After being humbled by state rivals, Air Force has ‘a long way to go’

Air Force usually plays state rivals Colorado College and Denver around the midpoint of the season, a good gut-check for the Falcons, who have won their share of those contests and built on them going into the Atlantic Hockey stretch run.

This season, because of scheduling necessity, the games were played early in the season and ended up serving a different purpose.

“We were exposed,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “We’re just not a very good hockey team right now. Some of it got masked in Alaska [a pair of ties against Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage] but against [Colorado College and Denver] it was clear that we have a long way to go.”

The Falcons lost at home to the Tigers 6-2 and at Denver 5-2. They surrendered over 40 shots on goal for the first time since late in the 2010-11 season, and for the first time in consecutive games in nine years.

“We got out-special teamed, outhustled and outplayed,” Serratore said. “In the CC game we were mega-sloppy. We were a little better the next night, but not winning hockey.

“It seems like we need to learn the same lessons every year.”

Air Force opens its conference schedule with games at Canisius on Thursday and Robert Morris on Saturday.

Players of the week

From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:

Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Andy Starczewski, Army

The senior scored four goals and added an assist over the weekend as Army took three points from Sacred Heart. Starczewski had three goals in a 5-2 win on Friday and then added another goal and an assist in a 4-4 tie on Saturday. He led the Black Knights with 24 points last season, and has seven already through four games.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Matt Ginn, Holy Cross

Ginn made 75 saves on 78 shots last week to lead the Crusaders to a pair of road wins. He stopped 39 shots in a 6-2 win at American International and 36 in a 3-1 victory at Clarkson.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Willie Faust, Army

The freshman from Stillwater, Minn., had a goal and a pair of assists last weekend to help Army to a split with Sacred Heart.

Picking right up

Bentley junior forward Brett Gensler racked up 50 points last season, tops in Atlantic Hockey. He’s already at it again, getting six points in his first two contests.

Gensler had a goal and three assists in the Falcons’ 7-1 opening win against Sacred Heart and then added a goal and an assist in a 6-3 loss at Michigan. His three power play goals are best in Division I in this young season.

Kinda special

In Bentley’s 7-1 home win against Sacred Heart last Tuesday, all of the Falcons’ goals were of the special teams variety. Bentley had four power-play goals and an amazing three short-handed goals, a school record for most in a game.

Power outage

Canisius’ Duncan Keller scored a power-play goal for the Golden Griffins on Saturday, snapping a nine-game drought without a successful power play conversion dating to last season.

While the Griffs are off the schneid, there are three AHA teams still looking for their first power-play tally. Rochester Institute of Technology (0-for-13), Robert Morris (0-for-10) and Holy Cross (0-for-6) look to pot one this weekend.

It could be worse. Maine has opened the season 0-for-26 with the man advantage.

On a positive note, Robert Morris is leading the nation in penalty killing (12-for-12), as it did for most of last season. This is despite the loss to graduation of five forwards who saw regular time on the PK.

Close contests

Speaking of RMU and RIT, the teams square off on Thursday night at RIT. They’ve played each other three times at RIT’s Frank Ritter Arena, and each game has end regulation tied at 2-2. RIT won 3-2 in overtime two seasons ago, but last year’s pair of games ended in a draw.

Robert Morris is 3-1-1 on home ice against the Tigers, with RIT’s win at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Learning from a pro

Adam Mair, a 12-year NHL veteran, has joined the staff at Canisius as director of player development.

“It is great for our program to have a former NHL player with over 850 professional games join our staff,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said in a news release from the school. “Adam’s passion for the game and his interest in helping our program reach the next level is evident on a daily basis. He is a tremendous asset to Canisius College hockey.”

Mair, who played with the Buffalo Sabres from 2002 to 2010 and spent most of last season with the Springfield Falcons in the AHL, is the second Canisius assistant to have significant NHL experience. Former Sabres player Grant Ledyard was on Smith’s staff from 2005 to 2007.

Krushing cancer

Former Robert Morris captain Chris Kushneriuk was diagnosed with testicular cancer over the summer. Doctors are optimistic but Kushneriuk faces a long road to recovery.

RMU is getting behind Kushneriuk with a fundraiser. Click on the link above for more information.

Tweet of the week

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Air Force assistant coach Andy Berg provides a look into what transportation looks like if you’re in the Air Force.

“This was a nice plane,” Serratore said. “A [C-17] jet that got us from [Colorado Springs] to Niagara Falls in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

“We took a C-130 to Alaska [two weeks ago] and it’s the slowest plane you can have without falling out of the sky. And there was no heat on the way up.”

Serratore said that about 80 percent of his team’s flights will be by military plane this season.

“We work it out with reserve units,” he said. “They need the flight hours and we need to get places.”

Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.