The 2008-2009 edition
of Air Force hockey is defined by its team motto "Red, White and Blue Collar".
The Falcons are a bunch of young men who will be commissioned as leaders in our
Air Force and who have been playing the game with passion, grit and
determination. It's not about one player on the team; it's about the team as a
whole! It wasn't long ago that hockey at Air Force was just another one of the
Division I sports played ‘up on the hill'.
It all began in 1958 when the cadets formed a
club hockey team. The club grew and gained recognition and our current team was
born. Vic Heyliger (he had led Michigan to six national hockey titles) became
Air Force's first head coach and became the ‘father of Air Force hockey'. Air
Force lost its opening game in January but won its first intercollegiate game
against Ohio St. 6-4 on 17 January 1968. Fast forward 30 years later to 1998.
Frank Serratore was hired as Air Forces fourth head coach. In his tenure, he
has led the Falcons to more Division I victories than any other Falcon coach.
His leadership has helped direct the Falcons to back to back appearances in the
NCAA (2007, 2008) and winning the Atlantic Hockey Association league
championship outright last year and taking back-to-back tournament
championships. An early look at this years edition of our Falcons have them
heading in the same direction.
Last years team has set the stage for this year. Last year the team was to rely heavily on Eric Ehn, a 2007 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. But an injury caused him to miss the entire second half of the season, only to return for the NCAA tournament. This resulted in the Falcons relying more on ‘team' versus any one star. And the good news is that the team graduated only 7 seniors out of 28 players on the roster.
Maybe who didn't graduate is more important as we look at the 2008-2009 Falcons. Last years top 3 scoring leaders return with Brent Olson (Sr, F) tied for this years point leader of our team with 14 pts followed by Josh Frider (Sr, F) 10 pts and Greg Flynn (Sr, D) with 8 pts. These guys are working and leading on the ice. As of the writing of this article, Olson is tied for most points with 14, not only on the team but in the nation with Jacques Lamoureux (So, F). Lamoureux skated with the team last year but did not play having to sit out due to transfer rules (played the previous year at another school). He has obviously worked hard with the team last year during practices, because he has jumped in and taken the on the role as a balanced player this year scoring 7 goals and 7 assists. The team has only 5 seniors on the roster, but is young and looking forward to the future with 15 sophomores/freshmen on the team. Teamwork is showing with 15 players on the team having two goals and/or assists after only six games this season.
Offense is not the only area the Falcons are capitalizing on this fall. After 6 games, junior goalkeeper Andrew Volkening has a 93% save average. He has been exceptional this year continuing on from his fine performance last year. In his last game versus AIC he stopped 38 of 41 shots on goal. Defense has been stingy this year. While Air Force is averaging 4.7 goals per game, defense is only allowing only 1.5. Defense will be the key for success as the Falcons continue on through the 2008-2009 season.
The two areas I see where Air Force needs to concentrate on during the season would be capitalizing on power plays and keeping wins coming while on home ice. The Falcons are scoring an average of only 19% in power play situations. It has been an emphasis item in the past and continues to be from Coach Serratore. Home ice advantage is also paramount and a key to success. Last season Air Force was among the nations leaders in winning on the road. Coach wants that same advantage every time the Falcons step on home ice.
Air Force is off to a great start being 6-0 prior to playing RIT this weekend, getting votes in the USA Today top 15 hockey poll, and being ranked 17th in the USCHO rankings. Crowds have been good at Clune Arena and the cadets are loud and crazy in the north-east stands. Air Force hockey may surprise many more before the season is over. Remember, just a bunch of ‘Red, White and Blue Collared' guys having some fun out on the ice. Go Falcons.