The Air Force hockey players made sure to earn a first-round playoff bye for selfish reasons.
"These academy guys are pretty smart,” said coach Frank Serratore. “Three weeks ago, they did the math and they realized they could get the weekend off and not have to listen to my crap all week."
They earned the bye, the program's sixth in a row, by posting a 5-1 record over the last six Atlantic Hockey Association games, including an impressive home sweep of Niagara. The streak also clinched a school record seventh straight winning season for the Falcons (17-11-7).
The regular-season champion Purple Eagles, now ranked 15th, were in the running for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth but now, like Air Force, must win the league postseason championship to assure themselves a spot.
The Falcons have a couple light practices this week and can focus on other aspects of academy life before getting back into the regular schedule on Monday.
“It’s important to get the week off to heal, rest and catch up with schoolwork,” senior Kyle De Laurell said before the Niagara series.
That may be so, but Serratore was quick to say that the AHA remains so competitive, that getting home ice does not guarantee anything.
“It used to be that if you got home ice, you would make the quarterfinals,” he said. “You might lose a game to a bottom seed, but not drop two. That isn’t the case anymore. Our league is a legit nine teams deep.
“Whoever we face will be tough. We will need to talk to the guys to make sure we do not get too full of ourselves.”
Serratore wasn’t willing to guess which teams will advance out of the first round. The survivors are reseeded for the second round. The Falcons will play the second-lowest at home next Friday to start a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“I can guarantee we will be undefeated this weekend,” he said.