by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Head Coach: Frank Serratore
2006-07 Record: 19-16-5 (13-10-5 Atlantic Hockey); AH Tournament Champions
Key Returnees: Eric Ehn F SR. (Hobey Baker Finalist), Josh Print F SR., Josh Schaffer F SR., Matt Charbonneau D SR., Frank Schiavone D SR., Ian Harper G SR., Mike Phillipich F JR., Josh Frider F JR., Greg Flynn D JR., Michael Mayra D JR., Jeff Hajner F SO., Matt Fairchild F SO., Brett Nylander F SO., Andrew Volkening G SO.
Key Losses: Billy Devoney, Andrew Ramsey, Brian Gineo, Brian Reese, Theo Zacour, Jay Mendenwaldt
The transition from the CHA to Atlantic Hockey for the Air Force Falcons in 2006-07 was a smooth one. The Falcons went from a play-in loss team in the CHA in 2005-06 with only 11 wins, to a 19-win team in 2006-07, a conference tournament championship, and the first-ever trip for a service academy to the NCAA tournament. Air Force nearly pulled off the miracle too, coming up just short of defeating Minnesota in the NCAAs.
"We got hot and lucky at the same time," said head coach Frank Serratore about last season.
After a five-game losing streak in February, people figured that Air Force would not be a factor. However, key wins against Canisius and American International late in the year got Air Force to fifth place (fourth-seeded when eliminating first-place RIT from the conference tournament) in the conference. The Falcons defeated the 2005-06 conference champion Holy Cross, Sacred Heart (the No. 1 seed in the tournament), and then Army to win Atlantic Hockey.
There was a new beginning at Colorado Springs last year. This year the Falcons will look to take that next step. Of course it will help that Eric Ehn, a Hobey Baker finalist from last year, is returning for a senior year.
"He (Ehn) has great hands," Serratore said. "He sees the game in slow motion. He is a great player and we are lucky to have him because often here you don't get players like that."
This year Ehn and the senior class will welcome 10 newcomers to the program. But Serratore said that this incoming recruiting class shouldn't be rated yet.
"There are no impact roles right away on this team," said Serratore about his newcomers. "They need to create development the old-fashioned way."
This year, the Falcons will probably be one of the top teams in the conference. With an All-American in Ehn and a potential all-conference player in Mark Phillipich, the Falcons should have enough firepower to get them through the season.
"I think the league will be very balanced," said Serratore about the upcoming season. "Last year there was a lot of parity. I think this year will be the same with good balance."
With teams like Air Force looking towards the next step as well as Army, RIT and Sacred Heart, the Falcons should be one of those top four teams. Although it should not be a surprise if a team like Mercyhurst or Holy Cross sneaks into the top four as well. Expect this team and the league to be very competitive.