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Introducing the top 10 players in Air Force Academy hockey history

By Chris Bayee, SportsEngine, 09/12/20, 5:30PM MDT

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Hub exclusive: This summer we counted down the top players from the University of Denver and Colorado College. Now it's time the Falcons get their due.

Comparing Air Force players across the generations of the program’s 53 seasons is a bit tricky because there is a clear line of demarcation in the Falcons’ existence. That line was drawn in 1999, when the Falcons joined their first conference — College Hockey America (CHA). That move significantly raised the team’s level of competition and made the NCAA Division I tournament a destination, as the Falcons have qualified for seven national tourneys since the 2000s. 

Concurrent to that, the game has continued to evolve in the 21st century. Long gone — to the chagrin of many fans and relief of all coaches — are the sport’s run-and-gun days. Growth spurts by goaltenders, both in size and equipment, and advances in year-round training and video scouting have tilted the scales to a more defensively oriented game.

While the offensive numbers from Air Force’s early seasons are staggering, there have been recent players who established themselves as elite offensive players, despite changes in game play. The Falcons have also transitioned to the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA).

This list takes all of these factors, as well as the program’s success during their years at Air Force into account in selecting the Falcons’ top 10 all-time players.

*All photos courtesy of Air Force Athletics

10. Cole Gunner

Gunner was one of the most exciting players to ever lace up a pair of skates for the Falcons and his career stat line reflects it. The forward from Richfield, Minnesota, has the most career points (147) of any Falcon who has played in the past 34 years. His 96 assists are the fifth most in program history, and he was a two-time all-conference selection and also made an all-tournament team. He was the team MVP his final two seasons (2014-15).

9. Andy Berg

It’s a bit easy to overlook the current Falcons associate coach (or for that matter, his tag-team partner Joe Doyle, who also warranted a lot of consideration for this list). Berg is one of only three Falcons to earn all-conference honors four seasons in a row. The forward is tied for 14th on the team’s all-time scoring list, and he and Justin Kieffer have put up the third-most points (142) since 1986. He has the second-most Falcons goals (64) in the modern era, averaging more than a point per game, and he twice led the team in points and was the team MVP as a senior in 2003.

8. Gerry Micheletti

One of six hockey-playing brothers from Hibbing, Minnesota, Micheletti remains the top-scoring defenseman in Air Force history, posting 127 points in 115 games. That total — achieved in an era when defensemen didn’t often join the offensive rush like they tend to today — remains 27th overall, and his 95 assists are tied for sixth. Micheletti won the team MVP award in 1975 and was the program’s first winner of the Air Force Male MVP Award that same spring.

7. Justin Kieffer

Kieffer is a two-time team MVP and is tied for 14th on the school’s career scoring list with just two players who played more recently ahead of him. He is one of just seven Falcons to win Air Force’s Athletic Achievement Award and he was the first to be selected an Academic All-American in 1999. The forward also became the third of four hockey players to win the Falcons’ Athletic Excellence Award in 1998. He led the team in points twice and in goals three times.

6. Greg Flynn

There might not be a player in program history who was more determined or worked harder during his four seasons. Flynn progressed from rarely playing as a freshman to earning All-American honors as a senior in 2009, when he also was selected best defenseman in the conference. He led Division I defensemen with 42 points in 41 games and was at his best in the playoffs that year. His four-point game helped Air Force win an AHA quarterfinal series and then he assisted on both goals in the Falcons’ first NCAA tourney win — a 2-0 triumph over Michigan. He capped that year by becoming the sixth hockey player to win his school’s Athletic Achievement Award. It’s not a coincidence the Falcons’ first three NCAA trips coincided with Flynn’s final three seasons.

5. Tim Kirby

The smooth-skating, offensively gifted blueliner earned All-American honors as a senior in 2012, when the Falcons reached the NCAA tourney for the third time in his four seasons. Kirby was Atlantic Hockey’s player of the year, defenseman of the year and an all-tournament pick. Not only could he score (he had 12 of his 26 goals as a senior — third in the nation for a defenseman), but he was durable. He played in 155 consecutive games, which is a program record. His 88 points are ninth-most by a defenseman in school history. He capped his career by becoming just the sixth hockey player to receive the Air Force Male MVP Award in 2012.

4. Jacques Lamoureux

This guy was a pure goal scorer. Lamoureux led the Falcons in goals all three seasons he played at Air Force, and his 79 tallies are tied for sixth-most all-time and are the most since 1986. He was especially effective during Air Force’s 2009 run to the NCAA tournament, when he led Division I with 33 goals, 15 power-play goals and nine game-winners. That led to Lamoureux’s selection as an All-American and being named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award that spring. His 139 points are 16th all-time — right behind Berg and Kieffer. The Falcons reached the NCAA tourney twice in Lamoureux’s three seasons and he was a three-time all-AHA pick, including the player of the year in 2009. He’s the only hockey player to win the Falcons’ Male MVP Award twice. He completed his career by becoming the first Falcon to win the prestigious Senior CLASS Award in 2011.

3. Eric Ehn

Ehn played a big role in a season of firsts for the Falcons in 2006-07. Air Force earned its first ever NCAA tourney berth on the heels of its first conference title and Ehn was right in the middle of it — racking up 24 goals and 40 assists. He became the first player from any service academy selected to the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-America team, as well as the first player from either Atlantic Hockey or College Hockey America to be so recognized. That was just a warm-up. Ehn also is the only service academy player ever selected as one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. It should come as no surprise then that the two-time Air Force MVP was also selected the school’s Male MVP in 2007. He’s 12th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 146 points in 133 games and his 93 assists rank him No. 6 in program history. After making AHA’s all-rookie team in 2005, he earned all-conference honors again in each of his final three seasons, including player of the year in 2007.

2. Andrew Volkening

Volkening was the backbone of Air Force teams that won a lot more than they lost. The program reached the NCAA tournament its first three times in program history (2007-09) with Volkening as the Falcons’ last line of defense. He’s the only Air Force player to ever make two NCAA regional all-tournament teams (2007 and ’09), and he led Air Force to its first ever NCAA tourney win in 2009 against Michigan. He made the AHA all-tournament team three times and was twice an all-AHA selection. He is at the top, or near the top, of the Falcons’ record book in every major goaltending category. He’s first in shutouts in a season (6 in 2008-09) and career (15), wins in a season (28 in 2008-09) and a career (69 — 15 more than anyone else), and games (127); and second in goals-against average (2.19) and save percentage (.915). He’s also third in all-time saves (2,909) but first in the modern era. Given the team’s unprecedented success with him in net, the three-time team MVP (one of only two) is the most important player in the Falcons’ modern era.

1. Chuck Delich

Who else could it be but the man who scored goals like none other in NCAA hockey, later served as an Air Force assistant coach and then won 154 games behind the Falcons’ bench from 1986-97? Only seven other Falcons have ever scored as many points as the NCAA-career-best 156 goals Delich scored from 1973-77. What’s more incredible is the two-time team MVP did that in just 109 games, an average of 1.43 per game or 39 per season. Put another way, Jacques Lamoureux — the Falcons’ top goal scorer in this century — scored 26 goals per season and would have needed to play six seasons to match Delich’s career total. Delich’s 279 career points are 51 more than the next man on the Falcons’ all-time scoring list, Bob Sajevic, and Delich’s goal total is 49 higher. Points per game is another stat that illustrates Delich’s dominance. His average of 2.56 is nearly two and a half times higher than Ehn’s 1.10, which is tops among modern era players. Delich capped his playing career by becoming the only hockey player to win Air Force’s Athletic Excellence Award twice (in 1976 and ’77).

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