Atlantic Hockey Finals
Falcons go from wild blue yonder to NCAA
Force 6, Army 1
Ramsey, E. Ehn
Phillipich, M. Mayra
Devoney, T. Zacour
Meyer, L. Flicek
Hajner, J. Print
Phillipich, M. Mayra
Andrew Volkening, 60:00, 23 saves, 1 GA
Josh Kassel, 60:00, 21 saves, 1 GA
AF 7/14; ARM 8/16
Plays: AF 2-6; ARM 1-5
Andrew Volkening, Air Force
D: Tim Manthey, Army
F: Bryce Hollweg, Army
F: Mike Phillipich, Air Force (MVP)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Air Force Academy,
welcome to the NCAA party.
The Falcons were certainly flying high following
a dominating 6-1 victory
over service academy rival Army in the Atlantic Hockey championship
The outcome was hardly in doubt after Josh
Frider staked Air Force to a 4-0
lead early in the third period, allowing the players and
the small contingent of Air Force fans plenty of time to
savor the impending victory.
When the final horn sounded at Blue Cross
Arena, a mob of Air Force players
rushed the ice to congratulate freshman goaltender Andrew
Volkening, who was
tabbed to start the biggest game of his career only one
Volkening backed up the confidence of teammate
Mike Phillipich and coach
Frank Serratore, stopping 23 Army shots and keeping the
Falcons in a close-quarters contest for the first 24 minutes.
“This is a dream come true,’’
said Serratore, now in his 10th season at the
helm. “I’ve been around long enough, and I was
on the NCAA tournament
committee the last five years. I would sit up (in the stands)
and watch the (NCAA) practices and games, and say to myself,
‘I would give anything to participate in something
like this,’ and now it’s going to happen. “It’s
Following the traditional handshakes, award
ceremony and the nice gesture of the players’ salute
from both teams, dejected Army players retreated to their
locker room while the Air Force players rushed to center
ice to grab the best spots for the championship photo. Captain
Billy Devoney clutched the championship trophy while teammates
mugged for the photographers.
“It felt amazing,’’ said
Phillipich, voted the most outstanding player of the tournament.
“Every goal instilled on us that as time ticks away,
we’re going to be that champion at the end of the
game … I couldn’t have a better bunch of guys
to celebrate with at the end.’’
This is the first time in NCAA tourney history
that a service academy team will be represented. It was
the first championship game appearance by either Air Force
or Army, foes since the 1968-69 season.
“Just to get to the NCAAs is huge,’’
Phillipich said. “We had this dream since this beginning
of the season, and to finally see it come true is amazing.’’
Air Force (19-15-5) found a way to stop Army’s
potent first line of Luke Flicek, Bryce Hollweg and Owen
Meyer — holding them to one point and a combined plus-minus
rating of minus-9 — while also breathing life into
its own top unit.
Phillipich opened the scoring at 4:26 of the
second period when his slap shot from the top of the left
circle deflected off the shaft of an Army defenseman’s
stick and dipped over the shoulder of Army netminder Josh
Kassel and under the crossbar.
Phillipich also set up two goals from linemate Andrew Ramsey,
the first coming on a power play at 7:53 of the second.
“With those guys, sooner or later they
are going to put a couple in,’’ said Army defenseman
Tim Manthey. “You can only hold those guys down for
so long. I thought we did a pretty good job of holding them
down but a few bounces here and there and it just wasn’t
The two-goal margin certainly changed the
whole aspect of the game. Phillipich said having Kassel
surrender two goals allowed his team to believe he was no
longer “invincible.’’ He also said it
allowed Air Force to get into its preferred style of firewagon
“It really started to open up in the
second period,’’ said Army coach Brian Riley.
“In a series like this, whoever gets that first goal,
it’s huge. And we were able to do that in January
out at their place. We’re more of a defensive-style
team so if we can get that lead we usually make it tougher
for teams. Air Force is kind of an up-tempo, offensive team.
If they score, they kind of get going and obviously they
got it going pretty good tonight.’’
The decision to go with Volkening in nets
did not come easily, Serratore said. He felt senior Ben
Worker was a little shaky in net in Friday’s semifinal
win over Sacred Heart, and he noticed Volkening had been
playing well in practice of late.
