2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Blocked shots, penalties key for Air Force hockey

    Thu, February 26, 2009 by admin with no comments

    By Matt Dorney

    We wrote about how important faceoffs are to Air Force in its Atlantic Hockey Association showdown at RIT this weekend.

    There are other things.

    Two others coach Frank Serratore mentioned Wednesday are blocking some shots and – as always – don’t take unnecessary penalties.

    “They play an aggressive game,” Serratore said. “They obviously have a lot of confidence in their special teams. They’ll go tit-for-tat with you on penalties.”

    RIT’s power play actually is better than Air Force’s, but it’s close. The Tigers convert on 21.1 percent of their chances to the Falcons’ 20.7. RIT only gives up goals on 15.6 percent; Air Force’s penalty kill is even better, giving up 12.3.

    “We’ve got to play disciplined hockey all weekend long,” said senior Brent Olson, the Falcons’ leader in penalties (27). “We have to control the things we can control. Staying out of the penalty box is one of those things.”

    The games at Air Force in December – Air Force won 2-0 before losing 3-2 in overtime – were penalty filled, 64 minutes on Friday and 40 on Saturday, split exactly evenly.

    Junior Jeff Hajner, third on the Falcons in penalty minutes (48), said the time of the season should make a difference.

    “It’s playoff hockey,” he said. “You don’t want to put your team into a position where they have to kill off a penalty because you’ve been too aggressive.”

    If the Falcons can force the Tigers to play even-strength hockey, the biggest difference between the teams should come to the forefront. Both teams have scored 119 goals this season and RIT has outscored the Falcons in the conference (105-98).

    But Air Force has given up far fewer goals overall (68 to 91) and in conference games (54 to 66).

    “I think one of the reasons we’re both at the top of the league is our depth,” Serratore said. “We’ve got good, competitive depth.

    “Our team speed is probably a little bit better; their team savvy is a little bit better. It’ll probably come down to special teams and goaltending.”

    Just in case

    Should the teams split this weekend, officially they are co-champions. Since the league and series records would then be identical, the No. 1 seed for the AHA playoffs would be decided by either by tiebreaker No. 2, goal differential head-to-head (AFA is plus-1 now) or No. 4, goal differential in conference games (ACA is plus-5).

  • Thursday Morning Links

    Thu, February 26, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    A whole lot about Air Force hoops in the paper today … and none of it really deals with this season.

     

    As mentioned earlier, The Gazette has selected an All-Time Air Force men’s basketball team. You can find it here. Kudos to our designer, Brent Briggeman, who came up with and created the design on the front page. He used the famous Sports Illustrated cover with five members of the 1992 Olympic Dream team as the basis for his idea and superimposed Air Force uniforms and the faces of our five starters over the faces of the guys in the original photo. For the record, those players were: (Front row, left to right) Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan; (Back row, left to right) Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone.

     

    Also, columnist David Ramsey checked in on how former Air Force coach Joe Scott and former Air Force player and assistant coach A.J. Kuhle are doing up at Denver. Check out his column here.

  • The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Basketball Team

    Wed, February 25, 2009 by admin with 10 comments

    Ever wonder what an Air Force basketball dream team would look like? If you took all the players in program history and selected a team of 15, including a starting five?

     

    So did we. And that’s why, in tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette, you’ll find our All-Time Air Force Team.

     

    I’m sure it will spark plenty of debate. Please visit Gazette.com tomorrow, take a look at the team and post your comments/thoughts/gripes in the section below the article.

     

    Can’t wait to see what people think.

  • Tuesday Odds and Ends

    Tue, February 24, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    A few quick things …

     

    The Air Force football team will open spring practice this coming Monday (Mar. 2). The team will hold 15 sessions, concluding with one on April 4 at Falcon Stadium.

     

    The tentative schedule is below, with all weekday practices tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. and Saturday practices TBD. So much is tentative because of uncertainty regarding the weather.

     

    Mar. 2-5 (Mon.-Thurs.) and 7 (Sat.)

    Mar. 9-11 (Mon.-Wed.)

    Mar. 16-18 (Mon.-Wed.)

    Mar. 31-Apr. 2 (Tues.-Thurs.) and Apr. 4 (Sat.)

     

    -Seniors Shea Smith and Luke Yeager will be the football team’s graduate assistants next season. Seniors Keith Madsen and Hunter Altman will be the GAs for the prep school team.

     

    In addition, senior Anwar Johnson will be the GA for the prep school hoops team.

