Leading scorer Will Gavin is giving Air Force that absolutely necessary ingredient – goals, and at a steady clip. The rest is in progress.
“He can matter-of-factly rip it,” coach Frank Serratore said of the sophomore winger.
That’s a skill the Falcons have needed in recent seasons. Associate head coach Joe Doyle, who recruited Gavin, is now helping him work on a defensive game to match. Staying out of the penalty box is a focus, as is improving his checking.
“He's a work in progress. It doesn’t come natural to him,” Serratore said. “He’s got to learn to use his body, his shoulder and his hips, instead of his stick. He gets himself in trouble.
“You can teach defense. Offense is often time God-given. He’s got those God-given gifts.”
If they’re willing, Serratore said, defense can come later.
“It’s something I want to take pride in,” Gavin said.
All but four games of Gavin’s junior career were spent in the National Collegiate Development Conference. The 5-foot-10, Durham, Conn. native found a great situation in two seasons coached by Bill Flanagan on the Northern Cyclones.
He said he was talking to Army before Doyle came to scout defenseman Luke Rowe on the team Gavin was playing against. It was a productive recruiting trip. Rowe is now a team captain and Gavin is leading the team with seven goals, eight points and 40 penalty minutes through 12 games.
Gavin scored on his first collegiate shift at AIC, though he had little say in the matter. A teammate's shot glanced off him and he wasn’t aware it went into the net.
“Obviously I was just trying not to get scored on,” Gavin said. “Just worried about staying in the lineup.”
He appeared in all 14 games as a freshman, finishing with 3 goals and 5 assists. He said he struggled to score. So did the Falcons – that point total was good for third on the team in a season chopped up by pandemic concerns. Air Force has been third-to-last or worse in 11-team Atlantic Hockey in goals per game the past three seasons.
“I've definitely had my fair share of cold streaks so definitely trying to ride that as long as I can here,” Gavin said. “It's coming together now. Hopefully I can just stay the course.”
His hat trick, which included the overtime winner, against Colorado College on Oct. 29 kept the Falcons (4-7-1, 2-3-1 AHA) in contention for the Pikes Peak Trophy. He’s scored in four of six conference games so far, including the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over Sacred Heart on Friday. He put his wrister to use on the power play with 2:38 left in the third period.
“Will is one of the most gifted offensively talented players I’ve ever had,” Serratore said, listing Hobey Baker finalists Jacques Lamoureux and Andy Berg, both of whom went on to join the coaching staff.
“This guy shoots it better than those guys. He’s got an NHL shot.”
He's gotten his chances to rip it recently playing with Parker Brown on a line centered by Austin Schwartz.
“If you watch him on the ice, there are guys that have to really work to be in the right spot,” Falcons goaltender Austin Park said. “It doesn’t even seem like he’s skating. He’s in the right spot and the puck ends up on his stick in the clutch moments and that’s what we need him for."
“I think he’s been growing up, as you’d expect from freshman to sophomore year, and now he’s kind of coming into his own. It’s been really fun to watch.”
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