Scouting Air Force vs. American International

Billy Christopoulos made 26 saves in a 5-1 victory over Mercyhurst. Photo courtesy of Paat Kelly and Air Force Athletics

Air Force (13-11-3, 8-9-2 AHC) vs. American International (10-15-3, 9-11-3)

Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday at 5:05 p.m. at Cadet Arena

TV / Radio: WatchStadium.com (Friday), AtlanticHockey.tv (subscription, both nights) / AM 1300 and GoAirForceFalcons.com

Series: Air Force leads 32-3-3 and has an 11-game unbeaten streak.

Overall

In the past 12 seasons, the Falcons have not finished with a losing record at home overall or conference games, yet they’re 5-7 overall at Cadet Arena this season and just 2-7 in AHC games at home. They get a chance to reverse that trend against a team they’re looking up at in the Atlantic Hockey standings. The Yellow Jackets are in sixth place, four points ahead of the ninth-place Falcons. The top seven teams are assured of at least one home series in the AHC playoffs. … Air Force has won five of its past six games and six of nine since the break. AIC is 4-3-1 during that span. The Yellow Jackets are just 4-8-2 on the road.

Air Force update

Two Falcons were honored by Atlantic Hockey this week. Senior Phil Boje was the defensive player of the week, while junior Billy Christopoulos was the goaltender of the month. Christopoulos has allowed just 10 goals in his past seven games, while Boje had assists in both games at Niagara and blocked a career-high seven shots in Saturday’s win. … The Falcons are healing, with center Tyler Ledford (upper body) and defenseman Matt Koch (knee) close to being able to return to the lineup. Ledford has been nearly a point-per-game player this season; unfortunately he has only played in 14 of the Falcons’ 27 games thus far. Koch has missed six games but is tied with Boje for scoring honors among AFA defenseman with 11 points. … Junior Evan Giesler leads the Falcons with 17 points (7 goals) and senior Erik Baskin has 16 points and a team-high 11 goals. Fellow forwards Matt Serratore (9 goals) and Jordan Himley (out with a knee injury) have 14 points. Freshman Marshall Bowery has four goals in his past four games. Remarkably, the Falcons have just one scorer in the top 50 in AHC play (Giesler) yet are knocking on .500. … Christopoulos has started every game and has a .909 save percentage and 2.46 goals against average. … The penalty kill is successful 83.5 percent of the time and has stopped 23 of the past 24 opponent chances. The power play, however, is hitting at just a 13.5 percent clip. … The Falcons will make up the postponed game against Sacred Heart on Feb. 13 at Quinnipiac in Hamden, Conn. The Jan. 20 game against the Pioneers was called off because of the government shutdown. The make-up will be the Falcons’ third game in five days, after a Friday-Saturday series at Bentley, and it comes three days before a series at Cadet Arena against Canisius.

American International update

Not unlike Niagara, AIC has gone from near the bottom of the conference to contending for a first-round bye in the playoffs, and the Yellow Jackets have done it with an influx of young players. Eight of their top nine scorers are freshmen or sophomores, led by freshman defenseman Brennan Kapcheck (21 points), sophomore forward Blake Christensen (17 points, team-best 11 goals) and sophomore defenseman Janis Jaks (17 points). … A newcomer also is making an impact in net. Freshman Stefano Durante is 7-9-1 with a .907 save percentage and 2.38 gaa. Sophomore Zackarias Skog is 2-3-2 with .894 and 2.92 numbers. … The Yellow Jackets, like the Falcons, have struggled on the PP (15.9), but unlike AFA, their penalty kill is sitting at 77.5 percent.

How it could go down

The Falcons dominated their two home losses in the second half (1-0 to Mercyhurst and 2-1 to Sacred Heart). They’re facing another low-scoring team (2.54 gpg) and have a hot goalie in Christopoulos. Adding Ledord and Koch back into the lineup would be huge, particularly for the offense. Three goals has been the magic number for the Falcons this season (12-1-2 when that happens). If they hit that both nights they should come away with three or four points.

Copyright First Line Editorial 2017-18

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