March 16, 2008
Atlantic Hockey Tournament Finals
Thank God It's Frider

By Ken McMillan

Air Force 5,
Mercyhurst 4
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-AF Brent Olson (18) PP
19:58 M. Phillipich, G. Flynn

Second Period

2-AF Frank Schiavone (5) EV
13:23 S. Kozlak, J. Frider
1-MCY Matt Pierce (15) PP
17:11 B. Cottreau, J. Terminesi
2-MCY Steve Cameron (11) PP
19:46 S. Pitt, B. Coccimiglio
Third Period
3-MCY Nick Vandenbeld (2) EV
3:50 C. Risi
3-AF Josh Schaffer (5) EV
9:50 M. Phillipich, S. Bertsch
4-MCY Brett Robinson (8) EV
11:09 M. Pierce
4-AF Josh Frider (12) EV
11:30 B. Olson, S. Kozlak
First Overtime
No scoring
Second Overtime
5-AF Josh Frider (13) EV
0:56 B. Olson
MCY: Matt Lundin (80:56, 42 svs, 5 GA)
AF: Andrew Volkening (80:56, 49 svs, 4 GA)
Penalties: MCY 7/25; AF 9-18
Power Plays: MCY 2-7; AF 1-5
All-Tournament Team

G-Andrew Volkening, Air Force
D-Matt Charbonneau, Air Force
D-Jeff Terminesi, Mercyhurst
F-Brent Olson, Air Force (MVP)
F-Matt Pierce, Mercyhurst
F-Chris Risi, Mercyhurst

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – At the culmination of the longest championship game in MAAC/Atlantic Hockey history, Josh Frider had a short but perfect answer to describe Air Force’s 5-4, double-overtime victory over Mercyhurst on a late Sunday night at Blue Cross Arena.

“This is joy," said Frider, who provided the championship-winning goal at 56
seconds of the second overtime.

A year ago the joy was somewhat muted as Air Force scored early and kept scoring in a 6-1 title game rout of Army. This victory, though, was a test of nerves for everyone involved and a test of endurance for Mercyhurst.

The fifth-seeded Lakers were vying to become the first Atlantic Hockey team to record three wins in three days on championship weekend and, boy, did they come close.

The Lakers rallied from two goals down to tie the game in the final three minutes of the second period. They even pulled ahead twice in the third period only to have a gutty Air Force squad strike back with tying goals.

“Going down 2-0, it really sunk in," said Mercyhurst’s Mike Gurtler. “Everybody
came together and really brought it up."

The cruelest play was saved for last when leading scorer Ben Cottreau walked in on a breakaway in the final seconds of regulation only to be stopped by all-tourney goalie Andrew Volkening, one of his 49 saves.

“It wasn’t in the cards," said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin.

The ever-stoic Volkening basically said most of the game was a blur with no real
specific recollections, although his two saves on a two-on-one break by Gurtler and Dan Bremner midway through the first overtime did stand out. “I kind of remember that one," he laughed.

His counterpart, Matt Lundin, was saddened to surrender the game-winner after making 42 saves. The decisive play came down the right wing and Brent Olson got off a shot which defenseman Bobby Phillips blocked.

“I kind of lost sight of it," Lundin said. “I got a second shot at it on the outside of net. It popped back out to him and [Frider] put it over my right shoulder."

“I just took a swing at it," Frider said. “I couldn’t get too much on it. I think it kind of rolled over his shoulder."

From afar, Volkening could not believe his eyes.

“When Frider put the puck in the net, I couldn’t believe it," he said. “It took me
a couple seconds to figure out what was happening."

The entire Air Force bench emptied quickly and raced toward the offensive zone where the dogpile took place. Lundin and a teammate each cracked their sticks over the crossbar in disgust before skating away to form the congratulatory handshake line.

“It’s a tough loss," Lundin said. “It’s tough to take it all in right now. I wouldn’t want to lose it with any other guys."

Volkening said the repeat championship was “pretty unbelievable." Serratore
interrupted and staked his team’s claim to legitimate ownership of two Atlantic
Hockey trophies.

“It validated this group as a champion," Serratore said. “There’s an old saying,
‘Once is luck; twice is skill.’ Last year we won the championship and it was the
first one and we came out of nowhere. RIT was not involved [so there was an]
asterisk. They had won the league.

“We had an opportunity to play them in [Saturday’s 5-0 semifinal victory] and we validated last year’s championship with our performance against them. Then tonight, to win, and the way we did it … it validated this group as champions, and we’re not a one-hit wonder."


Frider is Mr. Opportunity: Air Force’s Josh Frider not only scored the game-winner, he also provided the tying goal at 11:30 of the third period. Brent Olson had rifled a shot wide left but the puck took a crazy bounce off the end boards and caromed right onto Frider’s stick some five feet away from Mercyhurst goalie Matt Lundin. Frider shocked Lundin with the equalizer.

“I got a lucky bounce," Frider said. “I saw it come off the boards. It was bouncing
and I got really good wood on it."

The overtime goal was his 13th of the season, and the first time Frider had ever won a tournament with one shot.

“It was indescribable,’’ Frider said of the emotional moment.

