Another Slavin set to enter Colorado College fold

slavin lincolnLincoln Stars forward Josiah Slavin has committed to Colorado College, where his older brother and NHL defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes) played for two seasons, the U.S. Hockey League franchise announced on Thursday.

He is scheduled to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference program starting with the 2019-20 season.

“The coaching staff there is awesome,” Slavin said in a media release. “When I went to visit there this summer, it just felt right. It wasn’t the time to commit then, but we stayed in touch. Now, it felt like the perfect time to do it. It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m just excited to start the next part of my life.”

The Erie, Colo. native, 19, has played 53 games with the Stars in his second USHL season, tallying 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points with 23 penalty minutes and a +26 rating.

The 6-foot-2, 182-pounder recorded his first career hat-trick on Dec. 16, 2017 against Des Moines. Through 102 games, he has 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points with four game-winning goals and three shorthanded goals.

The NCHC is regarded as one of the best conferences in college hockey, and the competition every night provides a unique challenge, according to Slavin.

“Family played a huge part [in my decision],” he said. “I always loved Colorado growing up in the state. I’m a homebody, so when I’m out of Colorado I miss it. I just love it there.”

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Air Force comeback bid falls short in NCAA West Regional final versus Minnesota-Duluth

afa vs Duluth 1Air Force could not overcome a miserable first-period performance and lost 2-1 to Minnesota-Duluth in the Western Regional final.

The loss ended the Falcons’ season while falling one tourney win short of the NCAA Frozen Four for the second year in a row.

The Bulldogs out shot Air Force 14-0 in the opening 20 minutes Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D., and scored twice against all-tournament goalie Billy Christopoulos, who finished with 24 saves, including 12 in the first period, before the Falcons mounted a comeback.

He was the reason UMD could not deliver the knockout blow, which allowed for an exciting final 6:16 after a power-play goal by AFA forward Evan Giesler.

“I could not be more proud of our team,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “Duluth came out and took us to the woodshed in the first period in a big-time way. We hadn’t seen speed like that all year. After they scored the second goal, we changed our fore-check and slowed them down a little. When it was all said and done, we turned the game. We just couldn’t find a way to get enough pucks through to the net and we ended up coming one goal short.”

With 1:42 left, the Falcons pulled Christopoulos, but Duluth, which made the NCAAs by .0001 percent in the Pairwise rankings, blocked four Air Force shots while another sailed wide in the final seconds.

UMD outshot Air Force, 26-12, in the game with the shots at 12-12 over the final two periods.

In the final 40 minutes, the shots were even at 12 apiece. Hunter Shepard made 11 saves for the Bulldogs.

It was the final game for eight Air Force seniors: Dylan Abood, Erik Baskin, Phil Boje, Jordan Himley, Jonathan Kopacka, Ben Kucera, Tyler Ledford and Kyle Mackey.

The class set a new school record with 86 wins over their four years.

“With all the injuries we have had this season, it didn’t seem like it was going to be our year,” Serratore said earlier this week. “But this group just refuses to surrender. This might not be the best group of individuals I’ve ever brought to the national tournament, but it might be the best team. They’ve got something special.”

Serratore’s opinion was only reinforced by Saturday’s comeback bid.

“Anybody who watched that game, if you’re an American, I’m glad those guys are going to be defending our freedom,” he said.

Ledford (two goals Friday) and Christopoulos (63 of 66 saves on the weekend) were joined on the all-tournament team by Karson Kuhlman (UMD), Parker Mackay (UMD), Dylan Samberg (UMD), Nick Wolff (UMD). Kuhlman was named the MVP.

The win sends UMD on to the Frozen Four in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, the site where the program won the 2011 NCAA title. UMD was the NCAA runner-up last spring to Denver.

Photos courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography.

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Updated: Air Force knocks off top seed St. Cloud State in NCAA regional opener (with highlights video)

afa vs scsuA gritty defensive performance and two goals by Colorado Springs native Tyler Ledford during the second period propelled Air Force to an historic win for the Atlantic Hockey Conference program.

The No. 16 seed Falcons upended No. 1 overall St. Cloud State 4-1 behind 39 saves – many spectacular – by junior goalie Billy Christopoulos and 29 blocked shots by his teammates to win their opener at the NCAA West Regional in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Friday.

They face third seed Minnesota Duluth, which made the tourney by the slimmest of RPI margins, after the Bulldogs defeated WCHA regular-season champion Minnesota State 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Parker Mackay.

In NCAA play, Duluth has won its last seven OT games dating back to March 30, 1985 and a 7-6 third-place win over Boston College.

