In spite of a few things holding them back, the Air Force Falcons are humming along heading into their final home series before a month-long break.
Zach Mirageas scored in 3-on-3 overtime to give the Falcons an extra standings point at Niagara and finish a road trip 1-1-2. Air Force is one of two teams in the country with two 3-on-3 overtime wins.
“These guys play their butts off,” coach Frank Serratore said. “We have a hard time scoring. Good news is we played pretty well defensively and our team is very comfortable playing in low-scoring games, which we better be, because we’re going to be in them all year.”
One area has particularly struggled. The Falcons (4-8-2, 4-4-2 AHA) have the second-worst power play in the country, clicking at just 6.7 percent efficiency. Their opponents have scored three times as many goals in the same number of attempts.
Carter Ekberg’s power-play goal, the first of his career and the only one Air Force scored in regulation last Saturday, didn’t move the needle in the national standings.
It came on a younger, revamped power play unit, also featuring Brandon Koch, Luke Manning, Willie Reim and Marshall Bowery. Serratore said the previous group had been “shown loyalty to a fault,” even as it came up empty. He cited a favored old adage: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.
“It’s been worse than bad,” he said. “We can decline the penalties and score (that many) even-strength.
“You want to find the magic formula, but don’t want to lose what we’re doing well. We made some changes. We made a younger unit and the younger unit scored on Saturday night.”
Ekberg said he checked the stats a few weeks ago and wasn’t surprised by Air Force’s placement, because the Falcons have struggled to enter the zone cleanly and get set up. But on his goal Saturday, Air Force won an important faceoff and set up a good screen.
“It was really nice to finally see one go in. Big confidence boost overall,” Ekberg said.
“We can’t let it get to us, the fact that our percentage isn’t great. We have a good benchmark — one per weekend. No reason we can’t get that extra goal every weekend on the power play.”
They’ll have the chance to get that started this weekend at home against Holy Cross (3-8-3, 2-7-1 Atlantic Hockey). The weekend could also bring Serratore’s 400th win at Air Force, which has eluded him in three straight attempts. He reiterated that it’s “not a huge deal to me.”
“If you’ve got season tickets that go all the way to March, there’s a good chance you may see it,” he quipped. “There’s a chance we may get that bugger.”
It’s important to his players, however.
“I think it’s time to get him his 400th win,” Ekberg said.
“We have such a long break coming up. I think it’s important to end this run on a high note. End with some confidence, build on it in the second half.”
How to watch:
Both games will air on Xtra Sports 1300 in Colorado Springs. Jay Ritchie will call the play-by-play while Dave Toller will offer analysis.