Andrew Volkening recorded his second straight shutout to lead Air Force to a 2-0 win over Mercyhurst in the Atlantic Hockey Association championship game, Saturday, March 21, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The Falcons claimed their third consecutive AHA title and earned their third straight bid to the NCAA Tournament.
With the win, Air Force improves to 27-10-2 and advances to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. The Falcons find out their opponent and site in the NCAA Regionals on the Selection Sunday Show, televised live at 9:30 a.m. MT on ESPN 2.
Air Force drew first blood just 3:02 into the game as Jacques Lamoureux scored his nation-leading 32nd of the season. Tim Kirby passed from the right point to the left and Scott Mathis fired a slap shot. Lamoureux redirected the shot for a 1-0 Air Force lead. The Falcons took a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Matt Fairchild transitioned the puck in the neutral zone and fed Kirby. Kirby’s first shot was poked away and Derrick Burnett fired a slap shot that was saved. Fairchild cleaned up the rebound for his third goal of the series and his 17th of the season. The Falcons killed three penalties in the third period in maintaining the two-goal lead.
The Falcons outshot the Lakers, 33-25, in the game. AFA was 0-for-5 on the power play while MC was 0-for-6. Air Force allowed just four power-play shots on 10 minutes of power-play time. Ryan Zapolski made 31 saves for the Lakers while Volkening had 25. Volkening stopped all 51 shots he faced in the tournament and has recorded 150 consecutive shutout minute in the AHA Final Four in the Blue Cross Arena dating back to last season’s championship game victory. It marked the first time in tournament history there have been back-to-back shutouts in the semifinals and championship game.
Four Falcons earned all-tournament team, led by tournament MVP Matt Fairchild. Joining the junior winger were defensemen Greg Flynn and Scott Mathis and Volkening. RIT forward Cameron Burt and Mercyhurst forward Scott Pitt were also on the team.
Quotes from the post-game press conference:
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We put together a very quick game plan and our guys executed it. Mercyhurst generates their energy from their offense. We needed to play our game. We wanted to go up and down with them, but we needed to do it within the framework our game. They score goals in bunches and we never let the fuse get lit.
“It feels great to win,” said Fairchild. “We played our game tonight. On the goal, I was just following the play and got the rebound. It wasn’t anything special. It was nice to be named the MVP, but it should have been Volks. He was amazing.”
“This was a credit to all the guys and the way they back-checked,” said Volkening. “I can’t think of very many tough chances we gave up. I’ve been here before and I’m confident and it’s gone well here.”
“We kept a lot of their shots to the perimeter and that allowed Volks to get big,” Flynn said. “Volks was incredible. We never let them build off of anything. In the NCAAs, we need to play the same game we played tonight. We executed our plan. I’m really happy to go back to the tournament as a senior and get another chance.”
“We want to play our game at the NCAAs and be a difficult team to play against,” Serratore said. “You can’t win the game in the first period but you can certainly lose it, especially against the big boys. We need to play with competitive patience like we did this weekend. You are not going to outscore those teams. You have to play a sound defensive game. I am humbled to be part of this team and what they have done. We have some great players, great competitors and some great people.”