Mike Phillipich scored a short-handed goal with one second left in the third period to lift Air Force to a 3-2 win over Bentley in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Friday, Feb. 13, at the John A. Ryan Arena in Watertown, Mass.
Air Force clinched home ice in the quarterfinals of the playoffs as the Falcons improved to 20-7-2 overall and 17-4-2 in the AHA. Bentley, who had won seven of the last eight and five straight, fell to 15-13-1 overall and 13-9-1 in the league.
After a scoreless first period, Bentley scored two goals in a span of three minutes for a 2-0 lead. Dain Prewitt, from Westminster, Colo., scored the first goal of the game at the 3:41 mark on a flurry in front of Andrew Volkening. Bentley took a 2-0 lead at 6:58 on the rush. Dustin Cloutier made a centering pass and Marc Menzione dove to tip the puck past Volkening for a 2-0 lead. Bentley outshot Air Force, 7-2, in the first seven minutes of the period. Air Force answered less than a minute later to cut the deficit to 2-1 at 7:43. Jacques Lamoureux took a pass from behind the net and netted his nation-leading 24th of the season. Air Force outshot Bentley, 13-4, in the final 13 minutes of the second period.
Air Force trailed 2-1 entering the third period and was behind by a goal with less than four minutes remaining. With 3:50 left, Jeff Hajner won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Scott Mathis passed across to Tim Kirby at the left point. Kirby’s one-timer beat Joe Calvi high, blocker side for his first career goal. The goal tied the game at 2-2.
With 1:33 left in the third period, Brent Olson was called for a five-minute cross checking penalty, putting Bentley on the power play. Bentley kept the puck in the Air Force zone nearly the entire time on the power play. With 10 seconds left, Jeff Gumaer took a shot from the slot and Andrew Volkening made a save with the tip of his right pad. Air Force cleared the puck and Matt Fairchild raced past two Bentley players in the neutral zone. Fairchild took the puck behind the net and then centered the puck as time was running down. Phillipich skated down the slot and went five-hole for his seventh goal of the season, his second shortie and third game-winner.
“We know who the enemy is and the enemy is in the mirror,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good and tonight we were lucky. We needed the points and it clinches home ice with a big road win. But we didn’t play winning hockey tonight. I don’t understand how we have vanilla efforts. We didn’t play with a sense of urgency. We did at times, but you have to play like that for 60 or 65 minutes, if necessary. Volkening made a big save and Fairchild is so dangerous on the penalty kill. He might be the best short-handed threat in the nation. Phillipich is a clever, heady player and he hit the spot.”
Bentley outshot Air Force, 11-8, in the third period and 28-27 in the game. AFA was 0-for-4 on the power play while Bentley was 0-for-5. Volkening made 26 saves, including 21 in the final 40 minutes. Calvi made 24 for Bentley.
Air Force and Bentley conclude the two-game league series Saturday, Feb. 14, at 7:05 ET in Watertown, Mass.