Junior winger Matt Fairchild scored two goals as Air Force defeated UConn, 3-2, in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Friday, Feb. 6, at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena. A crowd of 2,531 extended AFA’s school-record sellout streak to five games. The sellout was also the eighth of the season, tying an Academy record for all sports. The men’s basketball team also had eight sellouts in 2006-07.
Air Force moved back into first place in the AHA with tonight’s win. The Falcons improved to 18-7-2 overall and 15-4-2 in the AHA. UConn fell to 6-21-1 overall and 5-14-1 in the league. AFA has 32 league points while RIT has 31.
The Falcons scored twice in the first period, the first even strength and the second on the power play. Less than four minutes into the game, Sean Bertsch redirected a point shot by Tim Kirby. Mike Phillipich slid the puck up the boards to Kirby at the right point who fired a slap shot. Bertsch redirected the puck from the right circle for his fifth of the season. Air Force took a 2-0 lead as the Falcons ended an 0-for-27 slump on the power play. Scott Mathis took a slap shot from the right point that was saved but Derrick Burnett and Matt Fairchild battled in front of the net. Fairchild scored his 11th of the season for a 2-0 lead.
Air Force killed all three UConn power plays in the second period, but it was an even-strength goal that got the Huskies within a goal. At the 12:00 minute mark, Matt Miller took a shot from the right point that was knocked down in front and started a flurry in front of Andrew Volkening. The Huskies had four shots from point-blank range before Matt Pedemonti scored his second of the season.
Midway through the third period, the Falcons were on the power play and Fairchild scored his second of the game. Greg Flynn fired a shot from the top of the right circle that hit Fairchild in the chest in the slot. The junior winger slid the puck through the five hole for the eventual game-winning goal. With less than five seconds left in the third period, the Huskies had a short-handed odd-man rush and Sean Erickson fired a slap shot that got past Andrew Volkening and hit the far post just before the final horn sounded.
UConn outshot Air Force, 34-32, in the game. The Falcons were 2-for-6 on the power play while UConn was 0-for-5. Volkening made 32 saves in the game, his second most of season. Beau Erickson made 29 stops for UConn.
“It was a very even game,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “When it was all said and done, our special teams and goaltending were better than theirs and that is something we need to build on that. We just have to stop kicking ourselves in the gut. At the end of the game, I can’t even explain how we give up a shorthanded shot like that. That puck hit the post square and probably should have gone in. This was a tight game. They played us dead even.”
Air Force and UConn conclude the series on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7:05 p.m. MT at the Cadet Ice Arena.