U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Air Force scored two goals in the second period and held on for a 2-1 win over Niagara in game one of a best of three Atlantic Hockey Association quarterfinal series, Friday, March 14, at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, improved to 21-12-4 overall. Niagara, the No. 6 seed, fell to 13-19-5.
After a scoreless first period, the two teams combined for three goals in a span of 3:15. Air Force drew first blood when Cole Gunner scored his team-leading 15th of the season at the 6:28 mark. Alex Halloran made a long outlet pass to Chad Demers to lead an odd-man rush. Demers’ fed Gunner on the right wing for a 1-0 lead. Gunner collected his 100th career point on the play. Thirty seconds later, Niagara tied the game after a Falcon turnover in the neutral zone. Patrick Divjak intercepted a pass and skated in uncontested on Jason Torf for his third of the season. The Falcons answered at the 9:43 mark, again on a 2-on-1 rush. George Michalke III led the rush down the left side and fed Max Hartner on the right wing. His one-timer gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
With 1:40 left in the third, Niagara pulled its goaltender for the extra attacker. The Purple Eagles did not get a shot on goal, partly because of two big blocked shots by the Falcons. With 1:35 left in the game, a clear attempt took a strange bounce off the glass and ended up on the stick of Niagara’s Hugo Turcotte in the right circle. Just as Turcotte released the slap shot, Falcon defenseman Dan Weissenhofer slid in front for the block. Then with eight seconds left, Jason Fabian blocked a shot by Matt Williams and then chipped the puck out of the zone as the game ended.
Air Force outshot Niagara, 37-27, in the game. AFA was 0-for-3 on the power play while Niagara was 0-for-2. Torf made 26 saves to the Falcons while Teichroeb made 35 for the Purple Eagles.
“This was a hard-fought game, but our guys found a way to win,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Can we play better? Of course we can. We had some scoring chances and their goalie came up big. And we had some turnovers that gave them chances and luckily they didn’t end up in our net. We know Saturday night will be a battle.”
Game two of the series will be Saturday, March 15, at 7:05 pm. MT at Cadet Ice Arena.