It is a sure sign that a team is a longshot when its coach cannot name the team’s best player.
Air Force managed just two conference wins last year despite featuring second-team All-CHA Andy Berg (22g, 18a). With three of its four top scorers graduated, the Falcons will need all the mettle a service academy can instill to endure this season.
“I don’t think we have a marquee player on the roster,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “A few years ago we had Brian Garnik, Derek Olson, and Andy Berg. This year we don’t have a marquee player.
We will have to score by committee. No one guy on our team is going to gap the others in statistics.”
While Air Force has not been able to muster many victories, Serratore has managed to get the most out of the talent assembled. Its games have traditionally been tight, and this year should prove no exception.
“This is a very competitive level of play,” Serratore said. “The difference between two years ago and last year is that down the stretch two years ago we won games by one or two goals. Last year we lost 14 games by one or two goals.
“We’d like to come out and play every game at a high energy. We want to be a pain in the butt to other teams and be real tough to play against.”
To turn around the Falcons’ potluck, Serratore will lean heavily on a pair of juniors, forward Ryan Wiggins (13g, 14a) and junior Steve Mead (2g, 19a). The other key returning players are senior forwards Spanky Leonard (9g, 7a) and Shane Saum (5g, 10a).
Air Force will not be bailed out by superior goaltending. Senior Mike Polidor is the incumbent, after posting a 3.90 goals against average and .880 save percentage.
The Falcons will again turn to underclassmen to provide support, as Air Force has not been able to assemble a veteran squad in a few years.
“We need to be at a level where we have some upperclassmen,” Serratore said. “As a service academy we have natural attrition higher than other schools. We need to try to keep a few classes here together and then you’ll see an academy team succeed.”
Institutional handicaps aside, Air Force will win as many games as its meager offense allows.
“Our upperclassmen have got to get going and get some support from the underclassmen,” Serratore said. “If we can score more goals we can win more games; if not it’s going to be a rebuilding year. Hopefully, we can do both.”