Scouting Air Force vs. Sacred Heart

Senior Erik Baskin. Photo courtesy of Russ Backer and Air Force Athletics

Scouting Air Force (15-12-4, 10-10-3 AHC) vs. Sacred Heart (9-16-4, 7-12-4 AHC)

Tuesday, 10 a.m. MST, at Quinnipiac in Hamden, Conn.

Radio / TV: AM 1300 and GoAirForceFalcons.com / AtlanticHockey.tv (subscription)

Series: Air Force leads 26-10-6; the teams are 1-1-1 this season

Overview

The Falcons conclude a three-games-in-five-days trip with this makeup game against the suddenly surging Pioneers, who swept Niagara at Niagara by a combined 12-4 over the weekend. Sacred Heart is 4-2 in its past six, which includes a 2-1 victory at Air Force on Jan. 19. The next night’s game was postponed due to a government shutdown, and this neutral-site game is the result of that. The Falcons, who are coming off of a Jekyll and Hyde weekend, seemed listless on Friday at Bentley before playing one of their best games of the season on Saturday, a contest that featured their first comeback from a two-goal deficit this season. Nonetheless, they are 7-2-1 in their past 10.

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Air Force update

The Falcons scored four goals in the final 28 minutes on Saturday to beat Bentley. Eight players had points, including freshman Alex Mehnert with the game-winner, Brady Tomlak with a goal and an assist, Erik Baskin and Pierce Pluemer with two assists apiece and Matt Serratore and Evan Giesler with power-play strikes. The power-play goals were a good sign for the Falcons, whose 13.3 percent success rate is only 54th out of 60 D-I teams. … The Falcons have killed off 38 of their past 40 penalties and are 10th with an 84.7 percent success rate. … Baskin (19 points, 12 goals), Gielser (19, 9) and Serratore (16, 11) are the leading scorers. … Billy Christopoulos continues to be Mr. Consistent in net. He allowed one goal Friday and two Saturday. He’s started every game and has a .915 save percentage (20th overall and third in AHC) and a 2.29 goals-against average (17th overall and best in AHC). He rarely has bad games, allowing more than three goals just three times in 31 games.

Sacred Heart update

The Pioneers used special teams to take down Niagara, getting three power-play goals – two from freshman Marc Johnstone – on Saturday, and a power-play goal and three shorthanded goals (an Achilles’ heel of the Falcons, who have allowed six this season) in Friday’s 7-1 blowout win. Ironically, the only team that has allowed more shorties this season is … Sacred Heart with seven. The Pioneers have had a very good PK, killing off 83.6 percent of opponents’ power plays (16th). Much like Air Force, however, Sacred Heart’s power play has struggled, too, hitting just 14.7 percent of the time (50th). … Junior Jackson Barliant had one of the shorties on Friday as well as an even strength goal in – the two goals matched his career total. Senior Kory Kennedy also had two goals, including a shortie in that game. Neither player is in the Pioneers’ top nine in scoring. … Junior Brett Magnus (9-10-2, .901, 3.30) picked up both wins. … Johnstone’s 24 points (nine goals) are exceeded only by sophomore Vito Bavaro‘s 25. Bavaro also has a team high 14 goals. Another freshman, Matt Tugnutt, has 21 points, powered by a team-high 16 assists – three over the weekend.

How it could go down

The Falcons find themselves in a three-way tie for sixth in AHC pending the outcome of Monday night’s RIT-Mercyhurst game. A win Tuesday puts them in no worst than a tie for fifth if RIT wins or in fifth place alone if the Tigers fall. And five is the key number in AHC because that gets you a first-round playoff bye. Fourth gets you a home quarterfinal series, and the Falcons will have to earn that with series vs. first-place Canisius and at fourth-place Robert Morris on deck to close out the regular season. But first things, first. The Falcons need points from Tuesday’s game to set themselves up. It will be interesting to see how they respond to a scheduling quirk that is not as unusual for eastern teams such as Sacred Heart.

Here is a look at the teams’ earlier meetings brought to you by Kostoff & Co. at Nova Home Loans:

Air Force 3, Sacred Heart 3

Air Force 5, Sacred Heart 3

Sacred Heart 2, Air Force 1

©First Line Editorial 2017-18

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