It’s crunch time for Frank Serratore and his Falcons as their hockey season’s end approaches. With four games left, Air Force still has two series against Mercyhurst and Holy Cross before the conference tournament begins.
The Conference’s Big Picture
As it stands, AIC holds a comfortable 35 point lead in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. They only have two games left on their regular season schedule against Sacred Heart, a team that is currently only a single point behind Air Force in the standings. As Falcon fans, it’s a toss up as for who to pull for because Air Force has eight potential conference points on the table, but they would need to win out and have AIC lose both games to tie for first place. However, if Sacred Heart does pull off a sweep against AIC, the pressure is on Air Force to win those points to stay above Sacred Heart.
RIT is currently tied with Air Force in the standings, but they have three games left against Robert Morris, Niagra, and Canisius, all three of which are in the bottom half of the conference standings. Obviously, it’s ideal for RIT to be beaten to allow for Air Force to be relieved of some pressure.
The final team above Air Force is Bentley, who has a two game series left against the second to last place Holy Cross team. All in all, the conference will be a race to the finish and at this point for the tournament’s seeding and there will almost certainly be a shakeup of some sort before the regular season ends.
Air Force’s Goals
It’s fairly simple. Air Force needs to play as well as they possibly can without getting injured and try to ignore what the rest of the conference is doing. They’ve already gone 1-1 against Mercyhurst this season and they haven’t played the underpowered Holy Cross team yet this season. The question Frank Serratore will have to answer is how hard he wants to push his players to win a chance for a higher seed in the tournament.
The leading scorer on the team, Kyle Haak has tallied 12 goals on the season, and players like Evan Feno and Kieran Durgan have double digit goals on the season as well, but an interesting statistic to look at is these players’ +/- for the year. Haak is at -8, Feno is at -2, and another top five scorer, Trevor Stone is at -7. A statistic like this, which shows the goal differential while the player is on the ice, can be indicative of an offensively-minded player who may not mesh well with their respective line. A key to the final stretch is going to be playing team oriented hockey that supports their league leading goalie, Billy Christopoulos.
Regardless of how the race to the finish of the regular season ends, there is zero doubt that Air Force has the talent to win the AHC tournament. AIC is a daunting opponent should Air Force have to face them again, but it will have been four months since Air Force has taken the ice against them by the time the tournament comes around. Going deep into the tournament and possibly sniffing an NCAA tournament bid is a strong possibility, but it’s going to take an all hands on deck effort from every player and the entire coaching staff.