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Air Force hockey must match opponents' effort

January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm
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photo - Air Force center Chad Demers, left, and right wing Cole Gunner celebrate after Demers scored the first goal of the game off an assist from Gunner as Air Force takes on Robert Morris University Saturday, November 16, 2013 at Cadet Ice Arena. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Air Force center Chad Demers, left, and right wing Cole Gunner celebrate after Demers scored the first goal of the game off an assist from Gunner as Air Force takes on Robert Morris University Saturday, November 16, 2013 at Cadet Ice Arena. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

This weekend is a good time for Air Force to get back to playing Falcon hockey.

They cannot allow a talented UConn squad, sitting in third in the Atlantic Hockey Association ahead of the fourth-place Falcons, to outwork them as road opponent Robert Morris did in a sweep last weekend.

"Robert Morris played very well and we got outworked," coach Frank Serratore said. "It's not acceptable. No facet of the game makes a difference if we get outworked. It is the foundation of all we do."

The message got through to the Falcons.

"One-hundred percent," junior forward Cole Gunner said of the message. "We have had one of the best weeks of practice this year."

UConn (12-7-4, 10-4-3) has five players with six goals or more, led by seniors Jordan Sims (18, 12 assists), Billy Latta (17, nine goals) and Brant Harris (15, eight goals), junior Trevor Gerling (13, six goals) and sophomore Shawn Pauly (16, nine assists). The Huskies are 6-2-2 since the holiday break.

Part of that is the Huskies' strong power play, 11th in Division I at 21.8 percent (19 for 87) and a good penalty kill (21st, 82.9 percent, 63 of 76).

"We need to get our power play going and win the special teams battle," Gunner said, referring to the 37th-rated Falcons (18 for 103, 17.5 percent). The penalty kill is 38th (75 for 93, 80.6 percent).

UConn freshman goalie Robby Nichols (3-0-2, 1.76 goals against, .940 saves percentage) has shared time with senior Matt Grogan (9-7-2, 2.48 goals, .920 saves).

"We need to win the battles down low," Gunner said.

Air Force (14-8-4, 9-5-3) counters with a strong junior class, which has recorded 123 out of the team's 215 points (57.2 percent) and includes the Falcons' top-five in points.

They are paced by Chad Demers (30, 11 goals) and Gunner (29, 11 goals) with good support from Scott Holm (16, 10 assists), George Michalke (15, 10 assists) and defenseman Alex Halloran (15, 12 assists). Michalke remains out while recovering from pneumonia as is senior goalie Jason Torf (right groin).

Saturday's game begins at 5:05 p.m.

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