Better Know A Regional Opponent: Air Force

As the NCAA tournament approaches, lets take a look at Michigan's opponent in the opening round of the East Regional, the Air Force Falcons...the fightin' Falcons!

Founded in 1954, the Air Force Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs.  Their mission:  To educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.  And what better way to prepare these men and women to defend our country than by trying out the latest in high tech gear?

air-force-football

Of course, anyone who knows someone who has been in the Air Force knows that there is only one essential piece of equipment...

air-force-golf

When they're not busy dropping Freedom Bombs around the world, they're filling in those holes of Democracy with 72 holes of golf on "highly valued government property."  Hey, their words!  And you Liberals thought we invaded Iraq for the oil.

The Air Force hockey team is back in the NCAA tournament for a third straight year and looking for the big first round upset, which they've come close to accomplishing the past two times.  In 2007 they led #1 seed Minnesota 3-1 with eight minutes to go in the third period before the Gophers rallied for three unanswered goals to win, 4-3.  Then in 2008 #1 seed Miami had to come from behind to force overtime and needed over 15 minutes in the extra session before defeating the Falcons, 3-2.

The Falcons are led by junior Northern Michigan University defector Jacques Lamoureux, who played 16 games with the Wildcats in 2006-07 and posted one goal and one assist before leaving the team behind for an opportunity to chest bump the President.

After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Lamoureux went from scoring two points two seasons ago to posting a nation leading 32 goals—including an NCAA best 15 power play goals—and is second with 52 points in 39 games en route to becoming a Hobey Baker Award finalist.  I guess when you can teach birds to fly using parachutes instead of their wings, anything is possible, though if he were playing baseball he'd probably be under investigation right now.

Lamoureux isn't a one man show, however.  Four other Falcons have scored ten or more goals, as well as posting more than 30 points.  Air Force has the nation's fourth highest scoring offense averaging 3.69 goals per game, just ahead of Michigan's 3.62.

Defensively they rank seventh allowing 2.13 goals per game, just behind Michigan's 2.05.  Senior Gregg Flynn commands the blue line with seven goals and a team-high 33 assists.

Junior netminder Andrew Volkening has played all 39 games and sports a 27-10-2 record with 2.01 GAA, good for eighth in the nation, though over the past 24 games he has averaged 2.50 goals against.  Volkening has a .916 save percentage and has posted five shutouts, including blankings in his last two games.  He has not given up a goal in his last 157:55 minutes of play.

While statistically they are on par with the Wolverines, the biggest knock against the Falcons is they play in the mighty Atlantic Hockey Association, where they played the likes of 11-23-4 Sacred Heart seven times this season.  But the Wolverines had to face Michigan State five times, so it's kind of a wash.

The Falcons did play a few worthy non-conference games against local powerhouses Denver and Colorado College, where they lost to the Pioneers, 4-1, but defeated the Tigers, 4-1.  They also lost a closely contested 3-2 decision to East Regional #2 seed Yale University, showing that the Falcons are definitely better than the perception of their conference.  The Pairwise Rankings also agreed as the Falcons finished 14th in the PWR, whereas top teams from the AHA rarely crack the top 25.

Air Force is not going to be a cake walk first round opponent for Michigan, and the Wolverines know it.

"I don't really think it matters who you play during the year," sophomore forward Louie Caporusso said.  "I mean, at the end of the day, that's a good team.  They beat Colorado College AND Denver.  They've proven themselves."

Well, they didn't beat Denver this year...they beat the Pioneers last season...but I'll call truthiness and if you say they beat Denver this season, then who am I to argue?  Pioneers, you lost, deal with it!

Expect the Falcons to come prepared, upset minded, and with their guns loaded.  If the Wolverines turn in another performance like last Saturday, it could be mission accomplished for the Falcons.

FARDIG BACK IN: According to The Ann Arbor News, Danny Fardig practiced on the fourth line alongside Luke Glendening and Brandon Naurato and will play tomorrow.  It appears the Scooter Vaughan experiment is over.  Good, there was no reason for that experiment at this time of season to begin with.  Sophomore forward Ben Winnett, the other usual fourth liner, remains sidelined with a leg injury and will not play Friday.

TICKETS: If you're out East and looking for tickets, try your local scalper.  As of this afternoon, all tickets for the East Regional have been sold.

TELEVISION: Friday's game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 3 p.m. ET.  If you are in the Ann Arbor area and don't get ESPNU, I know Damon's at 3150 Boardwalk St. will be showing the game, and I wouldn't be surprised if other places like The Arena and Buffalo Wild Wings downtown show it, too.

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