- The Griffin
Ice Griffs face huge battle against red-hot Falcons
By: Jay Ashdown
When the Griffs return to the ice this upcoming weekend at LECOM Harborcenter, the team will have their hands full as they take on an Air Force squad that has won five of their last six games. While the Falcons are only in 6th place in the Atlantic Hockey Association standings, they are one of the hottest teams in the conference, recovering from a 3–5 start in conference play that included a 1–3 stretch in four straight games against Sacred Heart.
Since that point, the Falcons recovered to get five of six points at home against the Griffs while Canisius was decimated with injuries and illness. Air Force dropped their next two games to AIC after that, to the surprise of no one, since the Yellow Jackets are by far the best team in the conference. Despite the sweep by AIC, they recovered from there to sweep Niagara and Mercyhurst before splitting their most recent series with Army.
With eight games left in the season for the Griffs, the team knows they have an opportunity over the next few weeks to prepare as best as they can for a postseason run. While the next eight games are important for seeding in the playoffs, the Griffs are more concerned about how they play rather than picking up points in the standings prior to the playoffs.
“I think every coach in the country is going to want to see consistency,” explained head coach Trevor Large. “What we’re currently working on finding is the ability to be present and have some consistency in areas of choice. We’re trying to set a new standard every day and hold the guys to a very high standard.”
If the Griffs want to perform well against Air Force, they’re going to need to take advantage of their opportunities and try to provide some cushion in their games against them. Air Force has played 24 games this season, and 12 of them have been decided by one goal or ended in a tie. In the 12 games that have been decided by a goal or tie, the Falcons are 7–3–2. The Falcons are also 3–0–2 in overtime this season, and they remain unbeaten in seven straight overtime games dating back to last season. Playing in close games against the Falcons could cost the Griffs.
Canisius could have an edge in this series due to their experience advantage over Air Force. Canisius boasts 10 players who are either seniors or graduate students, and they have 10 juniors as well. Air Force, on the other hand, is one of the youngest teams in the nation, with 18 of the 27 players on the roster being either a freshman or a sophomore. The Falcons have just one senior, goaltender Alex Schilling. Only five players on the roster have played more than 50 games in their career.
With an advantage in experience as well as having last week off and playing at home, the Griffs have a chance to take full advantage of an Air Force team who had to play a hard-fought series against their rival Army. Canisius is more concerned by how they play, rather than getting points in the standings, but this weekend does still provide a great opportunity to keep their place in the top three of the conference if they can grab a good chunk of points.