“Andrew has got good size,’’
Serratore said. “We were concerned about Army’s
power play. They are tenacious and they are going to whack
at rebounds …
you are going to have to make almost a perfect shot to beat
he is big and he gaps up and he blocks the net real well.’’
Volkening made nine stops in the opening minutes
of the second period while the game was still scoreless.
Flicek was stopped from point-blank as Volkening went from
side to side to rob him on what was an open net.
“I know Army is a team that gets flurries
like that,’’ said Volkening, who made his first
start since Feb. 24. “I just took it one shot at a
Army (19-12-5) did not beat Volkening until
Tim Manthey boomed a rising slap
shot from high in the slot for a power play goal at 12:59
of the third period, but by then Air Force already has a
“You have to give the Volkening kid
credit,’’ Riley said. “Here is a kid who
hasn’t played in a lot of games. He was strong in
there tonight and certainly made the saves that he had to.’’
“I think their ‘tender came up
big when he needed to in the second period,’’
Hollweg said, “and then them getting the first goal,
the fluke … it kind of turned things around.’’
Josh Schaffer and Ramsey added odd-man rush
goals in the closing five minutes as Army pushed up the
ice in desperation.
AN HISTORIC NIGHT
One fact can’t be lost on this special
night: Army and Air Force waged friendly battle in an arena
formerly known as War Memorial and houses an eternal flame
to honor the fallen.
An NCAA tournament berth was at stake, yet
all Air Force coach Frank Serratore could think was he was
facing his chief rival in Army.
“This was a historic, historic game,’’
Serratore said. “Army and Air Force have never played
in a championship before. Air Force and Navy had never played
in a championship game before.’’
When the game was over, the teams exchanged
the traditional handshakes seen
at the close of all playoff series. Since this was a service
academy showdown, both teams lined up on their respective
blue lines and stood at attention for the playing of the
academy alma maters. To cap the special night, the players
from both teams formed a circle at center ice and saluted
the fans with the raising of their sticks.
“Our guys connect on a lot of levels,’’
Serratore said. “It amazes me to see our teams every
year — those kids go out and just pound the tar out
of each other for 60 minutes in two games and then they
get together at the end and they hug and salute the crowd
together. In the regular season, we get together after the
games and share a dinner.
“In this day and age, this is as pure
as it gets. You saw something very special tonight.’’
MEMORABLE IN DEFEAT
Army coach Brian Riley was disappointed in
the loss but not the effort and the season as a whole.
“I tried to explain to the guys, one
game doesn’t make a season,’’ said Riley,
whose team posted its best record in 10 years. “I
personally thank them for kind of bringing me and the coaches
along for the ride.
“Here we are, a team that was picked
ninth at the start of the season, and we did things that
no one has ever done in the program at West Point as far
as winning a quarterfinal game and winning a semifinal game.
It’s just been an unbelievable year.
“I think we as coaches, and I have been
in the game long enough, you always have certain years that
you look back to with special memories, and for me I know
this will be one of those years that I will certainly look
back on with a big smile on my face.’’
Three Stars of the Night
Air Force: Yeah,
the whole team, which headed into the tournament as
the fourth seed and proceeded to dispose of top-seeded
Sacred Heart and second-seeded Army. If that wasn’t
impressive enough, try this out: The Falcons scored
11 goals against the
league’s top two netminders, five on first-team
all-star Jason Smith and six against second-teamer
2. Andrew Volkening,
Talk about being thrown into the pressure cooker.
The rookie goalie made only five starts during the
season and his last appearance was three weeks ago,
and yet Air Force coach Frank Serratore had a hunch
and tapped the freshman for the biggest start of the
season. Volkening did not disappoint,
stopping 23 shots, including nine during a three-minute
stretch at the outset of the second period while the
game was still scoreless.
1. Mike Phillipich,
The media voted the sophomore winger as the most outstanding
player of the tournament. With linemate Eric Ehn being
hounded all over the ice, Phillipich made sure to
get his shots on net. He scored the first goal and
set up the second in the title game, proving he was
tough in the clutch.
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE BCA
• As if winning the Atlantic Hockey
championship wasn’t enough, seven Air
Force freshmen — known as Fourth Classmen in Academy
parlance — were
“recognized” as members of the student corps
during a post-game pinning ceremony. The hockey players
were unable to attend the regular ceremony held this weekend
in Colorado Springs, and were a taken aback with the
presentation by Air Force senior players in an emotional
by school superintendent Lt. General John Regni.
