U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game Preview: UND vs. Air Force

Since moving to Atlantic Hockey in 2006, Frank Serratore has brought the Air Force Falcons to the NCAA tournament five times in eight seasons.

Air Force pushed Minnesota to the limit in the 2007 West Regional, leading the Gophers 3-1 with under nine minutes remaining before surrendering three goals in a span of four minutes. The Falcons lost an overtime heartbreaker to Miami in 2008, but finally broke through against Michigan in the 2009 tourney, defeating the Wolverines 2-0 before falling to Vermont 3-2 in double overtime, one game short of the Frozen Four.

Air Force would drop another overtime contest against Yale in the 2011 East Regional, and ran up against Boston College in 2012, losing 2-0 to Jerry York’s Eagles.

Despite a twenty win season a year ago, the Falcons did not make the NCAA tournament.

A national tournament bid is the expectation in Grand Forks, as North Dakota has an active streak of twelve consecutive NCAA bids (best in the nation). UND has also made the tourney in 17 of 18 seasons overall dating back to 1996-97. With a current non-conference record of 2-1-1, Dave Hakstol’s squad has seven games remaining against non-NCHC opponents. After Saturday’s game against Air Force, UND will travel to Wisconsin for two games at the Kohl Center next weekend. North Dakota’s final four non-conference games will be at home: two each against Lake Superior (December 5-6, 2014) and Niagara (January 16-17, 2015).

Saturday’s contest will mark the eighth time that North Dakota will take part in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. UND is 3-3-1 all-time in the annual event, and first hosted the Hall of Fame Game on October 5, 2001, the grand opening of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Green and White have fared better in more recent Hall of Fame Games, defeating Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 and Michigan State 6-0 in Grand Forks (2003 and 2007, respectively) and blitzing the Bulldogs 5-0 in Duluth during the grand opening of Amsoil Arena (December 30, 2010).

On the injury front, UND senior forward Mark MacMillan (five goals and two assists in five games) is expected to be out until after Christmas after suffering a wrist injury against Providence. North Dakota will miss his scoring touch over the next two months, as the Green and White face tough league opponents Miami, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver over the next six weeks.

After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is at the top of the charts once again. Through six games, North Dakota blueliners have scored six goals and added fifteen assists for 21 points, one better than Union and four points ahead of Massachusetts-Lowell and St. Lawrence.

Air Force Team Profile

Head Coach: Frank Serratore (18th season at AFA, 295-281-62, .511)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 2-4-0 overall, 2-2-0 Atlantic Hockey (t-5th)
Last Season: 21-14-4 overall, 15-9-3 Atlantic Hockey (t-3rd)

Team Offense: 2.67 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (6 of 29)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (20 of 23)

Key players: Senior F Cole Gunner (2-5-7), Senior F Chad Demers (3-2-5), Senior F Scott Holm (2-3-5), Sophomore F A.J.Reid (3-1-4), Sophomore D Johnny Hrabovsky (0-6-6), Freshman D Phil Boje (2-1-3), Sophomore G Chris Truehl (2-4-0, 3.36 GAA, .861 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 264-134-41, .648)
National Ranking: #3/#2
This Season: 4-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (9 of 36)
Penalty Kill: 86.5% (32 of 37)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (1-4-5), Junior F Drake Caggiula (1-6-7), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (1-5-6), Junior F Bryn Chyzyk (1-2-3), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-4), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-4-7), Junior G Zane McIntyre (4-1-1, 1.93 GAA, .935 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 7, 2011 (Grand Forks, ND). Sophomore forward Brock Nelson tallied two third period goals as North Dakota staged a comeback over the visiting Falcons in the semifinals of the IceBreaker Tournament. In the second period, Cole Gunner assisted on both Air Force goals as the Falcons built a 3-2 lead. Nelson also notched an assist on UND’s first goal, giving him three of his 47 points on the season.

All-time Series: UND has won all four games against Air Force, outscoring the Falcons 27-6. North Dakota hosted a November 1980 series as well as a single game in 1988.

Game News and Notes

Air Force head coach Frank Serratore has been a collegiate head coach for 22 seasons. He was an assistant coach at North Dakota from 1987-1989. UND has already scored four shorthanded goals in six games this season, equaling last season’s total (four in 42 games). Two of this season’s four shorties came off the stick of injured forward Mark MacMillan. The school record for shorthanded goals in a season is 18, set in 1986-87 (48 games). On the national college hockey scene, #1 Minnesota and #2 Union have already lost this weekend.

The Prediction

In his final game at Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grafton native (and current Air Force senior) Chad Demers will make an impact. Aside from that, I just don’t think that Frank Serratore’s squad has the depth to match up with North Dakota and roll four lines for sixty minutes. If the Falcons can notch a couple of power play goals, however, this game might get interesting. UND 4, AFA 2.

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