Updated: February 21, 2014 at 8:14 am
Air Force is determined to play playoff-caliber hockey when it hosts the Rochester Institute of Technology in its final regular-season home series this weekend, which includes Senior Night on Saturday.
"It won't be a problem," senior defenseman and captain Adam McKenzie said of playing with extra intensity. "The seniors will be motivated. No one wants to go out with a loss. The younger players should be motivated too. We want the first-round bye."
Air Force (18-10-4, 13-7-3) is tied for third with UConn and trails second-place Bentley in the Atlantic Hockey Association standings by three points with four regular-season games remaining.
The Falcons, however, are one point ahead of fifth-place Robert Morris, which won the season series 2-1.
AFA will host a playoff series. The Falcons just want to make sure it is for the quarterfinals.
The fifth- through eight-place teams host Nos. 9-12 in the first round, March 7-9, in a best-of-three series. The winners then travel to the top four seeds March 14-16.
Tenth-place RIT (8-17-5, 7-13-3 AHA) is winless in its past eight games (0-6-2). The Tigers are led by senior forward Michael Colavecchia (26 points, 12 goals) and senior defenseman Greg Noyes (22, 17 assists). Junior goalie Jordan Ruby (3-11-2, 3.74 goals against, .892 saves percentage) and freshman Mike Rotolo (5-6-3, 2.99 goals. .906 saves) have split time.
Falcons coach Frank Serratore, who has been on the road recruiting all week, said he is leaning toward starting senior goalie Jason Torf on Friday but would play freshman Chris Truel with "zero hesitation" either night.
Air Force is paced by six juniors: Cole Gunner (40 points, 14 goals); Chad Demers (38, 14 goals); Scott Holm (25, 15 assists); and 15 points each from Alex Halloran, George Michalke and Dan Weissenhofer.
Seniors Jason Fabian, McKenzie, Jacob Musselman, Ryan Timar, Tony Thomas, Torf and Mitch Torrel have combined for 75 wins, including two Atlantic Hockey tournament championships and one regular-season title.
To add to those numbers, the Falcons need to play to their potential.
"We know we can't just flip a switch and play better in the postseason," Timar said. "We need to play this weekend and next like it's the playoffs."