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Fly, Fight, Win

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Fly, Fight, Win

Jordan Toller, Journalist

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When most people think of college hockey, the teams that usually come to mind are University of North Dakota, Minnesota, Boston College and Minnesota Duluth. But one team that is on the rise is Air Force.

From 2007-2012, the Falcons won five of the six Atlantic Hockey Conference Championships. However, the last four years haven’t been kind to the Falcons. Their seasons have ended in the quarterfinals for three straight seasons. But in 2015-2016 season, the Falcons advanced to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, but lost to RIT. RIT then went on to beat Robert Morris and win the Atlantic Hockey Championship. That season changed everything. The leadership of senior captains Max Hartner and Ben Carey built a foundation for years to come.

After losing to RIT in the semifinals, the Falcons knew they wanted more. Entering this season, the Falcons worked hard to make sure they went further in the playoffs than the previous team.

This season, overall, was 27-10-5; which means they had 27 wins, 10 losses, and 5 ties. The 27 wins are the second most in school history while the 10 losses are the fewest of any Academy team in 40 years.

Air Force was also No. 1 in the country in penalty kill and No.5 in goals against per game; which means they only allow about 2 goals per game. Shane Starrett, the sophomore goalie from Bellingham, Mass., was #5 in the country
for goals against average, which is 1.989. Air Force also has 3 players on the Atlantic Hockey All-Conference Teams; Phil Boje- a junior from Shoreview, Minn., Jordan Himley-a junior from Mundelein, Ill., and Shane Starrett.

The season began with Air Force winning the Ice Breaker Tournament. The Ice Breaker Tournament was at Magness Arena (University of Denver) in October 2016. The tournament is one of the top tournaments in college hockey. The other teams in the tournament consisted of Boston College, Ohio State and Denver. Air Force started on the tournament strong by beating
fifth-ranked Boston College 2-1 and finishing the tournament off by also beating Ohio State in a shoot out. Tyler Ledford, the junior forward from Colorado Springs, CO, made the game and tournament winning shot in the shootout. Shane Starrett also made a total of 46 saves during the game and shootout against the Buckeyes.
The Falcons secured the Pikes Peak Trophy once again against Colorado College after beating them 6-3. Evan Giesler, the sophomore forward from Naperville, Ill, and Jordan Himley each scored two goals during the game. Himley also had a total of 37 points on the season, the highest on the team.
The Falcons advanced to the NCAA tournament after beating Bentley, Army, and Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. They also clinched the conference championship title in the process. Air Force beat Bentley in the Quarterfinals 4-0 and 2-1. The Falcons then flew to Rochester, N.Y. to face Army in the Final Four. Ben Kucera, the junior forward from Leawood, Kansas, scored the game winning goal that led to a Falcon victory 1-0 over Army. They faced Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Championship game the next night. Erik Baskin, the junior forward from Minnetonka, Minn., scored the first goal for the Falcons early in the game. Air Force didn’t score again until 30 seconds left in the game. Jordan Himley scored the game winner leading the Falcons to a 2-1 win over Robert Morris. Shane Starrett was named the MVP. Coach Frank Serratore says, “With him in our net, he makes us a great team. He gives us a chance to win every night. This is his team.” Himley, Tyler Ledford, and Johnny Hrabovsky, the senior defense men from Humelstown, PA., were named all-tournament.

Air Force flew to Providence, Rhode Island to play powerhouse Western Michigan, who was having a breakout season as well. “We’ve beaten good teams and there’s nobody we’re going to play that’s going to intimidate us,” Serratore said. “We play those games to prepare ourselves for this moment. We know we’re going to be playing a good hockey team next Friday or Saturday, but with that, we also know we can compete with the best in the country.”
And compete they did. Serratore told them before the game to make a statement in the first 5 minutes of the game. 56 seconds into the game, Himley scored Air Force’s first goal of the game. Air Force never trailed in that game. During the third period, Western Michigan scored two goals, making the game a one goal difference. Air Force then extended their lead to 5-3 with still about 7 minutes left in the game. With two minutes, Western Michigan’s Frederik Tiffels scored another goal making it a one goal game once again, but it wasn’t enough. Air Force beat Western Michigan 5-4. After the game, Coach Doyle said, “Sometimes, you have to win game 2-1, sometimes 1-0, and sometimes you have to win a game 5-4.”
Air Force advanced to the Elite Eight to face #2 ranked team Harvard. Harvard got out to an early led with 3 unanswered goals. Air Force managed to score two goals, but it wasn’t enough. Harvard beat Air Force 3-2, ending Air Force’s amazing season.
Even though Air Force is losing three key seniors, A.J. Reid, forward from Lakeville, Minn., Tyler Rostenkowski, forward from Bloomingdale, Ill., and Johnny Hrabovsky and Shane Starrett who was drafted by Edmonton Oilers; the leading scorer, Jordan Himley and many others are all returning next season to defend the conference champion title and make it back to the NCAA Tournament.

“Top 10 U.S. Colleges for Men’s Ice Hockey.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
“Atlantic Hockey Announces All-League Teams.” College Hockey News. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
“Falcons Beat Robert Morris, 2-1, for AHC Title.” Air Force Academy Athletics Official Athletic Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
“Redemption For Air Force in Winning 6th Atlantic Hockey Title.” College Hockey News. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.


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