It’s just overtime: Save any talk about pressure, says Air Force goalie Andrew

“I try not to think about that stuff, especially in a situation like overtime," said Volkening, who made 12 stops in extra time. “I just told myself that after that
third period, after we came back and tied it 4-4, that these guys are scoring goals and they doing their job. They are there for me and I am going to be there for them and do my part."

Mercyhurst’s Brett Robinson got behind three Air Force defenders in the opening
minute of overtime but fired a backhand shot wide. Brandon Coccimiglio swooped in for a slap shot off a rebound but Volkening made a great save with 14:47 left in the first OT.

The Lakers got two more great shots late in overtime. Scott Pitt skated down the right side but Volkening got a piece of his shot and the puck slid through the
crease with 2:51 left. Forty seconds later, Mike Gurtler had his shot re-directed in front and Volkening had to reach back with his glove to stop the puck.

By the way, Volkening was not in net last year when Air Force beat Sacred Heart 5-4 in the semifinals; that was Ben Worker.

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Matt Lundin, Mercyhurst
Now that the season is over, coach Rick Gotkin released the details of some of his injured stars. Lundin is going to have shoulder surgery in April. Doctors told him he shouldn’t play, but he played through the pain and posted four playoff wins before making 42 saves in a double-overtime loss.

2. Andrew Volkening, Air Force
Deep inside, Volkening is kicking himself for allowing four goals and twice falling behind in the third period but he came up with huge saves the rest of the way and 12 in overtime to win all-tourney honors.

1. Josh Frider, Air Force
He saved the day with his tying goal in the third period and then won the game with his double-overtime tally. Frider said he’s had overtime winners before, but never a tournament winner.

Falcons not lucky right away: Air Force nearly won the game in the opening seconds of overtime. Matt Fairchild gained a breakaway when Mercyhurst defenseman Kirk Medernach fell down at the blue line. Fairchild swooped around him only to have goalie Matt Lundin thwart his shot. Air Force’s Derrick Burnett hit the right post with 14:00 remaining.

When Mercyhurst’s Brandon Coccimiglio was sent off for interference at 10:47, Lundin was tremendous as Air Force peppered the Mercyhurst net. Defenseman Greg Flynn got off a great shot from the right point which Lundin gloved, dropped to ice, and then covered up.

The game-winner came from Josh Frider at 56 seconds of double overtime.

“I want to give our team credit," Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “Our team
was tested. The test came in the third period. We dropped behind once, we dropped behind twice. I told the boys there are two ingredients you have to have in order to be a champion. You have to have the ability to come from behind and the ability to win on the road. Nobody was better in the league this year than our group."

Air Force is 9-8-1 away from Colorado Springs this season.

Lakers were praiseworthy: Air Force coach Frank Serratore was stunned to see Mercyhurst play as well as it did for a third night in a row.

“I can’t believe Mercyhurst had the energy that they did," Serratore said. “It was
amazing. Them playing three games in three nights and then having to go into
overtime, I just kept waiting for them to run out of gas. … They almost pulled off
not the impossible but the very improbable."

One step closer: Mercyhurst goalie Matt Lundin started his career at Maine, and still has one year of eligibility remaining. He said the championship game was “one of the hardest games I’ve played in," and the play reminded him of the old Black Bear matchups with the likes of Boston University and New Hampshire.

“Our guys competed so hard and so did Air Force,’’ Lundin said. “The comparison [with the play in the major four conferences] is right there. We got closer and closer this year, and next year we'll be even closer."

Cottreau finishes third: Mercyhurst senior forward Ben Cottreau played a splendid game in his final collegiate appearance, but he will probably lament the one shot that could have won it all.

In the closing seconds of regulation time, Cottreau collected a rink-wide pass along the left boards and was sprung on a breakaway. Racing toward Air Force goalie Andrew Volkening, Cottreau made a deke inside and then went outside in an attempt to score. Volkening stuffed the attempt on the right post, and the horn sounded.

Cottreau did assist on Matt Pierce’s power play goal to start the comeback from a 2-0 deficit. It was his 95th career assist, to go with 61 goals in 132 games.

Cottreau finishes third all-time in MAAC/AHA career scoring with 156 points. Louis Goulet, a 2002 Mercyhurst graduate, had the mark of 157 until last season when Pierre-Luc O’Brien of Sacred Heart finished with 158. The record would surely have been his had it not been for injuries which caused him to miss seven games in both his junior and senior seasons.

Cottreau’s 61 goals ranks seventh all-time in MAAC/AHA. The 95 helpers leaves him tied for third.

Well into the night: This was the third-longest game in Atlantic Hockey history. In 2006, Bentley’s Brett Murphy won a quarterfinal playoff with his goal at 14:30 of the second overtime, beating Army 4-3. A week later, Jaye Judd scored at 58 seconds of double OT to beat Mercyhurst 3-2 in the semifinals.

Not a repeat performance: This was the second Atlantic Hockey championship to be decided in overtime. Mercyhurst won the 2005 title in overtime when Scott Champagne scored off an assist from Ben Cottreau as the Lakers beat Quinnipiac 3-2.

