The guys from Varsity Blue asked me to join them on a special hockey podcast. We look back at the CCHA Tournament, look ahead to the East Regional and the rest of the NCAA Tournament, and discuss the season as a whole. The link will become active sometime Thursday morning.
1) Air Force is 27-10-2 on the season, with a 20-6-2 record in Atlantic Hockey. It was really a tale of three season for them. They started the year 13-0-0 and made some noise nationally when they beat Colorado College. After that they went just 4-7-2 over the next two months. Then they got it together and finished the season on a 10-3-0 run.
2) That being said, it's hard to know how good they are. The win over CC made the news, but then it turned out that CC wasn't as good as everyone thought they'd be. They gave up a goal with like 7 minutes left to lose to Yale 3-2, they got beat 4-1 (with an ENG) by Denver. That's about all we've got in terms of data on them. We're not Sacred Heart.
3) The numbers are strong. They're 4th nationally in offense, 7th on defense, 7th on the PP (20.2%), 12th on the PK at 86.9 but they've also netted 11 short-handed goals. Not the typical numbers you would expect to see out of a 4-seed, but again, adjust for the competition.
4) They are a team to be reckoned with, however. Last year they took Miami to overtime (and it wasn't all that unexpected--I actually picked Air Force to win that game). The year before, they held a 3-1 lead in the third period in what would've been an oh-so-funny win over the Gophers. So yeah, Michigan would be wise to take Air Force seriously, lest we be on the receiving end of something like this:
And if you think that was anything but an excuse to post that video, you're wrong.
5) You can't talk about the Air Force offense without mentioning Jacques Lamoureux, one of the Hobey finalists. Frenchie leads the nation in goals with 32 and has a 32-20--52 line on the season. He also leads the nation in game-winning goals (9) and power play goals (15). Beyond him, they have two other 40-point scorers including Greg Flynn, who has 7-33--40 from back on the blueline, good for tops in the nation amongst defensemen. They've got two other guys who have 35+ points.
6) We've played an awful lot of teams this year who split goalies. Not Air Force. Andrew Volkening has played every minute this season. He sports a 2.02 goals against (8th nationally) and a .916 save percentage (24th nationally). He's got two years of tourney experience under his belt as well.
7) These teams have met just one time in history, a 7-6 Michigan win back in 1973.
8) This is interesting, courtesy of the Air Force notes for this week:
Michigan Connections Despite the teams only playing once in the hockey history of the two programs, there are several major connections between the schools. Air Force's first head coach Vic Heyliger took the Falcon program from the club level to the Division I level. He coached the Falcons for six seasons and earned an 85-77-3 record from 1969-74. Prior to coming to Air Force, he spent 13 seasons at his alma mater, Michigan, and won six national championships while collecting a 228-61-13 record from 1944-57. One of Heyliger's most decorated players was John Matchefts, a two-time All-American, played on three of those national championship team from 1951-53. Matchefts served as Heyliger's assistant at Air Force from 1972-74 and served the Falcons' head coach from 1975-85. He won 154 games, a record that was broken by Frank Serratore. While Heyliger was the recruiting coordinator at Michigan, he recruited a football player from Charlevoix, Mich., named Jim Bowman. A football letterman at Michigan, Bowman came to the Air Force Academy as a football coach and later became the associate athletic director for recruiting. He spent 49 years at the Air Force Academy.9) Volkening's numbers are great, but since January 1 he has given up 3+ goals on twelve occasions, including 4 on 13 shots in a loss to Sacred Heart in the AHA Tournament. He has back to back shutouts coming into the tournament, however.
10) The game is at 3:00 Eastern and will air on ESPNU. If Michigan wins, the regional final will air on ESPNU at 6:30 on Saturday.
For other coverage of the NCAA Hockey Tournament, I'll point you over to Hoover Street Rag. They're doing their (always excellent) annual capsules of every team in the NCAA Tournament. (That fact about the arena Northeastern plays in is very cool.) They're through three of the four Regionals. Here are the individual links to the teams in our region:
MGoBlog also chimed in with a preview, including a very detailed look at Vermont, courtesy of a reader. Note to the Hockey Gods: I'm speaking for Brian here, but the presence of said preview should in no way, shape, or form be taken as a statement that we will be playiing Saturday against Vermont.
Bob Miller had a nice interview with Mac Bennett. Mac also touches on future Wolverine Derek Deblois. The two of them will top Kolarik and Porter for "most years having played together".
Yost Poster M71 was in attendance for one of Lindsay Sparks's games and provided some thoughts on his play. He was pretty complimentary.