DENVER, Colo. - Pioneer center Nick Shore netted a hat trick as seventh-ranked Denver beat Air Force, 5-2, in a non-conference college hockey game Saturday, Oct. 20, at Magness Arena in Denver, Colo. Air Force falls to 0-2-2 overall while Denver improved to 2-0.
Denver opened the scoring late in the first period on a power-play goal by Nick Shore. After a flurry in front, Nolan Zajac's shot was saved and Shore put back the rebound for his first of the season. The Pioneers took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on Shore's second of the game. The Pioneers won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Chris Knowlton found Shore wide open in the slot at the 11:56 mark.
Air Force got on the board early in the third period as Jason Fabian fed Casey Kleisinger in the slot. Kleisinger skated down the center of the ice and scored his first of the season at 2:56 of the third. The Pioneers lit the lamp 60 seconds later as Shore netted the hat trick. His third of the game came at the 3:56 mark of the third period as he tipped in a point shot by Dakota Mermis. The Pioneers took a 4-1 lead at 7:42 on the power play. Shore made a pass to the center point and Joey Laleggia pounded a shot down the slot for his first of the season. Air Force answered 40 seconds later as Cole Gunner forced a turnover in the Pioneers end. Tony Thomas sent a pass wide of the net and Chad Demers tipped it in at 8:22 for his first of the season. His goal cut the Pioneer lead to 4-2. With 3:10 left in the third, Air Force pulled goalie Jason Torf from the net in favor of the extra attacker. The Falcons had several flurries in front, but the Pioneers sealed the win with an empty-netter by Zac Larraza with 16 seconds remaining.
Denver outshot Air Force, 42-24, in the game. DU was 2-for-3 on the power play while AFA was 0-for-4. Denver won 32 of the 50 faceoffs in the game. Torf made 37 saves for the Falcons while Adam Murray made 22 for the Pioneers.
" We took a step in the right direction," head coach Frank Serratore said. "We were better tonight. DU imposed their will on us tonight and scored some nice goals. We are going to be a work in progress this season. As a team, we have to be better and we were better tonight. Jason Torf proved he is a quality goaltender this weekend. You wouldn't know it looking at the box score, but he was really good."
Air Force travels east to open Atlantic Hockey play next weekend as the Falcons play at Canisius, Oct. 25 in Buffalo, and at Robert Morris, Oct. 27, in Pittsburgh.