     

    -And, finally, for those of you with The Mtn., I’ll be appearing on the network’s Around the Mountain program today. It airs tonight at 5:30. It will be shown again tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

  • Clark to Play QB in Spring

    Mon, February 23, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    I sat down with Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun this afternoon to talk about what he hopes to accomplish during spring practice (which starts a week from today) and to get some thoughts about this year’s team.

     

    My spring practice preview story, along with two lists – 3 Pressing Questions and 3 Top Position Battles to Watch – will appear later this week in The Gazette. Possibly this weekend.

     

    But there were a few tidbits from my conversation with Calhoun that I wanted to share.

     

    Most newsworthy … Freshman Asher Clark, who emerged as the Falcons’ top tailback last season, will play quarterback in the spring and compete with freshman Tim Jefferson, who started the last eight games of the 2008 season and won Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

     

    That doesn’t mean Clark will be playing tailback and taking some snaps at QB on occasion. He’s going to attend the quarterback meetings and fully immerse himself in the position.

     

    “He’s 100 percent quarterback,” Calhoun said. “I thought back in August Asher Clark showed a lot at the quarterback position. I like his strength, I like the way he throws the ball, I like his quickness. I like how naturally he acquires football. … I want to see what the guy can do at quarterback.”

     

    Jefferson could benefit from competition, Calhoun said.

     

    “I think it could be good for everybody,” Calhoun said.

     

    Some other notes:

     

    -Junior Sean Quintana, who played some tight end along with receiver last season, will move to tight end permanently. “We’re going to let him play tight end from the start,” Calhoun said. “Gives him a chance maybe to put on a little weight between now and the first of August. And to learn that position cold.”

     

    -Freshman Ben Kopacka (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) has been moved from tight end to defensive end.

     

    -Sophomore fullback Jared Tew could get a look at tailback.

     

    -Junior nose guard Stephen Larson, who missed much of 2008 with a knee injury, should be able to play in spring practice. Sophomore inside linebacker Ken Lamendola (shoulder) and defensive end Alex Arndt (shoulder) both will see “minimal” time during spring practice.

     

    -Sophomore tailback Kyle Lumpkin will not participate in spring practice to concentrate on academics.

     

    -Junior linebacker Clay Bryant, a 2008 Mountain West Conference all-academic team selection, has left the team. He wants to concentrate on positioning himself for his career after graduation, Calhoun said.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, February 22, 2009 by admin with no comments

    My CSU-Air Force basketball game story and notes can be found here, and my wrap of the game is below. For the other side’s view, The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s game story is here.

     

    For more upbeat Air Force news, the hockey team defeated Holy Cross Saturday night to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Hockey Association with Rochester Institute of Technology. The Falcons face RIT next weekend in two games for the title. Find our story about Saturday night’s game here.

  • CSU Wrap

    Sat, February 21, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Prior to today’s game against Colorado State, Air Force had been in exactly one game (at home against TCU) that went down to the wire.

     

    I’ve got to believe that’s part of the reason why the Falcons appeared woefully unprepared to handle the pressure-filled moments in the final few minutes of what turned out to be a 71-66 loss. The Falcons committed three turnovers and missed the front ends of a pair of one-and-one opportunities in the final six minutes.

     

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said he didn’t think the lack close games the Falcons have been in this season had a bearing on the game’s final stretch. And senior guard/forward Andrew Henke said players have been in plenty of tight situations since they’ve been playing basketball for years and years.

     

    But I think the lack of experience this season in close games did have an effect. With about eight minutes left, I told Denver Post reporter Irv Moss that I thought the Falcons were starting to look tight. That they were passing up open shots and playing tentative.

     

    Makes sense. Eleven of the Falcons’ first 12 MWC games were decided by double-digit margins, so Air Force hasn’t had much experience making plays in crunch time. Sophomore guard Evan Washington said the team mimics those situations in practice. But it’s just not the same.

     

    It was as if the players suddenly realized, “We can win this thing,” nerves kicked into overdrive and you got what you got.

     

    There is, of course, a benefit to this. Now Air Force has another experience to draw from if another game goes down to the wire. Next Saturday against Wyoming or on March 11 in the play-in game (likely against CSU) that experience could pay dividends.

     

    Other thoughts:

     

    -What a first half by Andrew Henke. He went 6-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and made all seven of his free throws. It’s great fun to watch someone so in the zone.

     

    CSU did a nice job on Henke in the second half, face-guarding him and making sure he couldn’t get the ball. Still, I would have liked to have seen him get the ball more. On a hand-off or something, just so he could have it in his hands. Especially for that last shot.

