HANOVER, N.H. – Three Falcons scored and Jason Torf made 29 saves as Air Force beat fifth-ranked Providence, 3-2, on Monday, Dec. 30, in the championship game of the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. The Falcons won a regular-season tournament for the first time since the 2004 RPI Thanksgiving tournament. Air Force improves to 9-5-4 overall while Providence falls to 13-3-3. Air Force extended its unbeaten streak to five games while ending Providence’s six-game unbeaten streak. The win marked the sixth time in the last seven years that Air Force defeated a top five team, the first since beating Colorado College in 2011.
Three Falcons earned all-tournament honors, led by senior Mitch Torrel who was named the MVP. Torrel scored three goals in the tournament to lead all players. Cole Gunner and Torf were also named to the all-tournament team.
Late in the first period, Falcon sophomore Ben Carey drew a penalty and the Falcons converted. On the rush, Cole Gunner sent a pass down low to Chad Demers who was camped by the left post. Just as Demers was being hit, the junior center redirected the puck through the legs of Nick Ellis for a 1-0 lead at 17:25.
After killing three Providence power-plays in the second period, including 36 seconds of a 5-on-3, Air Force took a 2-0 lead. Mitch Torrel picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and roared down the right wing. His wrister from the dot beat Ellis high glove side for his third goal of the tournament and fifth of the season.
Providence looked like a different team in the third period and outshot Air Force, 19-3. The Friars got on the board at the 4:57 mark of the third when Steven Shamanski scored from Kyle McKenzie. The Friars continued to carry much of the play in the third period, but the Falcons were able to regain its two-goal lead. A.J. Reid skated the puck over the blue line and hit George Michalke III down low. Michalke touched it to Tony Thomas who netted his fifth of the season from the slot. With 2:24 left in the third, the Friars pulled their goalie in favor of the extra skater. After several flurries in front of the net, a penalty was called on Air Force with 2.7 seconds remaining, giving Providence a two-man advantage. After the faceoff, the puck came out to the center point and Jason Fabian blocked a slap shot by Derek Army as the horn went off.
Providence outshot Air Force, 31-30, in the game. AFA was 1-for-4 on the power play while Providence was 0-for-5. Torf made 29 saves for the Falcons while Nick Ellis made 27 for the Friars.
“I am really proud of the effort and spirit of our guys,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “For five of the six periods this weekend, we out-worked out opponent. The third period tonight, Providence got after use, but we took their best punches. We blocked a lot of big shots in this game, McKenzie two on the 5-on-3 and Jason Fabian took a missile at the end of the game.”
Air Force returns to Atlantic Hockey Association action this coming weekend as the Falcons play a two-game series against American International College, Friday-Saturday, Jan. 3-4, in Springfield, Mass.