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College hockey notes: Air Force climbs rankings, Serratore savoring championship

Air Force Academy goalie Shane Starrett in the third period of the Falcons’ 3-1 win over Army Friday, January 27, 2017 at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

 

Air Force climbed up to No. 15 in Monday’s national poll for its highest rating since reaching No. 11 during the 2008-09 season. It is the seventh-straight week in the poll and eighth this season for the Falcons (26-9-5).

More importantly, the Falcons are the 12th overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a third seed in the East Regional in Providence, R.I. where they face eighth-ranked Western Michigan at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Friday.

Denver repeated as No. 1 in the poll used by The Associated Press and The Gazette. East regional top seed Harvard is ranked second while its opponent, Providence, is 13th.

Air Force player of the week

Atlantic Hockey Conference tournament Most Valuable Player Shane Starrett is also this week’s Gazette Air Force player of the week.

The Bellingham, Mass., native recorded his fifth shutout this season (second in the playoffs) in Friday’s 1-0 semifinal win over Army and made 24 saves in Saturday’s 2-1 championship victory.

Serratore: Tougher Atlantic Hockey makes this title one to savor

After a five-year hiatus from the NCAAs, Air Force coach Frank Serratore appreciates Saturday’s championship even more now that the 11-team league is no longer as top-heavy.

“It’s so much harder now,” Serratore said. “In the past, we knew if we finished in the top four, we’d probably get (to the league semifinals), but now getting out of the quarterfinals is much tougher.”

“We won so many so quickly,” he said of the five tourney titles in six years from 2007-12. “This one is special, especially after you haven’t won in years.”

That is more than just coach speak. This season, Atlantic Hockey’s nonconference record moved up to fifth out of six leagues for the first time by passing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a better record (17-40-2, .333 wins percentage) to…

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