• People who attended both days of the
tournament may have noticed a peculiarity before the title
game. The Canadian national anthem was played
before Friday’s first semifinal but not on Saturday.
Think about it: Two military service academies squaring
off with rosters chock full of eligible Americans. The lone
exception was Army’s Bryce Hollweg, who lives in the
Vancouver area but was born and raised in California.
• The snowstorm which blanketed the
Rochester area from Friday night through
Saturday afternoon finally relented a bit before the title
game, and there was a noticeable rise in a walk-up crowd.
Without taking a poll, though, it seemed fairly obvious
that half of the 300 or so fans were supporting Air Force
and half were cheering on Army.
• Seth Beamer, Army’s team captain
last season, got a weekend pass from officer training school
to support his former teammates. He arrived late Friday,
missing the semifinal contest, but was on hand for the title
• Army scored first, but only in the
pregame warm-ups. The arena’s sound people asked members
of the Army staff if they had any music to be played. Someone
hustled the two blocks back to the hotel, grabbed Army’s
normal pregame music compact disc and raced back to the
• The six-game Division I win streak
by Air Force is a school record. The school record is 10
games set in 1975.
• Air Force leads the career series
with Army, 25-18-2. Army had won six of the previous 10
meetings. The six goals by Air Force was the most in an
Army matchup since the Falcons prevailed, 9-6, on Feb. 18,
1995. The five-goal winning margin was the most for Air
Force since a 9-2 triumph over the Cadets on Jan. 24, 1976.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
a great move designed to protect the top seeds and make
season more meaningful, Atlantic Hockey will change its
playoff format for
next season, falling into line with the bigger conferences.
With all 10 teams eligible next season, the first round
will consist of five best-of-three series (1 seed vs. 10,
2 vs. 9, and so on) hosted by the higher seeds and held
on a Friday, Saturday, and, if necessary, Sunday. Since
there is no longer a play-in game, these series will take
place on the first weekend of March.
The five winners advance to Rochester on the
former quarterfinal weekend, the second weekend in March.
After being re-seeded, the fifth and fourth seeds will play
Friday, with the winner facing the top seed in Saturday’s
early semifinal. The second and third seeds will play the
second semifinal. The winners would meet on Sunday evening.Thus,
Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America will hold their
championship weekends at the same time, a week ahead of
Hockey East, the
ECAC, CCHA and WCHA. This, too, could open up opportunities
While there is time, Atlantic Hockey should
consider adding a third-place game on Sunday prior to the
championship. It just seems better for fans who must travel
five or six hours to be guaranteed of two games for their
respective schools. As consumers, hockey fans enjoy doubleheaders
as much baseball fans do.
or no snow, Atlantic Hockey has to put more people into
the stands and generate more interest in the Rochester area.
The addition of RIT to the league increases the chances
of the Tiger faithful following their team across town to
Blue Cross Arena for the next two years of the contract.
Without that, however, the league should consider doling
out some free tickets to local youth hockey organizations.
It’s better to have kids screaming in the stands and
begging for autographs, than a bunch of empty seats. Give
the local fans a taste of Atlantic Hockey, and they will
be back for more.
was unfortunate the video scoreboard at Blue Cross Arena
wasn’t able to
show live action or replays. The three games were video
webcasted by B2 Networks. Commissioner Bob DiGregorio says
there have been preliminary discussions for future television
coverage but would not provide any details.
local network affiliates failed to provide any on-site reportingof
the tournament. Gee, there wasn’t much else going
on in Rochester this weekend, other than snow coverage.
tournament was certainly easy on the ears, with no blaring
music or the endless parade of in-house commercials —
for this, we are thankful. However, there has to be some
sort of entertainment value for the fans. On-ice promotions,
for example, are certainly fan friendly.
One would think Atlantic Hockey champion Air
Force would be a sure ticket
for the West Regional in Denver.
“I think that the league has a great
representative in the Air Force Academy,’’ said
Army coach Brian Riley. “They will make everybody
in this league proud. They are an outstanding team. Whoever
gets them next ... will be in for a surprise."