Air Force emerging as kings of the final second

Air Force pulled off another last-second comeback last Friday, scoring an extra-attacker goal with 0.6 seconds left to earn a tie at Sacred Heart. It was the fifth time in the last three seasons that the Falcons had either won or tied a game in literally the last second.

• Feb. 13, 2009: Mike Phillipich scores short-handed with one second left in overtime to beat Bentley, 3-2.

Air Force's Jacques Lamoureux (Mike Kaplan/Den Mar Services). (Mike Kaplan/Den Mar Services)
Jacques Lamoureux has two of Air Force's five last-second goals in the last three seasons (photo: Mike Kaplan/Den Mar Services).

• Oct. 24, 2009: Matt Fairchild swats home the game-winner with 0.7 seconds left in overtime to defeat Rochester Institute of Technology, 3-2.

• Jan. 23, 2010: Tim Kirby is the hero, scoring with 0.6 seconds left in overtime for a 4-3 win over Holy Cross.

• Dec. 4, 2010: Jacques Lamoureux gets the game winner with 0.3 seconds left in regulation to beat Holy Cross, 7-6.

• Jan. 7, 2010: Lamoureux again, this time with 0.6 seconds left in regulation to earn a tie at Sacred Heart.

“It’s crazy,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. “It’s happened too much to be just coincidence or too much to be luck. To score in the last second to win four games, one short-handed, it has something to do with the mentality of these players, the Service Academy mentality that you just don’t quit.”

“Frank [Serratore]’s a magic man,” said Army coach Brian Riley, whose Black Knights travel to Air Force this weekend. “I don’t want to be in that situation. If we are, I know I won’t be looking at the clock.

“Those guys have done it so many times they expect it. It’s part of their culture to not give up. As demoralizing it can be for the other team, it’s very uplifting for them.”

It’s not just the last-second wins that contribute to the Falcons’ never-say-die attitude. Air Force has come back four times this year from two- or three-goal deficits to win games. That includes handing No. 1 Yale its only loss of the season, when it spotted the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead before scoring four third-period goals to win 4-3.

I asked Serratore how far in the rear view mirror that win over Yale is, coming back on Nov. 14.

“It gives us confidence, but we’ve always had that,” said Serratore. “We’ve beaten four teams in the top five over the last three years.

“Frankly, we saw what Yale did to Colorado College the night before [its game with Air Force] and they were terrifying. They won that game 5-1 and didn’t get any puck luck. It could have been worse. But we’re dangerous opponents to everybody.

“That’s the way college hockey is. We beat the No. 1 team and lose to two teams at the other end. Anybody can really beat anybody. We know we can … we’re pretty damn good.”

Games of the week

Army vs. Air Force is always special. These will be the 52nd and 53rd times the teams have played, with Air Force holding a 29-19-3 advantage including a sweep in last year’s AHA quarterfinals.

The Falcons have won the last four meetings at Cadet Ice Arena and seven of the last eight played there. Friday’s game will be carried live on CBS College Sports.

“Army doesn’t quit and we don’t either,” said Serratore. “It’s always special and great for the fans.”

Two young goaltenders will be on display, with freshman Jason Torf continuing to carry the load for the Falcons and sophomore Ryan Leets getting the starts for Army since the injury to senior goaltender Jay Clark.

“We’ve been fighting a lot of injuries,” said Riley. “Some years you get a lot; some years you don’t. Leets has been doing a good job for us and getting valuable experience. We have all the confidence in the world in him.”

Honoring a hero

After Army’s game with Rochester Institute of Technology on Friday, a ceremony was held to honor former Army player and captain Derek Hines, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.

For the past three seasons, the NCAA hockey commissioners have awarded the Unsung Hero Award to a player who exemplifies Hines’ dedication and commitment to his team. Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGrigorio was on hand to announce that a permanent award will now reside at West Point, while each winner will receive an individual plaque. Hines’ parents were on hand and were presented with a replica of the trophy.

“It belongs here,” said Riley. “It’s a powerful award in honor of Derek. During the ceremony you could see the reaction on our players’ faces and on the RIT players. Both teams were banging their sticks in appreciation. You could see how taken in they were in Derek’s story.”

