Opponent Preview: Air Force

No. 4 Minnesota returns to action on Saturday night when it hosts the Air Force Falcons for the first of two games in the Mariucci Classic. The matchup is slated for 7:00 p.m. and will be televised on FOX Sports North.

No. 4 Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) vs. Air Force (5-7-3, 4-4-2 AHA)
Minneapolis, Minn. – Mariucci Arena
7:00 p.m. – FOX Sports North

PREGAME NOTES

Storyline
While most fans will likely be anxious to watch the fourth-ranked Gophers take on No. 1 Boston College, Minnesota must first take on a tough, gritty Air Force Falcons squad. With a total of 11 Minnesotans on the roster, Air Force will bring a local flavor back to Minneapolis on Saturday evening. The Gophers will get the Falcons' best game, and must be prepared to fend off an early attack in order to take the first game of the Mariucci Classic.

Season to Date
Air Force holds a record of 5-7-4 overall and 4-4-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Association, placing them sixth in the 12-team conference. The Falcons have had a tough start to the season, losing big to WCHA foes Colorado College and Denver. AFA also has losses to college hockey newcomers, Penn State and Connecticut. The unimpressive start is not indicative of how the Falcons will play on Saturday as coach Frank Serratore can hold his own against any team and will have his squad ready to play following a 21-day stretch without a game.

Coaching Preview
Minnesota native Frank Serratore should be very familiar with his future foe as his son, Gopher forward Tom Serratore, is a junior and key contributor on this year's team. Frank Serratore is in his 16th season coaching the Falcons. He has compiled an impressive 260-257-55 record while winning five AHA tournament championships and making five NCAA appearances, including five of the last six seasons.

Last Meeting
The last time the Gophers met the Air Force Academy also took place in the Mariucci Classic. Minnesota led the game but let in a goal with just 1:02 left in the contest to tie. Both teams finished overtime without a goal, ending the game in a 2-2 draw on December, 30 2007.

Series History
The only other meeting between these two teams took place earlier in 2007 as the Gophers and Falcons squared off in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota trailed 3-1 in the third but rallied to end the Falcons' season by a 4-3 tally.

Players to Watch
Cole Gunnar – Gunnar, a sophomore forward who hails from Richfield (Minn.), is off to an impressive start this season. He currently leads the Falcons with 14 points including a team-high 11 assists.

Jason Torf – Torf is a junior goalie and the Falcon's top tender, starting 16 games this season. He holds a .918 goals against and allows 2.59 goals per game.

Background
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Enrollment: 4,413
Conference: Atlantic Hockey Association
Nickname: Falcons
Head Coach: Frank Serratore (16th season)


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