Distractions gone, senior A.J. Reid back being physical forward Air Force hockey needs

February 15, 2017 Updated: February 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm
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photo - Air Force left wing A.J. Reid moves the puck down the ice against Colorado College left defense Aaron Harstad during the third period Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force left wing A.J. Reid moves the puck down the ice against Colorado College left defense Aaron Harstad during the third period Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

It took a trip home to help Air Force senior A.J. Reid return to being the hockey player he is.

Before Christmas, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger was not playing with the physical style and speed that made him a critical contributor to the Falcons in previous seasons.

His head and heart were not in it because of distractions from back home.

"My parents have always been there for me when things were going wrong," he said. "This time, it was more me worried about them. It really took my mind off of hockey and school because that wasn't that important to me at the time."

Frustration bubbled over in early December when Air Force coach Frank Serratore went on a postgame rant about certain players, including Reid, not buying in.

Whether the Minnesota native would play again was in doubt. The senior said he could not blame Serratore for wanting to sit him for his inattentiveness.

The holiday break gave him a chance to spend time with his parents. His concerns about their future together eased, the senior could focus on the academy and hockey.

"Going home, I was able to talk to them and able to know they are doing well," Reid said. "I felt like a load was off my shoulders. I am playing free again and my game is coming back to me."

After recording three points in the first 18 games, the winger has 11 points (eight goals) in his past 14 contests, including five goals in the past four games.

He plays like the sophomore who recorded 30 points now. He uses his strength and speed to create problems for defenders. He drew the penalty that led to the tying power-play goal during Air Force's three-goal spurt that salvaged a 3-3 home tie Saturday.

"It's like he flipped a switch," Serratore said. "We all have things going on in our lives that sometimes affect our performance elsewhere. We need him to be a physical player because we don't have a lot of guys like that."

His improvement gives the second-place Falcons four solid lines entering their final Atlantic Hockey Conference road series of the season at the Rochester Institute of Technology (12-18-1, 12-13 AHC).

Injuries have hindered the preseason league favorite Tigers while Air Force's depth has allowed the Falcons (19-8-5, 16-5-3), picked to place second, to keep pace with leader Canisius. The Falcons, who have clinched a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals, are right behind the Golden Griffins with two fewer games played entering this weekend.

"I don't think it is any coincidence that our run started once he got back to playing the way he is capable," Serratore said. "Our team needed that."

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