110919-s-AF Hockey 01.JPG

Air Force Falcons goaltender Alex Schilling (33) makes a save during the second period of their game against the Bentley Falcons at the USAFA Cadet Ice Arena on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (Parker Seibold/The Gazette)

The Falcons have a “hot goalie” who’s notably cool-headed.

Six-foot-1, 180-pound Alex Schilling’s greatest asset may be his consistently laid-back demeanor. Maybe a chirp on the golf course will throw him off his game, but little on the ice.

Allowed goals hit the journal, not his judgment.

“Put it in the journal, learn from it, move on,” he said.

The most recent home series represented a needed bounce-back for Air Force after seven straight losses to start the season. Top to bottom, everyone looked better against Bentley.

A change in net eight games in might have done some good on its own, but Schilling took it from there. He didn’t do it alone, of course. He wasn’t finally finishing Air Force’s chances or quarterbacking the lifeless power play, but timely saves have a ripple effect.

“That kid’s got ice water in his veins,” coach Frank Serratore said of the “hot goalie.” “You just don’t know. I see him in practice, I work with him. He’s a cool, calm cat back there. He doesn’t ever seem to get flustered.”

Schilling found out after a Nov. 1, 7-1 defeat at Sacred Heart that he’d be getting his first career nod the next night. It fittingly sounded like a casual exchange.

Schilling made 21 saves in his debut and the Falcons found their scoring touch. They had eight goals in the first seven games and have 11 in the past three — all victories. Schilling’s been in net for all three, looking more and more comfortable.

The sophomore’s .934 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average earned him Atlantic Hockey goaltender of the week honors.

Zach LaRocque, who was benched in favor of Schilling, is ready and waiting if the situation changes. Schilling said it’s all encouragement there.

“He’s such a good teammate,” Schilling said. “We just want to win, that’s the thing. Whoever’s in there we’re going to support it.”

As a senior at Wayzata High School outside of Minneapolis, Schilling took the Trojans to their first-ever 2A state championship.

He’d gotten used to winning, which is part of what drew him to Air Force in between NCAA Tournament runs. The academy is roughly the size of Wayzata High School and no one in his immediate or extended family had been in the military, but the “culture shock” was worth it.

“Just to challenge yourself in a place like the academy was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be proud of where I graduated. I thought Air Force would suffice,” he said with a chuckle.

He saw no action as a freshman but used that time to acclimate and “be a sponge” as senior Billy Christopoulos threw out tips.

“He was a stud here. He was the man,” Schilling said. “Being a freshman, it was good to soak up everything I could from Billy.”

He didn’t earn the nod on opening night, but when the call came he was ready, and the Falcons regained some ground.

Air Force has a bye week to cool down, heal and study. Then it’s time to heat up again.

“(Schilling) is calm and collected and ultimately as we gain some more maturity as a team, the effect that he has in the net is going to be good for our whole team,” Serratore said.

Air Force hockey brings out brooms, tunes after third straight win, sweep of Bentley
Air Academy grad Maria Mettler's fiery comeback inspires Air Force cross country as it pushes toward nationals
Coming off first win of season behind new goaltender, Air Force hockey tries to get ball rolling at home
Load comments