Last season, the Air Force Falcons - on their way to an NCAA Tournament regionals appearance - beat slumping Colorado College soundly, 6-3, for their fifth win against the Tigers in seven tries.
“Last year we were hitting on all cylinders when we played them,” Falcons senior Kyle Mackey said.
A lot has changed on both sides. This year, the Falcons head into the one-off against their crosstown rival looking for a reboot. Air Force is 2-6-2 since the start of November and was swept in two of its previous three home series.
The Falcons (7-8-3) lost all four centers to injury, plus several defensemen and wingers. Coach Frank Serratore said all of their veterans are expected back this weekend except Evan Feno, who will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL.
Serratore considered the last time he coached a team so crippled by injuries.
“Not since my last year at Denver (in 1994),” Serratore said. “I got fired that year, so I hope that’s not an omen.”
“We’ve been leaking oil the entire season, and that’s gotta stop. We’ve got to turn things around. There’s not much to be proud of that entire first half.”
Air Force hasn’t played a game in nearly a month. And a good percentage of its players haven’t played in much longer. But the Falcons have tended to shine in the second half, which is officially underway.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are looking to keep a good thing going. They beat and tied Arizona State before taking a week off for Christmas, and the weekend before that, tied then-No. 1 Denver twice. They are off to their best start since 2011-12.
“They’ve always had some talent, but they haven’t meshed well with their talent,” Mackey said. “You could tell a couple years ago that their freshman class was strong, and now they’re juniors.”
Colorado College (8-7-3) is looking to collect the Pikes Peak Trophy for the first time. Air Force has won it all four seasons since it was introduced. The teams split two games in 2015, but in case of a tie, the trophy remains with its previous host.
It’s stayed put Mackey’s entire time at Air Force.
“It’s not like (the trophy) is sitting back in some closet and we don’t know about it or see it,” Mackey said. “We bring it out. It matters to us, that’s for sure. We don’t want to lose it.”
The trophy didn’t exist for much of the teams’ all-time series, which began in 1969 and was largely dominated by Colorado College. Until recently.
Whether a healthier Air Force is able to get back on its feet at home or Colorado College finally takes home some hardware again, the outcome will be interesting.
“The one thing I’m the most proud of in this rivalry is that (it) has become a rivalry,” Serratore said. “It’s not a rivalry if one team wins all the time, and that was the way it was for many, many years. It’s a legit rivalry.”