As Jayson and Scott have noted here, Air Force pretty much has needed to run the table to cement an At-Large berth in the NCAA tournament. Last night’s 67-second burst of three goals by Canisius with under three minutes to play may very well have dug the Falcons a hole they can’t climb out of.
After starting out 13-0, Air Force is 2-5-1 in its last eight games, and after giving up three goals only once during that winning streak, the Falcons have given up an average three goals since then.
With an Atlantic Hockey-only schedule down the stretch, the Falcons will be hard-pressed to improve their RPI by much, given the weak schedule strength of their opponents.
The Falcons likely will not face enough teams under consideration to get to ten games unless league rival RIT squeaks into that category and a non-league opponent like Yale (to whom they lost) becomes a TUC. So that criterion will not factor in. (Currently, Air Force is 1-2-0 vs. teams under consideration, with a win against Colorado College and losses to Denver and Quinnipiac.)
Common opponents will not be a big factor for Air Force. Its win over Colorado College and the pair over Bemidji (which has a few WCHA teams on the schedule) will help in some comparisons with the WCHA, but losses to Yale and Quinnipiac hurt its comparisons with the top flight of the ECAC.
Head to head will not be much of a factor for the Falcons, either. CC is the only team under consideration which Air Force beats in that category, and unless RIT can become a TUC — the only other AHA team currently close — then Air Force will either have that as a non-factor, or as a detriment.
While Atlantic Hockey continues a steady climb — Bentley’s win over Maine is added to an ever-growing list of non-league wins that are becoming commonplace — the league’s relative weakness out-of-conference still limits its at-large chances.
Air Force could sneak in if it runs the table but loses the league championship game in Rochester, but it has become an extreme longshot that depends on a lot of other factors beyond the Falcons’ control.
Backing into the NCAAs — a term I really don’t like, but am at a loss for a better one — hasn’t been on the flight plan anyhow. Frank Serratore’s squad has had its sights on a third-straight Atlantic Hockey crown; it’s looking like that’s the only way to the NCAA regionals for the Falcons after Friday night.