     

    -Reynolds on that last shot: “It was a designed play. We didn’t want to call a timeout, and we had to because we had guys in the wrong spot. And so we ended up having to call a timeout to set it, and I think that gave them a chance to set their defense. We still got an open 3 by a guy who’s a really good shooter (Matt Holland), he’s just making shots right now.

     

    -Decent bounce-back games by a couple of freshmen.

     

    Center Sammy Schafer had scored just six points in the Falcons’ previous four games (including none in the last two), but he had eight points against CSU on 4-of-4 shooting before getting into foul trouble. And forward Taylor Stewart, who had gone five games without scoring, had five points early, including a 3-pointer.

     

    Thought Schafer showed pretty good athleticism (for his size) with a couple drives in the second half. Schafer would dribble through traffic into the lane (albeit slowly), jump, hang and then shoot on the way down.

     

    -Air Force’s MWC season looks a lot like CSU’s a year ago. Last season the Rams played Air Force tough in Fort Collins before losing by two.

     

    Asked what similarities he sees between the 2008-09 Falcons and his 2007-08 Rams, CSU coach Tim Miles said, “We both need to go out and recruit more talent. He’s got good players, not enough of them. We had some good players, not enough of them. And we’re all working to move ourselves into the upper division of the league.”

     

    Miles also said about Air Force: “They play with heart and desire and passion. They execute their stuff. A few breaks here or there the other way and this game goes the other way.”

     

    -Thought Evan Washington had a nice game, hitting the halfcourt 3 just before halftime and the huge 3 from the corner with just less than a minute to play. He also played pretty good defense (along with Anwar Johnson) in the second half against Marcus Walker, who is great fun to watch. He is lightning quick and not shy at all about tossing up shots.

     

    -Before anyone complains about the officiating (too late, right?), consider this: Colorado State players picked up 20 fouls. Air Force players picked up 14.

     

    And the call that fans were most upset about (the charge/block call that went against Anwar Johnson) was apparently correct, according to folks at courtside who saw the replay. I haven’t seen it yet.

     

    -By far the best rendition of the National Anthem that I’ve heard this season or probably ever at Air Force. That kid had some pipes.

     

    -And finally, when asked if his team can find a way to win, Reynolds answered with an emphatic, “Yes. Yes.” Back tomorrow with links.

  • FINAL: CSU 71, Air Force 66

    Sat, February 21, 2009 by admin with no comments

    The streak continues.

     

    In absolutely excruciating fashion.

     

    Air Force fell apart down the stretch and lost to Colorado State, 71-66, on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 3,675 at Clune Arena.

     

    The Falcons led, 61-55, when Andrew Henke hit a 3-pointer with 8:28 left. But they scored just five points the rest of the way – going approximately seven-and-a-half minutes without a field goal.

     

    The loss was Air Force’s 14th in a row – matching the longest in program history – and 15th in its last 16 games. The Falcons, who lost at home for the eighth straight time, fell to 9-16 and 0-13 in the Mountain West Conference. Colorado State, which went winless in league play a year ago, improved to 9-18 and 4-9.

  • Halftime: CSU 41, Air Force 38

    Sat, February 21, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force sophomore guard Evan Washington banked in a 3-pointer that he released just before the buzzer to pull the Falcons within three points of Colorado State at halftime at Clune Arena.

     

    The Rams lead, 41-38, despite a huge half from Air Force senior guard/forward Andrew Henke, who matched his career high for points with 23. Henke put on a dazzling shooting display, making 6-of-7 shots from the floor, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and all seven of his free throws.

     

    Henke came off the bench and scored 13 straight points to give the Falcons a lift. He then scored all the points in a 10-0 run that cut a 14-point Rams lead to 39-35.

     

    His 23 points were the most by an Air Force player in a half since Lamoni Yazzie had 26 in the second half against Liberty on Dec. 22, 2001.

     

    Air Force shot 12-of-18 from the floor (66.7 percent) but again struggled with turnovers, committing eight.

     

    Colorado State also shot the ball well, hitting 17-of-29 shots (58.6 percent). Senior guard Marcus Walker had 11 points for the Rams, while sophomore forwards Andre McFarland and Andy Ogide had nine and eight, respectively.

  • 20 Minutes to Tip

    Sat, February 21, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    I’m here at Clune Arena watching Colorado State and Air Force warm up.

     

    Do the Falcons finally get one? This clearly is their best chance in their final four regular season games.

     

    I think the key is Air Force getting off to a good start – in both halves – and getting a contribution from someone other than the seniors.

     

    Had some computer trouble, so I didn’t post my preview. For what it’s worth, you can find it and my 3 Things to Watch here.