What it’s really all about

While I was packing up the radio equipment after broadcasting Saturday’s game between RIT and Army, I noticed that a good portion of the 2,400 fans in attendance had stuck around. Then, out on the ice came the Long Island Roughriders, a sled hockey team comprised of physically and/or mentally handicapped athletes of all ages. They were shortly followed by the Army team, now on sleds of their own. The Black Knights had to quickly shrug off a hard-fought 5-2 loss and play an entirely different kind of game.

The players were laughing as they got into their sleds and tried to keep up with the Roughriders. I asked Riley if it was difficult to make that kind of transition.

“The loss was obviously tough but hockey is not the most important thing in life,” said Riley. “The Roughriders have faced a lot more adversity than that and they had big smiles on their faces. If you have the opportunity to do that, to make someone smile, that’s special.

“That’s the game of life and it makes you get over your own problems awfully quick. For us, it’s a no-brainer to play games like this. We look forward to it every year.

“And this year,” said Riley, “We actually scored on them. Our guys were pretty pumped up.”

177 COMMENTS

  1. Right, because only a service academy could install a “never quit” philosophy. I appreciate their service and all, but they sure do have a bit of a “we’re-just-better” attitude.

  2. Can you please point out where in this article anything even implies “we’re just better”? Our military as a whole is built upon the core value of excellence in all we do. It only seems logical that someone takes pride in that, finishing every game right down to the last second. It’s too bad one’s own military brethren cannot support this. Take out the fact that this story is about a military service academy and you have nothing more than a sports article about a school’s success in the final seconds of a game. Your statement is clearly biased against those academy athletes since not one of them is quoted in this article, yet you claim “they” have this “we’re just better” attitude.

    • It’s a long-term thing, it wasn’t a conclusion reached on the basis of a single article. The service academies tend to take an attitude that their student-athletes are better than others because they are also entering the service. Witness the absolute ridiculousness of Army’s AD apologizing “on behalf of” RIT last year, acting like RIT was a child needing a “more mature” parent to correct their etiquette mistakes.

      From this article, Serratore says: “it has something to do with the mentality of these players, the Service Academy mentality that you just don’t quit.” Not “the college hockey mentality that you just don’t quit”. No, according to Serratore, only the vaunted service academies have the fortitude to play 60 or 65 full minutes of hockey without giving up.

      It’s arrogance, pure and simple.

      • Actually, it’s ignorance, pure and simple.

        I will start with the Army/RIT incident. The NCAA has many rules for college hockey to ensure it is a family-friendly environment rather than the type of environment you would expect at a Junior A game, not the least of which is prohbiting fights. Language is no exception either as I have witnessed Div-I game in which a player was ejected from the game for using a racial slur. Was the apology a little over the top, probably, but remember that this was likely in response to more than a few complaints from so long time season ticket holders.

        Your opinion that service academies tend to take an attitude or superiority due to military service simply proves the bias I alluded to in my last post. The service academies do recognize the commitment these athletes have taken in joining the service, but I have yet to see anything that sets them apart from any other school in how they praise their student athletes. Give me a quote and I gaurantee a Google search will yield similar results from a variety of schools in a variety of college sports.

        Finally, for the Serratore quote, you must be right. Frank outright says that only the services academies have this mentality…wait, he only says that service academies have this mentality, not that it is unique. It says nothing of other schools having or lacking this mentality. You choose to read this as exclusionary, rather than as a statement in response to a question about the school at which he coaches. Now, your proposed answer of “the college hockey mentality…” being acceptable surely could not fly. Following your logic, you would be appauled because he should have said “the college sports mentality…”. But, had he said that, you would again cite the people he left out since not only college sports, but all sports and a vast number of other activities instill a “never quit” attitude in their participants.

        And clearly, Serratore went out of his way to show that this is a vaunted service academy by saying “We beat the No. 1 team and lose to two teams at the other end. Anybody can really beat anybody. We know we can … we’re pretty damn good.” A team must be pretty damn good on a given night to beat a No. 1 team in the nation, but can be just the opposite to lose to two teams at the other end. I hardly see him putting the service academy on a pedestal.

        As for the service academy having the fortitude to play 60-65 minutes, how else would you respond to an sports writer putting together an article about how the team you coach has tied or won a game in the last second on five separate occasions in the last three seasons. I am sure during the on-the-spot recorded conversation, Serratore had a chance to rewrite his responses after being shown a pre-release version of the article. Save your service academy bashing for an article that might actually warrant it.

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