On multiple occasions this season, Air Force coach Frank Serratore has called his group the most “overachieving team in the AHA.”
The Falcons were picked to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason, and now, they are about to take on RIT in the semifinals. Two more wins and they will be NCAA Tournament bound.
“This team isn’t supposed to be playing right now,” Serratore said. “On paper, we were a year away from this. And it’s a good thing the boys didn’t get the memo.”
The Falcons, who have just one senior on their roster — goalie Alex Schilling — are looking to overachieve a little bit more when they take on RIT on Friday in Utica, New York.
“I told the boys yesterday, ‘We haven’t arrived at our destination,’” Serratore said. “When you get into the situation now, it’s elimination games all the way through. And we really believe in our hearts that in a one game series, we can beat anybody in the country.”
Getting to the AHA Final Four hasn’t been easy, in fact, the Falcons have gone to extra time in their last five contests. Included in the list of overtime wins is their quarterfinal sweep of Army on the road. The Falcons won 5-4 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. On the season, the Falcons are 7-2 in overtime situations.
“This is the greatest overtime team in Air Force hockey history,” Serratore said. “Any team in the country would take a record like that in a heartbeat.”
And when it comes to records, RIT has a few less overtime wins, but the two teams are relatively similar. AFA goes into Friday with a 15-16-3 record, while RIT sits at 18-15-4.
They also played each other less than a month ago, closing out the regular-season with a series at Air Force on Feb. 25 and 26. The Tigers took game one, 3-2, and AFA won the second, 1-0. Both contests went to overtime.
“A lot of the video we have on RIT is relatively fresh,” Serratore said. “We’re obviously looking at their series against Sacred Heart and seeing the tweaks that they’ve made. The only good thing is the familiarity. But keep in mind, they also have some familiarity with us as well.”
RIT’s top points getter is freshman Carter Wilkie with 28 on the season. But after that, the next five statistical leaders are seniors. AFA’s points leaders are mostly freshmen and sophomores, with juniors Willie Reim and Brandon Koch the only upperclassmen in the top 14.
“I think everybody knows that our team is slightly younger than the others, but I mean, as a team collectively, that can’t be an excuse,” Reim said. “We are all on the same ice. And I think we are skilled enough. We have all the attributes to where we can go far, and we’ve shown it.”
The Falcons look to continue that showing on Friday at 5:35 p.m. With a win, AFA would advance to the AHA championship game on Saturday for a chance to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.