January 18, 2017 Updated: January 18, 2017 at 5:37 pm
The sharp mind that has Air Force’s Kyle Haak leading the academy’s sophomore class academically also helps him pace the hockey team in points.
“He’s brilliant in the classroom,” coach Frank Serratore said. “I have been doing this for a long time and I can tell you there is zero correlation between being excellent in the classroom and having good hockey sense.
“But with Kyle, he has (both). He’s a thinker on the ice. (Before a game) some guys never ask questions. Some guys are afraid to ask questions. He asks really good questions. He is dialed in.”
Those questions before and during games and practices are how the Michigan native (21 points, team-high 14 assists) leads the second-place Falcons (13-7-4, 10-4-2). AFA travels to Atlantic Hockey Conference rival and third-place Robert Morris (13-6-3, 9-5-2) this weekend.
“Kyle is quietly one of the biggest leaders in our (locker) room,” sophomore forward Matt Serratore said. “He is very analytical and picks up on a lot of stuff. He does a good job of making sure everyone else is clued in and knows what’s going on.”
“Nine times out of 10 I have an idea what the answer is but I want to make sure the entire team is on the same page,” Haak said of his questions. “So I’ll ask hoping there are five or six other guys in the room who have that question, so we can really clarify it, so the whole six-man unit is on the same page while on the ice. Ultimately it helps me anticipate things if I know my teammate will be in the right spot.”
That head start is invaluable to Haak.
“He’s not the fastest of foot but he anticipates so well that he wins races against opponents who are much faster than him because he’s three steps to the puck before the other player even twitches a muscle,” coach Serratore said.
The physics major is No. 1 in his class because he uses every spare moment to study, taking advantage of tutoring, study tables, bus and airplane rides and the experience of teammates during lengthy road trips to the northeast United States.
“It’s really taking advantage of those opportunities for one-on-one engagement and to learn the material outside of the classroom because we miss class so much,” Haak said. “The amount of help and support we get through the academy is amazing.
“I owe a lot to the professors who are willing to meet outside the classroom, the guys who set examples of how to be great student-athletes and the teammates who have already been through the class before me so they can tutor me on the road,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s my teammates who are the most help.”
He often turns to teammates Dylan Abood (electrical engineering) and Tyler Ledford (management) and cadet Prayant Hanjra (physics) for immediate help, but it was graduated goalie Chris Dylewski who taught him the balancing act between hockey and homework.
“He was a role model in the sense that it is possible,” Haak said. “Don’t say you can’t do it because he proved it is possible.”
His analytical mind allows him to absorb the fine details in his team’s system, the opponents, as well as his studies.
“I have benefited from a lot of great coaches talking about structure, talking about patterns, tendencies of other teams,” Haak said.
Matt Serratore is not surprised by his linemate’s success.
“Being around him every day and knowing how smart he is off the ice and how smart a hockey player he is, what his work habits are, it doesn’t surprise how well he is doing on and off the ice,” the sophomore said. “He’s not the flashiest guy but he is always in the right spot doing the right thing and it leads to consistent production. He is a rare player in that way because you can rely on him in any situation. He is a huge asset for us.”