United States Air Force Academy Falcons
#4 seed vs. Michigan, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
3:00 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Champions
Atlantic Hockey Tournament Champions
Coach: Frank Serratore (219-293-39, .433)
Don't look now, but it's an Atlantic Hockey team that's not a 15 or 16 overall seed. At the beginning of the season, Air Force was looking to add to its string of Atlantic Hockey playoff titles, no matter how much a team in Colorado Springs stretches the definition of "Atlantic". Air Force got off to the hottest start in the country, winning 15 straight before falling to Denver in late November. While the Falcons could not keep up the fast start, those wins allowed the possibility for the Falcons to actually earn their way into the tournament even without an automatic qualifier. Getting Jacques Lamoureux, a Hobey Baker finalist, back in the lineup after his redshirt season following his transfer from Northern Michigan certainly gave the Falcons some added scoring punch, as he netted a best in the nation 32 goals for the Falcons, who notched their first Atlantic Hockey regular season title. Rolling through Sacred Heart in the third game of the quarterfinal series (after Sacred Heart forced a game three), the Falcons made the pairwise moot by posting back to back shutouts against Bentley and Mercyhurst. Their reward is a trip to Bridgeport to play top-seeded Michigan in the opening game of the 2009 NCAA tournament.
V for Victory. Vic Heyliger had been the prime mover behind the establishment of the Frozen Four and than proceeded to win an amazing six NCAA championships as coach of the Michigan Wolverines before retiring from coaching in 1957 due to health problems. Heyliger, a severe asthmatic, had noticed how much easier it was for him to breathe in the thin, dry air when his teams played in the NCAA tournament, then always held at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and moved there. He returned to coaching with the U.S. national team in 1966 and then oversaw the fledgling Air Force team from its inception as a Division II program in 1968 until his permanent retirement in 1974, compiling a record with the Falcons of 85-77-3. This included the only game between Michigan and Air Force in the teams' history, back in 1973, a 7-6 overtime win for the Wolverines at a tournament in Flint (H/T Michigan College Hockey). As a program, Air Force has only had four coaches since the team gained varsity status.
Secretary of Defense. Air Force netminder Andrew Volkening will be a player to watch for the Falcons. In last season's NCAA Northeast Regional against top-seeded Miami, Volkening made 30 saves, including one named ESPN's "Play of the Day" in forcing the Redhawks to overtime, whether the Falcons would eventually fall, earning Volkening All-Regional Team honors, the first Cadet to be so honored. His sub-2.00 goals against average is testament to his athleticism and will likely provide many fits for the Michigan offense in the opening game.