U.S AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Junior defenseman Adam McKenzie had a goal and three assists as Air Force beat 13th-ranked Niagara, 6-1, in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Saturday, March 2, at the Academy's Cadet Ice Arena. The game was the regular-season finale for both teams as the Falcons clinched the No. 2 seed in the AHA Tournament. Air Force improved to 17-11-7 overall, 15-7-5 in the AHA. Niagara fell to 21-8-5 overall and 20-5-2 in the league. Niagara will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Late in the first period, Air Force scored two goals in a span of 12 seconds. John Kruse put the Falcons on the board on the power play. Chad Demers sent the puck around the boards to Adam McKenzie at the blue line. McKenzie slid the puck to Kruse who fired a slap shot that snuck under the cross bar for his seventh of the season at 17:12. On the very next shift, McKenzie sent the puck up ice Ben Persian who skated down the left side. Persian took a slap shot from the top of the circle that beat Cody Campbell for his fifth of the season. Dan Weissenhofer also assisted on the play as the Falcons took a 2-0 lead at 17:24.
Early in the second period, Kyle De Laurell gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead. De Laurell picked up a loose puck in his own end and skated coast-to-coast. His first shot hit the skate of a defender, but he got the puck back and his backhander beat Campbell over the glove at the 3:40 mark. Niagara got on the board at the 8:24 mark on a strange faceoff goal. After the puck was dropped on the dot, Niagara's Patrick Divjak and Air Force's Chad Demers swung at the puck. The puck jumped out of the circle, bounced off of an Air Force player and fluttered over the shoulder of Jason Torf. Air Force answered at the 13:22 mark on the rush. McKenzie started the rush in his own end and Tony Thomas skated the puck into the zone. Thomas passed across to Chad Demes on the left side. With his back to the goalie, Demers slid a backhander past Campbell's left pad for his ninth of the season.
Air Force started the third period on the power play and the Falcons capitalized. Scott Holm sent the puck to Stephen Carew in the Air Force end and Carew found McKenzie at the point. McKenzie fired a wrister, as Holm held a screen in front, that beat Campbell high. His sixth of the season came 42 seconds into the third period. Persian netted his second of the night at the 12;07 mark as he forced a turnover in the neutral zone and skated in uncontested on Campbell.
"We have been a great road team, but haven't been a great home team," head coach Frank Serratore said. "This weekend was a pretty dominating performance. Our guys played very good against a very good opponent. I thought we'd play well this weekend and I thought the games would be entertaining, but I didn't think we put almost 100 shots on them and win two games the way we did."
Air Force outshot Niagara, 46-22, in the game. AFA was 2-for-7 on the power play while Niagara was 0-for-2. Jason Torf made 19 saves as he earned his 17th win of the season. Senior David Bosner saw his first action since the season opener and played the final 6:41. He made two saves without allowing a goal. Cody Campbell stopped 40 of the 46 shots he faced.
Air Force is off until March 15-17 when the Falcons host a best-of-three AHA quarterfinal series at the Academy's Cadet Ice Arena. Game time will be 7:05 p.m. MT night at Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force's opponent will determined this coming weekend as the Falcons will get the second-lowest remaining seed after the first round games. Tickets will go sale online on Monday, March 4, at GoAirForceFalcons.com.