The regional final is at 7 p.m. Mountain on ESPN2 with the service academy gunning for its first NCAA Frozen Four berth after falling short in 2009 and 2017.

“We have a good team and we have a red-hot goalie,” coach Frank Serratore said during the postgame media conference. “With all the injuries we have had this season, it didn’t seem like it was going to be our year. But this group just refuses to surrender. We got Billy The Greek which is good.”

It was the 13th year in a row a No. 4 seed defeated a regional No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It was only the second time an overall No. 1 fell (RIT over MSUe in 2015) in the opener.

Empty-netters by Jordan Himley and Kyle Haak (both assisted by Matt Serratore) sealed the second-straight NCAA Tournament opener win for the Falcons after the NCHC regular-season champs had trimmed the lead to 2-1 on a redirect by Blake Lizotte with 2:51 remaining.

Air Force stymied the potent Huskies by hitting the ice for 29 blocked shots, including a career-high nine for senior defenseman Phil Boje. When they couldn’t block it, Christopolous was there with 39 stops, his third-best performance in college. He has recorded a .944 saves percentage since Jan. 1.

“They were selling out, 30 blocked shots that’s incredible,” SCSU forward Robby Jackson said. “We felt like once we had puck possession, that was really the only thing missing is getting shots to the net. They were diving, putting their throats in front of the puck on multiple occasions, I saw.”

Ledford converted a pass from Matt Koch to make it 2-0 and record the eventual game-winner with 13:31 left in the second period.

The former Colorado Rampage standout, who first played the game as a 4-year-old at Cadet Ice Arena, scored the opening goal after he batted in a wayward SCSU pass from out of mid-air three minutes into the second period It was ruled legal following a video review. The puck went in off the back of goalie David Hrenak’s skate (22 saves).

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“This might not be the best group of individuals I’ve ever brought to the national tournament, but it might be the best team,” coach Serratore said. “They’ve got something special. SCSU is one hell of a hockey team and they are very well coached. We got some fortunate bounces today and that’s hockey.”

Air Force is now 3-6 all-time in the NCAAs including its first win in three games against the tournament’s top overall seed.

The Falcons advanced to the Elite Eight in 2009 with a win over third-ranked Michigan and again in 2017 with a win over No. 8 Western Michigan. The Falcons have won a season-best four straight games and are 8-2-1 in the last 11 games.

Here is a link to the stats and video highlights from the game.

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Colorado native, BCHL defenseman commits to Colorado College

Centennial native Jackson Ross announced his commitment to Colorado College via Twitter on Sunday night.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound defenseman improved during his second season with the Surrey Eagles (31 points, 23 assists in 66 games) of the British Columbia Hockey League. He recorded 10 points (eight assists) in 50 games last season.Surreys-Jackson-Ross.jpg

The 20-year-old announced his commitment the day after he recorded two assists in a 3-2 second-round playoff win over Prince George, including the second assist on the game-winner. They play again Monday night (series tied 1-1).

He did not say when he expects to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference program.

“I’m very excited to announce my commitment to Colorado College,” the former Cherry Creek High School and Rocky Mountain Roughriders standout tweeted. “It’s a dream come true to return to Colorado to play college hockey! I would like to thank my coaches, teammates, billets, friends, and most importantly my family for the support!”

Here is a link to his Hockeydb stats page and the Surrey Eagles. Here is an interview from the summer of 2016 when he first signed with Surrey.

 

 

Air Force draws top-seeded St. Cloud State in NCAA West regional opener

serratore benchFor Falcons fans who want Air Force to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, they got the next best thing.

Air Force will face an NCHC opponent in the first round of the NCAA regionals for the second season in a row after it was announced they will face top-seeded St. Cloud State at 2 p.m. Mtn on ESPNU on Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D. The game will also be on 1300 AM in Colorado Springs.

The regional, hosted by North Dakota which saw its 15-straight NCAA appearances snapped by Saturday’s title game results, also includes WCHA regular-season champion Minnesota State vs. the NCHC’s Minnesota-Duluth in the other semifinal.

Last year, the Falcons traveled to Providence, R.I. and knocked off Western Michigan 5-4 before falling in the regional final to Harvard, 3-2. Air Force has never advanced to the Frozen Four, which is in St. Paul, Minn., this April.

All three Minnesota entrants are in the West regional, which will help attendance next weekend. It is also an attempt to assure one (but only one) Minnesota team advances to St. Paul. Air Force will have plenty to say about that, of course.

This is the first time since 1977 that the tourney field does not include Boston College, Minnesota or North Dakota.

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Notebook: Air Force upperclassmen lead second-half surge

Ledford_3065-1Senior Tyler Ledford (above) scored the OT goal that lifted Air Force to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, and he is one of five juniors and seniors leading the team offensively.

