- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

Witnessing the increase in attendance, Matt Fairchild knew Air Force hockey has caught on in Colorado Springs. But he was caught off-guard earlier this month when approached at the grocery store by a season-ticket holder.

“That was amazing, just a random person approaching me,” he said. “When I first got here, that wasn’t the case.”

Recognition comes with the Falcons’ 27-10-2 record and a 36-point season by Fairchild, a 23-year old junior left wing who graduated from Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va.

But what would be amazing is two wins in two days to secure a spot in the Frozen Four on April 9 and 11 at Verizon Center.

Air Force has sustained one-goal losses to Minnesota and Miami (Ohio) in the regional semifinals the last two years. The Falcons, champions of the Atlantic Hockey Association, play No. 3 Michigan on Friday in Bridgeport, Conn. The winner plays the Vermont-Yale winner Saturday.

“The key for us is limiting our mistakes and capitalizing on their mistakes,” Fairchild said. “It definitely helps us that we’ve been in this position before. When I was a freshman, it was new for everybody. We like our chances.”

Fairchild is one of four D.C. area players in the tournament. Greg Costa (Crownsville, Md.) and Chris Donovan (Fairfax Station) play for Northeastern and Jamie Fritsch (Odenton, Md.) for New Hampshire.

Fairchild’s production has increased each year - 11 points to 29 points to now 36 points. His 17 goals rank second on the team behind Hobey Baker Award finalist Jacques Lamoureux (32 goals). The Falcons started the season with 13 consecutive wins and enter the tournament on a 7-2 streak.

Fairchild got a late start to skating, moving from neighborhood roller hockey to the ice around fourth grade. He attended Broad Run High School for a year before graduating from Stone Bridge in 2003. He played three years of junior hockey in the Boston area before moving to the academy.

“I knew I had to go the junior route - that’s the standard procedure now, to go there to get bigger and stronger before going to college,” he said. “Two years before I got here, they came to the first tournament of the season in Boston and asked me to take a visit. I just loved it.”

Hockey is just part of the academy experience. In 2007, he made five solo jumps and last summer worked with Air Force officers launching rockets and missiles.

“I don’t need to do [the jumps] ever again,” he said.

This summer, he will be home for three weeks before returning to Colorado Springs to help conduct basic training for incoming freshmen.

A systems engineering management major, Fairchild decided earlier this month that he wouldn’t immediately pursue pilot training, choosing acquisitions officer as his postgraduate career.

“Buy stuff using the government’s money” is how he described the job. “I went back and forth pretty much every day on what I wanted to choose. When it came down to it, pilot commitment is 10 years after training, and that’s a long time to commit to.”

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