The temptation is to say No. 19 Air Force had a mixed weekend. After pounding American International on Friday, I certainly expected more of the same Saturday, but in some ways that day’s 3-3 tie was more impressive.
Consider: The Falcons know what’s at stake – a first-round bye in the Atlantic Hockey tournament and home-ice for the quarterfinal round. They also know Canisius is on a 12-game unbeaten run and there are a handful of other AHC teams right on their tail. Rather than write off a game with a 3-0 deficit, the Falcons went in attack mode to earn a crucial AHC point and keep themselves in the top 20 in the USCHO.com poll and the all-important PairWise Rankings.
Here are some pluses and minuses, as well as three stars for the weekend.
Air Force scored three goals in the final 4 minutes and change of Saturday’s game to turn a certain defeat into a 3-3 tie.
No one team is perfect, but falling behind one of the conference’s bottom-dwellers on home ice, at this time of the year, isn’t optimal.
Leadership is a given at the Academy, and the Falcons are certainly getting it from the guys wearing the letters on their sweaters. Assistant captain A.J. Reid had two goals in Friday’s win and started Saturday’s comeback. Just as importantly, co-captains Johnny Hrabovsky and Dylan Abood have given the Falcons a reliable shutdown defense pairing. Abood’s season was delayed because of injury, but he’s been a shot-blocking, puck-moving machine since, while Hrabovsky has overcome two in-season injuries and is playing his best hockey right now.
It’s potentially a big one – injuries. The Falcons still have a lot of them, and it sounds like very few of the injured crew will be back soon if at all this season. That makes their depth perilously thin. Adding do-everything Matt Serratore before playoffs would be a huge help.
- Reid. Not only did he have three goals last weekend, but he has five over the past two and eight of his nine in the second half of the season.
- Phil Boje. The junior was recognized as AHC’s defenseman of the week after an assist Friday and the tying goal Saturday. His 23 points have him among the conference’s blue-line scoring leaders.
- Jordan Himley. The winger had two assists in each game and played a role in both of the Falcons’ last two goals Saturday. The weekend output gave him the team scoring lead (27 points) by one point over linemate Kyle Haak.
Honorable mention: Goalie Shane Starrett got his second shutout of the season on Friday.