The Falcons won the tournament last year and six of the past 11 years. Their veteran presence will certainly help entering Friday’s semifinal vs. Canisius, as it has in the second half – Air Force is 12-4-2 since it started the season 8-10-3. They face Dylan McLaughlin, who is the league’s Hobey Baker Top 10 finalist.

The Atlantic Hockey scoring champion and First Team all-conference playmaker has vaulted to sixth in the national scoring charts. He got off to a fast start, collecting points in 15 of his first 16 games. His 31 assists in 36 games ranks him sixth in the nation. He has 17 goals, 31 assists for 48 points in 36 games – only five minor penalties all season.

Robert Morris (17-19-3) is the only team under .500 in action this weekend, but the Colonials are 4-1-1 in their last six … Regular-season champion Mercyhurst is seeking its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005.

Largest Senior Classes
11 – Mercyhurst
9 – Connecticut, Robert Morris
8 – Air Force, Canisius, five other teams
Note that the four AHC semifinalists are listed.
Fewest Even-Strength Goals Against per Game
0.81 – Cornell
1.19 – Clarkson
1.38 – Minnesota State
1.39 – Minnesota Duluth
1.47 – Northeastern
1.49 – Air Force
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is slated for 10 a.m. MT on Sunday, March 18 (ESPNU, TSNGO)
This marks the third straight season that the top four seeds advanced to the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff … No team has swept the NCHC regular-season and playoff titles in the same year entering this, the fifth year of the conference.

Troy Terry sparks Pioneers past Tigers to force decisive Game 3 Sunday night

du vs ccDENVER — A career-high 46 saves for Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc were not enough as No. 4 Denver star Troy Terry led the Pioneers to a  3-2 come-from-behind win

“He was great again,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. “He gave us a chance and that’s all you ask for your goalie to do. He has been outstanding.”

The victory forced a decisive Game 3 at 6:05 Sunday night at Magness Arena in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinals series.

Denver battled back with its biggest star shining for two timely goals. Troy Terry was credited for the tying goal after the referees ruled the puck went in off a CC player’s stick after three-straight short-range shots by 19-9-8 Denver were blocked or turned away.

The goal with 17:43 left knotted the score at 2-2. Terry later scored with 5:31 remaining for his second of the night and the game-winner.

Denver found more open ice as the 15-16-5 Tigers tired. It showed on Terry’s tally with him able to lead a solo rush into the CC zone. He cut between defenders and fired a rising shot that beat Leclerc high stick side for the final margin.

Haviland was not going to use fatigue as an excuse so much as give credit to Terry’s considerable NHL-ready talent.

“The best player in college hockey showed up tonight,” Haviland said. “Simple as that. He makes the play off the rush there. He can do that to you. He is dangerous.”

CC was in position to win its first NCHC playoff series after Tigers defenseman Kristian Blumenschein waited and then fired, beating Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet as traffic crossed in front of the Pioneers senior for the go-ahead goal with 2:20 left in the second period. The power-play tally, CC’s second in the series, put the visitors ahead 2-1.

“There was desperation on both sides,” Haviland said. “There has to be. We need more desperation for me, but it was a good hockey game. There were a lot of ups and downs. It was a tough way (to lose).”

CC struck first when Trey Bradley forced a turnover by Ian Mitchell near the Tigers blue line. Bradley collected the loose puck in neutral ice after Mitchell fell and then cut across the slot, beating Jaillet with a soft backhander behind him after the Pioneers netminder went down to stop a fake on the forehand.

The unassisted shorthanded tally with 3:19 left made it 1-0. It was the Tigers’ second shorty of the season.

Things got more physical with Denver drawing a 5-minute major on Nick Halloran, who cross-checked Adam Plant in the helmet with 2:15 left. A flurry of penalties were called during the ensuing scuffle and set up Denver for  an extended power play to end the first and start the second.

That drew a chorus of boos and got the Magness Arena crowd into the game. They erupted when Henrik Borgstrom scored  2:06 into the second. He rifled a power-play shot into the upper corner against a screened Leclerc to make it 1-1 and end the CC sophomore’s shutout streak vs. DU at 150 minutes, 34 seconds, which included two straight wins.

That Borgstrom goal was a product of a more sustained effort by the Pioneers to get bodies on front of Leclerc, making his life more difficult over the final two periods. Even then, Leclerc was almost enough for CC to pull off a series sweep before Terry took the game over.

“There was a lot of emotion in the game and I liked the way we played,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “We played a team game. I liked how hard we were and how resilient we were.”

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