While the winding down of the college football season means it’s time for most fans to turn their focus to the hardwood, for Air Force sports fans, it’s hockey season. The Falcons are already ten games into the season and sit at the top of the Atlantic Hockey conference with a 6-4 record, with Rochester Institute of Technology two games behind. I’ll be covering Air Force hockey for Against All Enemies this season, so check back each week for your weekly roundup.
Atlantic Conference Hot Streak
Air Force is hot right now. They’re currently on a 5 game win streak against conference opponents and they’re coming off a home sweep against Bentley University last weekend with a 4-2 win on Friday and a 4-1 win on Saturday. Prior to that series, they traveled to West Point and swept that pair of games as well.
At this point, Air Force is doing an outstanding job of playing aggressively without allowing many late mistakes and turnovers. Statistically, they have performed fairly evenly with opponents. They’ve scored 27 goals while opponents have scored 28, they have a slightly higher scoring percentage on power plays than opponents at .213 to .159, and they’re shooting about the same amount at 28.9 shots per game to 24.5. To make those comparisons and see that the Falcons are on such a dominant streak shows that they are able to play smart and control the puck.
Senior forward Evan Feno and Freshman forward Kieran Durgan have emerged as early scoring leaders on the offense with 5 goals and 2 assists a piece on the season and Senior defenseman Matt Koch has made waves on offense with 7 assists, but the scoring has been a team effort. An astounding 17 players have tallied points this season, which is a testament to Coach Serratore’s ability to recruit versatile talent.
The Falcons’ net minders have also held their own on this win streak. Senior Billy Christopoulos, who has been named to the Richter Award watch list, has started in 8 games and has already won Atlantic Hockey Goalie of the Week, and Sophomore Zach Laroque won both of his starts against Bentley. Both players boast a .889 save percentage and have done an excellent job of preventing late goals, especially in the third period.
The team will head to Springfield, Massachusetts this week to take on American International University for two matinees on Friday and Saturday. AIC is currently 5 conference points behind Air Force, but strong play from AIC could mean a huge swing in the top half of the Atlantic Conference standings. AIC dropped their last two games to the Rochester Institute of Technology. They found some comfort in a strong performance from Sophomore goalie Zackarias Skog, who substituted for their starter, but it is unclear if Skog will start against Air Force.
At this point, Air Force needs to stay the course. There have been injuries that have shaken up the team’s starting lines a bit, but it obviously hasn’t shown in their record. Following AIC, the Falcons still have RIT and Mercyhurst as consecutive conference matchups before a two week break and some out of conference play around the new year. Following up last year’s NCAA tournament run seemed to be a tall order prior to the start of the season, but for now, Coach Serratore and the returning players don’t seem phased by the pressure.