HANOVER, N.H. – Senior Mitch Torrel scored two goals to lead Air Force to a 5-2 win over No. 16 Northeastern in the first game of the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. Air Force improved to 8-5-4 overall while Northeastern fell to 10-6-2. Northeastern’s six-game unbeaten streak, the fifth longest in the nation, ended as Air Force ended its own six-game winless skid (0-2-4). Air Force will now play the winner of tonight’s Dartmouth/No. 5 Providence contest in the championship game on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Air Force opened the scoring at the 7:42 mark of the first period as Torrel scored his third of the season. Alex Halloran sent a puck down low and Jason Fabian found Torrel wide open in the slot. Northeastern tied the game at 13:08 on the power play. Just seven seconds after a penalty was called on Falcon forward Max Birkinbine, the Huskies tied the game. John Stevens won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck popped into the slot. Mike Szmatula collected it and made a move on Jason Torf. He then fed Braden Pimm on the far side who scored his ninth of the season. Late in the first period, Chad Demers won a faceoff in the offensive zone and a Northeastern defenseman tried to kick the puck to the boards. Scott Holm poked the puck free and Cole Gunner collected it behind the net. His wrap-around beat Husky goalie Clay Witt on the short side. His sixth of the season gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead. The Falcons outshot the Huskies, 15-4, in the first period.
Midway through the second period, the Falcons took a 3-1 lead. Halloran earned his second assist of the night as he kept the puck in the zone and sent a shot toward the net. Tony Thomas knocked it down in front and Ben Carey fired in his fourth of the season at the 11:44 mark.
Northeastern opened the third period by taking the game to Air Force. The Huskies cut the Falcon lead to 3-2 as Pimm’s second of the game came at 2:14. Less than two minutes later, the Falcons answered as Torrel tallied his second of the game. Freshman defenseman Johnny Hrabovsky knocked the puck down at the blue line and took a shot that was saved. Torrel buried the rebound for a 4-2 lead at 4:08. With just over three minutes remaining, Northeastern pulled its goalie in favor of the extra skater and the Falcons capitalized. Scott Holm collected a loose puck in his own end and skated out of the zone. His wrister from beyond the red line found the empty-net for a 5-2 lead with 3:12 remaining.
“This is our team,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We haven’t seen them for awhile. This is the best we played since the tie with Denver (Nov. 22). Territorially we dominated the game and the better team won tonight. We had a little bit of a lull early in the third period, gave them some space and they scored. When a good team gets the momentum, it’s hard to get it back. But I credit our guys, they kept battling. What a huge goal Mitch scored for us in the third period to answer their goal. Now we will see if we can put two in a row together for tomorrow night’s game.”
Air Force outshot Northeastern, 29-16, in the game. AFA was 0-for-5 on the power play while Northeastern was 1-for-3. Clay Witt, who came into the game ranked in the top 12 in the nation in both goals-against average and saves percentage, made 24 saves while allowing four goals. Jason Torf made 14 saves for the Falcons.
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