March 9, 2012
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Kyle De Laurell scored the game-winner in the third period and Stephen Caplecame off the bench to make 10 saves in the final 18 minutes as Air Force beat Connecticut, 4-3, in the first game of a best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Association Quarterfinal Series, Friday, March 9, at the Academy's Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force improved to 18-9-7 overall while UConn fell to 15-18-4. The loss ended a four-game unbeaten streak for the Huskies. Game two of the best-of-three series between the Falcons and the Huskies is Saturday, March 10, at 7:05 p.m. at the Cadet Ice Arena. For tickets, click here.
UConn took advantage of an Air Force turnover to score the first goal of the game. Brad Smith intercepted an errant pass at the blue line and skated down the left wing. His wrap around goal was the first of his career. Air Force answered three minutes later. Freshman Dan Weissenhofer fed Scott Holmin the neutral zone and the freshman winger skated around a defenseman at the blue line. His wrister beat Garrett Bartus high glove side for his fourth of the season to tie the game at 1-1 at 6:11 of the first period.
The Huskies regained the lead at 6:30 of the second period when Billy Latta scored on a wrap around for a 2-1 lead. The Falcons answered with two goals late in the third period to take a 3-2 lead. Sophomore Ryan Timar tied the game at 17:47 when he put back a rebound of a Scott Holm shot. Weissenhofer also collected an assist on the play for a career best two assists in the game. Twenty-three seconds later the Falcons took a 3-2 lead on Casey Kleisinger's ninth of the season. Tony Thomas worked the puck up the wall to Tim Kirby. The senior defenseman fired a shot from the right side that was saved but Kleisinger put back the rebound.
UConn tied the game early in the third period as Cole Schneider won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Brad Cooper fired a shot from the left point that beat Jason Torf at 2:12. After the goal, Falcon coach Frank Serratore pulled Torf from the net and brought senior Stephen Caple off the bench. In the first two minutes, Caple made four saves on flurries in front of the net. Midway through the third period, Kirby sent the puck up ice to Stephen Carewin the neutral zone. Carew flipped a pass up in the air to De Laurell who knocked it down in the slot. After spinning around, De Laurell fired a backhander that went under the pads of Bartus for a 4-3 lead at the 11:13 mark. UConn pulled its goaltender in the final 41 seconds, but was unable to score.
Air Force outshot UConn, 42-21, in the game and had a 28-7 advantage after two periods. AFA was 0-for-4 on the power play while UConn was 0-for-1. Bartus made 38 saves for the Huskies. Torf started the game and made eight saves while allowing three goals. Caple came on in relief and played the final 18 minutes, stopping all 10 shots he saw. Caple earned his 12th win of the season, his first in relief since the AHA Quarterfinals last season.
"We played a pretty good game, but their goaltender was really good," Serratore said. "We persevered tonight. This was a game that UConn could have easily stolen. Jason Torf just didn't have it tonight. It was a tough decision, but I am so proud of the way Stephen Caple. We dodged a bullet tonight. In the playoffs, there are no style points. I'll take an ugly win over a beautiful loss any day."