After a long and very well-deserved holiday break, the Air Force hockey team played a solid series against Bemidji State, picking up some conference points with a tie and a win on December 29th and 30th.
Despite dominating the face-off, Air Force was unable to pull away from Bemidji on Friday. Even opportunities on power plays and equal numbers of shots led to both teams finishing the game 3-3. Perhaps Air Force needed to knock a little rust off of their skates, but they set the stage for a dominating performance on the ice on Saturday in a 6-3 win. What has really been evident in these two games is how lots of different players are being given scoring opportunities, which should allow for more team offense in the rest of the grueling schedule.
Having a tie and a win are great confidence boosters to close out 2018, but they have no bearing on Atlantic Hockey Conference standings. Now Air Force is in Las Vegas for the Ice Vegas Invitational to play 2 more out of conference games against St. Lawrence, then either a championship or consolation game against UConn or Western Michigan.
Playing in games like these allow Air Force to break up the grind of playing all conference opponents, but it also gives them a chance to see teams in other conferences. UConn and St. Lawrence both have losing records as they stand, but Western Michigan may prove to be a tough opponent as they are currently 9-6-1 and have beaten #10 ranked Michigan this season. Playing on a large stage such as the T-Mobile Arena will also give the younger Falcons an opportunity to see what it will hopefully be like to play in the NCAA tournament.
For the Ice Vegas invitational, I predict that Air Force will be in the championship against Western Michigan, and if that is the case, it will give them the opportunity to test themselves before a week off and a pair of games against West Point.