An injury-depleted defensive corps has Air Force coach Frank Serratore looking for two of his reserves to seize their opportunity.
"We need someone to step up," Serratore said. "Collectively our defensive corps needs to make up for losing (junior Dan) Weissenhofer. We will find out a lot about our depth and the people we want with us moving into the future."
Weissenhofer (lower right leg) and junior Alex Halloran (groin) were injured last Friday. Both will stay behind when Air Force travels to Niagara to finish the regular season this weekend.
"Losing two of your top four defensemen is hard," he said. "Weissenhofer is a guy you cannot replace. He plays half the game. We lost our best player (senior goalie Jason Torf) earlier this season and we had a freshman (Chris Truehl) who stepped up. We need that again."
Serratore can afford to focus more on progress since the Falcons, tied for third with Connecticut, can clinch a top-four finish, and secure a first-round playoff bye, with one win and a loss by either Robert Morris 13-15-4, 13-8-4) or UConn (17-11-4, 14-8-3).
AFA could finish as high as second, and as low as fifth with two losses. If they place fifth, the Falcons would host last-place Army next weekend in the first round.
Serratore wants to see the Falcons' defensemen get comfortable in their expanded roles against the Purple Eagles (10-17-5, 10-10-5 AHA), who are tied for sixth with Canisius.
"I want to leave Buffalo as a better team on Sunday than when we arrived Thursday night," Serratore said. "We have another week to play and ready ourselves. Now is not the time to back off. We have to come out swinging."
His players are confident the defensemen can adjust.
"We lost Saturday but they weren't the reasons why," said senior forward Tony Thomas, pointing to missed scoring chances. "They played a solid game for us."
There are other concerns for Air Force (19-11-4, 14-8-3).
"We haven't played a good Friday game for a long time," Serratore said. "We better fix that in a hurry because in the playoffs, that's a recipe for a road team to upset you."