Air Force beats UConn, 4-3, advances to AHA Final Four
March 11, 2012
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force came from behind for a 4-3 victory over UConn in game three of the best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Association Quarterfinal Series, Sunday, March 11, at the Academy's Cadet Ice Arena. With the victory, the Falcons advance to the AHA Final Four in Rochester, N.Y., for the sixth straight season. The top-seeded Falcons face fourth-seeded Mercyhurst, Friday, March 16, at 4:05 p.m. ET in the AHA semifinals.
Air Force, 19-10-7, opened the scoring at the 9:13 mark on the power play. The Falcons were 0-for-7 on the power play in the first two games of the series. However, sophomore defenseman Adam McKenzie took a shot from the left point that was saved and Paul Weisgarber tipped the puck to the weak side. Freshman Scott Holm scored his third goal of the series, sixth of the season, for a 1-0 lead. Just after the Falcons' second power play ended, the Huskies tied the game. Alex Gerke found Cole Schneider in the neutral zone to start a 2-on-1 breakaway. Schneider scored his first of the game at the 15:44 mark.
Schneider's second of the game gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead at 7:53 of the second period. The junior winger forced a turnover at the Air Force blue line and skated all alone on Falcon goalie Stephen Caple. His wrister went high blocker side. Air Force answered late in the period as senior Tim Kirby scored with a blast from the left point. Husky goalie Garrett Bartus had just made a point-blank save on Paul Weisgarber. Casey Kleisinger sent the puck up to Scott Mathis who slid it across to Kirby. His slap shot went through a screen by Weisgarber, rattled off the pads of Bartus and trickled across the goal line. Kirby's 12th of the season tied the game at 2-2 at 14:11. Ninety-seconds later, the Huskies regained the lead on the power play. Jacob Poe skated the puck the length of the ice and found Corey Jendras in the middle. Jendras' third of the season gave UConn a 3-2 lead at 15:40. Air Force again answered. After winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, Jason Fabian put back a rebound of McKenzie's shot at 18:17.
Early in the third period, the Falcons took a 4-3 lead. Cole Gunner made a pass from behind the net that bounced around in front. George Michalke picked it up in the slot and skated around the defenseman. The sophomore center stuffed it under the pads of the goaltender for a 4-3 lead at 3:21. UConn pulled its goaltender in the final 2:07 in favor of the extra attacker. Caple made five saves in the final 67 seconds to preserve the victory.
AFA outshot UConn, 37-31, in the game. Each team was 1-for-3 on the power play. Bartus made 33 saves for the Huskies while Caple made 28 for the Falcons. "You just can't put this one into words," head coach Frank Serratore said. "Our guys just kept battling. At times it looked like this wasn't going to be our night, but the hockey gods were with us. We had to come from behind twice tonight. This was nothing but guts for us tonight. Give UConn a lot of credit. Nothing but guts from them as well. I am just so happy for our guys that they will be able to go back to Rochester."
Air Force will face Mercyhurst in the first semifinal game on Friday, March 16, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., at 4:05 ET. RIT will face Niagara in the night game. The top four seeds in the AHA advanced to the Final Four. The winner of the Final Four receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.