AFA advances to championship with 5-4 overtime win over Sacred Heart
March 16, 2007
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS (719) 333-2313
AIR FORCE ADVANCES TO CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WITH 5-4 OVERTIME WIN OVER SACRED HEART
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Josh Print's goal at 8:04 of overtime lifted fourth-seeded Air Force to a 5-4 win over top-seeded Sacred Heart in the Atlantic Hockey Association semifinal game at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.
With the win, Air Force advances to Saturday's league championship game vs. Army. The winner of the AHA championship game advances to the NCAA Tournament, March 24-26, at a site to be determined.
The win improves the Falcons to 18-15-5 overall this season. Sacred Heart's season ends with a 21-11-4 record.
AFA trailed 4-3 in the final minute of regulation, but senior captain Billy Devoney's goal with 54 seconds left in the third period forced overtime after the Falcons' had pulled their goalie.
Air Force opened the scoring at the 15:58 mark of the first period when the Falcons' fourth line beat Sacred Heart's Jason Smith, the first-team all-conference goaltender. Matt Fairchild fed Brett Nylander in the right circle. His shot hit Smith in the arm, but the puck slid behind the goalie and into the crease. Medenwaldt came in from the weak side and put in the rebound for his third goal of the season. AFA out-shot SHU, 8-6.
Early in the second period, the Falcons took a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal. AFA started the period on the power play and capitalized just 41 seconds into the period. Matt Charbonneau's shot from the point was re-directed in front by Mike Phillipich for a 2-0 Falcon lead.
Sacred Heart got on the board at the 7:33 mark when Bear Trapp scored from Todd Spencer. AFA regained its two-goal lead at 14:20 of the second period when Fairchild scored his fifth of the season from Medenwaldt and Nylander from right in front of the net. The second period ended with AFA leading 3-1.
However, the third period was all Sacred Heart as the Pioneers scored three goals in a span of eight minutes to open the third. Just 1:18 into the period, Paul Ferraro scored from Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Dave Grimson to make the score 3-2. At the 4:06 mark, Dave Jarman tied the game with a shot from the slot. Just four minutes later, the Pioneers took a 4-3 lead on Eric Giosa's goal from Jarman. Sacred Heart was out-shooting Air Force, 7-1, at that point of the third period. The Pioneers clung to the one-goal lead until the final minute.
With 1:15 remaining, AFA pulled goaltender Ben Worker from the net in favor of the extra skater. With just under a minute remaining, Devoney fired a shot from the right point that went through traffic and got past Smith to tie the score at 4-4. Mike Phillipich and Jeff Hajner assisted on the play that forced overtime.
"I'm not really a goal scorer," Devoney said. "The puck was on the wall and I saw Ramsey open on the far side. They took that away and kind of parted the sea for me. I just fired it to the net and saw everyone lift their sticks and celebrate. I was ecstatic."
In the extra period, the teams traded rushes up the ice for the first eight minutes. AFA had three shots at that point and Sacred Heart had two.
With the puck deep in the SHU end, Josh Schaffer fed Greg Flynn at the point. His shot from the right side was heading toward the net when junior Josh Print redirected it past Smith and into the net to send the Falcons to the championship game.
"Flynn did a great job of keeping the puck in the zone," Print said. "I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I can't even describe how it feels."
AFA out-shot SHU, 34-24, in the game. Each team was 1-for-6 on the power play. Worker made 20 saves for AFA while Smith made 29 for SHU. The Falcon fourth line combined for two goals in the game as Medenwaldt and Fairchild each had one goal and one assist and Nylander had two assists.
"It was a privilege to play in this great college hockey game," head coach Frank Serratore said. "Sacred Heart has not let many of those close games get away from them this season. They came back on us then we came back on them. Give our guys a lot of credit. Typical of service academy kids, they never gave up in the game and kept battling. It's sad there had to be a loser in that game."
"I felt terrible to let my teammates down in the third period," Worker said. "It was heart-breaking. But I knew that my teammates were never going to quit and neither was I."
Air Force advances to its first ever conference tournament championship game on Saturday, March 17, at 7:00 pm ET at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The Falcons face the winner of the Army/UConn game for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament.
"We've had some teams come back on this season," Devoney said. "But we weren't ready to die. This feels great, but we aren't satisfied yet. We have more work to do."