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Air Force senior forward Matt Pulver (21) battles for the puck with Trinity Western's Evan Last (9) during the Air Force Academy Falcons men's ice hockey exhibition game against the Trinity Western Spartans of Langley, British Columbia, Canada at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

The zero in 0-4 is unsightly. But to hear Air Force coach Frank Serratore tell it, schedule-wise, they’d do it all again against teams like Notre Dame and Arizona State that appear to be going places.

“You can’t allow games like this to demoralize you, which there’s no reason they should,” Serratore said.

“We’re looking forward to the journey.”

The Falcons are 0-4 for the third time under Serratore. The other two times that happened (2009-10, 2010-11) they found their footing in conference play and finished above .500. In 2011, they won the Atlantic Hockey tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

The Falcons open conference play Thursday against RIT. The Tigers finished in the middle of the Atlantic Hockey pack last season just two points behind Air Force, which swept them in the teams’ only weekend series.

RIT didn’t slack off in nonconference play either and is 3-1 with a win over a ranked team to its name. Bowling Green was No. 17 in the USCHO.com poll when the Tigers won in overtime during the Ice Breaker Tournament.

“We may not see quite the consistency in skill level that you see against Notre Dame or the top guys on Arizona State. You might not see that on RIT, but ... you’re gonna see a team full of men,” Serratore said.

Air Force was in prime position to split the weekend series with Arizona State and not still be seeking its first win five games in. All three third-period goals Saturday were very avoidable.

The eventual game-winner and empty-netter came after turnovers, and the fourth goal that essentially snuffed the comeback was during an Air Force penalty for too many men on the ice.

Avoiding self-sabotage is an important step toward cracking the win column.

“We don’t know if we’re good enough or not yet. We don’t know,” Serratore said. “But one thing’s for sure — let’s make sure we control the things that we can control.”

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