Falcons hockey hopes to lean on defense, reload on offense

By Joe Paisley Updated: October 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm • Published: October 10, 2013 | 10:10 pm 0

With the biggest question - Will they play? - answered finally, the new top concern for Air Force hockey is offense.

Will the Falcons, 17-13-7 last season, score enough to avoid a poor start and stay in the hunt for home ice in Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs? Will the defense be good enough to make up for a slow start for the offense?

The first step toward finding out is today at the Kendall Classic in Anchorage, Alaska, against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

"We lost a pile of goals (38) in just our top three senior forwards - Kyle DeLaurell, Stephen Carew, John Kruse - alone," Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. "No one player will make up the 21 goals DeLaurell had by himself. We will score by committee. I see a lot of guys capable of chipping in a few more.

"But if we do not get off to a good start, we may not be able to make up the points."

The Falcons won 14 of their last 18 games to move from ninth in the 12-team AHA in December 2012 to second by season's end before being upset by an even-hotter Canisius squad, which won the playoffs and became the second AHA team to make the NCAA Tournament last season.

Regular-season champ Niagara garnered an at-large bid while Robert Morris nearly made the tourney as well. That kind of depth shows the AHA continues to evolve.

"There are eight to nine teams with the ability to reach the top four," RMU coach Derek Schooley said. "You cannot take anyone lightly because it will bite you."

The returning AFA defensemen and senior goalie Jason Torf must lead the way. That group includes last season's league Defenseman of the Year Adam McKenzie, a senior, and junior Dan Weissenhofer.

"In the first half of the season, our D- corps will have to carry the team while the offense comes together," Torf said. "I am certain they will."

Falcon fans can also hope the offense clicks soon.

"People will be pleasantly surprised with how people will step up into their new roles," Torf said. "We lost great players but we have talented guys behind them ready to step in. I expect (junior forwards) Scott Holm and Cole Gunner will have big years."

Gunner is the top returner with 29 points (22 assists) while Holm had 17 points (eight goals). Senior Tony Thomas (28, 10 goals) and junior Chad Demers (24, 15 assists) also return.

"We may not have that offensive pop but hopefully we can get off to a better start," Serratore said. "After last season, our guys want to rewrite history."

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