March 16, 2012
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Paul Weisgarber scored two goals as Air Force beat Mercyhurst, 5-2, in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament Friday, March 16, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. With the victory, Air Force faces RIT in the championship game of the AHA Tournament.
Air Force improves to 20-10-7 overall. The top-seeded Falcons head to the AHA championship game for the fifth time in six years.
Air Force drew first blood when Cole Gunner scored his seventh of the season. Stephen Carew passed the puck up to the top of the left circle and Gunner's wrister went high over the blocker for a 1-0 lead at the 1:40 mark. Mercyhurst came back to tie the game at 6:27. Daniel O'Donoghue scored with a wrister from the slot as he received a pass from the side boards. The Falcons went ahead again at the 13:28 mark on the power play. Weisgarber won the faceoff and Adam McKenzie passed across to Carew at the right point. Carew's blast was tipped in by Weisgarber at the near post. Weisgarber's fifth of the season gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
The Falcons extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period. Junior John Kruse skated the puck off the side boards and into the slot. His wrister went top shelf for his 15th of the season at the 3:49 mark. Fellow junior and linemate Kyle DeLaurell picked up the assist, his team leading 23rd of the season.
Early in the third period, Mercyhurst (20-16-4) cut the Falcon lead to one goal when Derek Elliot scored with a wrister from the slot at 2:01. The Falcons clung to the one-goal until late in the third period. Jason Fabian, who dove in front of a slap shot late in the game in the defensive zone, scored his sixth of the season with 1:47 remaining. Casey Kleisinger made a no-look pass in the neutral zone to Fabian on the right wing. The sophomore winger skated in and went high for a 4-2 lead. Mercyhurst pulled its goalie with 1:10 remaining, but Weisgarber sealed the game with an empty-netter. Ryan Timar skated the puck out of the zone on a two-on-one. He fed Weisgarber at the red line and the senior captain shot the puck off a defenseman and into the open net.
AFA outshot Mercyhurst in every period and 42-25 in the game. AFA was 1-for-2 on the power play while Mercyhurst was 0-for-2. Jason Torf made 23 saves for the Falcons while Max Strang made 37 for the Lakers.
"I expected it to be a real tough game and it was," head coach Frank Serratore said. "We had chances to break it open, but Strang kept it close. Things got real interesting thanks to Strang. We played fairly well defensively and the guys stuck to the game plan. But sometimes when you play against a good, hot goaltender, the plans can get sabotaged. My hat is off to Mercyhurst, coach Rick Gotkin and Max Strang. This was a good character win for us. We had to overcome Strang and we did. We were the better team tonight. We are happy to be heading to the championship game and we will take our swings tomorrow night."