Hopeful for a return: Air Force senior forward Eric Ehn has resumed skating but his status is still uncertain for the NCAA tournament in two weeks time. Ehn, a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2007, fractured his left fibula in a Jan. 19 loss to Colorado College. Despite missing 13 games, Ehn still ranks seventh in Air Force point production (six goals, 19 assists).

Perfection: Air Force is 7-0 in Atlantic Hockey playoff games and 4-0 at Blue Cross Arena. Last year, the Falcons beat Sacred Heart and Army on the way to their first Atlantic playoff title. The seven playoff wins ties coach Frank Serratore with Holy Cross’s Paul Pearl in that category.

Something had to give: Air Force came into the game riding an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1). Both teams had won their last four games. The last team to beat Air Force was Mercyhurst as the Lakers pulled out a 3-1 decision Feb. 8 in Erie, Pa.

The Falcons started their streak the next night with a convincing shutout victory,
scoring seven times on Matt Lundin on 36 shots.

A killer PK: Air Force killed off 30 consecutive opponent power plays before
Mercyhurst struck for a pair from Matt Pierce and Steve Cameron late in the second period. The last time the Falcons surrendered a man-down goal was Feb. 23 against Canisius.

Power rangers: Mercyhurst has produced power play goals in eight consecutive games and Air Force has done it seven games in a row. The Falcons have nine power-play goals in the four playoff games to date.

Whooping it up: Air Force was pretty workmanlike during its pregame skate. On the other hand, Mercyhurst players were laughing and shouting with glee during their warmup.

Where’s the home locker room?: This was the first neutral-ice clash between Air Force and Mercyhurst. Strangely, Air Force owns a 3-1 record in Erie, Pa., and Mercyhurst has a 3-1 record in Colorado Springs, Colo. For the record, the
third-seeded Falcons were designated the home team and wore the white uniforms in the clash with the fifth-seeded Lakers, adorned in their green sweaters for the third contest this weekend.


What can you say? Sunday’s title game was perhaps the greatest in the history of Atlantic Hockey and its predecessor, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League. It had crisp play, 100 shots on goal, unbelievable tallies, one team ahead and then losing the lead … twice. A flurry of scoring was followed by nearly 30 minutes of heart-stopping action where the next goal would likely decide matters. It wasn’t a Game Seven, as fans of NHL playoff hockey like to cite, but double-overtime title games are just as good.

RIT coach Wayne Wilson said late Saturday night that it’s going to take time for Rochester to embrace Atlantic Hockey and the tourney championship. Let’s hope that’s the case because the denizens didn’t exactly flock out to Blue Cross Arena for Championship Sunday. There was good fan support from Mercyhurst and Air Force had a decent collection of fans among the announced crowd of 1,468.

The championship of Atlantic Hockey was held Sunday and nowhere was it available on television, pay or otherwise. The shift in schedules which led to Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America to hold their championship weekends a week earlier than the other four Division I conferences left open an opportunity to find a way onto TV. A dying CHA had its championship make its way onto CBS College Sports (formerly known as CSTV); a thriving Atlantic Hockey could not get ESPN or CSTV to televise and had to settle for its webcast.

This was ESPN Instant Classic material, but the networks passed. It’s fabulous that the league employed the B2 Networks to provide coverage of every Atlantic Hockey contest during the regular- and post-season schedules, but it is absolutely unacceptable for a Division I conference to be shut out from TV on its marquee day. College hockey fans missed a thriller, to be sure.

Atlantic Hockey is proud of its venture, but the league has got to recognize its early history as well. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League served as the precursor to Atlantic play. Eight of the 10 members hailed from the MAAC. Just because the schools broke off from MAAC ownership, tweaked a few scholarship rules and appointed its own management is no reason to disregard past records and proud accomplishments.

As an example, the Northeast Conference did not disregard the former ECAC Metro when its league changed names and management, and there are probably other college conference examples. It's time to merge the record books into one. Besides, a league with historical depth (10 years as opposed to five) is more impressive.


Air Force receives one of the six automatic conference berths into the NCAA Division I tournament. You can be sure the Falcons will receive a draw against one of the nation’s elite teams, and Air Force is hopeful of drawing the Colorado Springs regional.

Listen to coach Frank Serratore during the post-game press conference, and you would think he was directly addressing the NCAA tournament seeding committee.

Said Serratore: “We only had three seniors playing tonight in our lineup. We lost [leading scorer] Eric Ehn a long while ago. We had one all-conference player in our lineup, defenseman Greg Flynn. This team went 9-1-2 in their last 12 games, and is unbeaten in their last nine, and in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs outscored their opponents 22-7. … With those numbers, we are a very deserving champion.’’

Atlantic Hockey’s champions have performed well at the NCAA championships. Mercyhurst was tipped by Boston College, 5-4, in a 2005 East Regional. Holy Cross earned the league’s first NCAA victory in 2006 when the Crusaders upset Minnesota and then battled tough in a second-round loss to North Dakota. Last year, Air Force held a 3-1 lead on Minnesota with under nine minutes to play in the NCAA West Regional in Denver before the Gophers rallied for a 4-3 victory.

Ken McMillan can be reached at