only road game was only 60 miles away at Denver on Friday, Nov. 24. AFA played 11 of the first 18 games at home. However, beginning with the UConn series on Dec. 7-8 in Storrs, Conn., the Falcons will play 12 of the last 18 games on the road.
Stay Out of the Box: Air Force is among the top teams in the nation when it comes to staying out of the penalty box. Air Force is the seventh least penalized team in the nation, taking just 14.3 minutes per game. AFA's opponents have taken 23.1 minutes per game this season.
Top Line Offense: The Falcons' top line of center Eric Ehn, left winger Andrew Ramsey and right winger Mike Phillipich have combined for 31 of the team's 53 goals and 67 of the team's 148 points this season. Ehn has 30 points (15-15-30) while Ramsey has 19 (10-9-19) and Phillipich (6-12-18) has 18.The line is also the No. 2 scoring line in the nation with 67 points. Michigan's top line of Kevin Porter (12-15-27), T.J. Hensick (7-21-28) and David Rohlfs (9-10-19) have combined to score 74 points.
Top Line Defense: Air Force's top line of Andrew Ramsey, Eric Ehn and Mike Phillipich are putting up some impressive defensive numbers. The trio did not give up an even-strength goal in the first 11 games of the season. The group has allowed just two even-strength goals, and one short-handed goal, this season (Canisius, Nov. 12 and AIC, Nov. 17, SHG vs. DU, Nov. 24) in 16 games. The trio also ranks first, second and third in the AHA in plus/minus as Ehn is a +18, Phillipich is a + 14 and Ramsey is +13.
No Shots for You: Air Force has picked up right where it left off last season as far as denying its opponent many shots. Last season, Air Force was among the national leaders, allowing just 24.9 shots per game. The national average last season was 29. In 16 games this season, the Falcons have held their opponents to just 22.1 shots per game. Air Force has held its opponent to 20 shots or less in five games and the Falcons are 3-1-1 in those games.
On Deck: Following the Sacred Heart series, Air Force travels to UConn for a two-game Atlantic Hockey series, Thursday-Friday, Dec. 7-8, in Storrs, Conn.
Last Week: Air Force split a pair of non-conference games. Denver, ranked 10th in the nation, defeated Air Force, 2-1, Friday in Denver. AFA then rebounded for a 4-3 win over Robert Morris, Sunday, at the Academy.