Falcons fall at Niagara, 3-0
Niagara scored two goals in the second period as the Purple Eagles beat Air Force, 3-0, in a College Hockey America game Saturday night, Jan. 22, at Dwyer Arena in Niagara, N.Y.
The loss drops Air Force to 11-11-2 overall and 3-7 in the CHA. Niagara improved to 10-13-0 and 5-5 in the CHA. Niagara swept the series and moved into fourth place in the CHA with 10 points while Air Force is fifth with six points.
The shutout was Air Force's second of the season as then-12th-ranked Colgate blanked the Falcons, 3-0, in the Denver Cup, Jan. 2. It was the first shutout in the Niagara series since the Purple Eagles beat the Falcons, 4-0, in 2002 (12 games).
Despite both teams playing a fast-paced first period, Niagara and Air Force combined for just nine shots. Air Force had six of the shots, but neither team scored in the opening period.
The Purple Eagles scored twice in the second period and then clung to that two-goal lead the rest of the way. Niagara's first goal came on the power play at the 18:47 mark of the second period. Air Force tried to clear the puck, but the puck bounced off the boards and into the high slot. Matt Caruana's one-timer beat Falcon goalie Ian Harper high over the shoulder for a 1-0 lead. Niagara's second goal came midway through the second period when Taylor Simpson took a shot from the boards that deflected off of a Falcon defenseman and went into the net. Tim Madson and Mike Mallon assisted on the play.
"The first period was a track meet with unbelievable tempo, head coach Fran k Serratore said. "In the second period, they scored the goal and then our bench just got deflated for some reason. We were back on our heels and they gave it to us pretty good for seven or eight minutes. We got our feet back under us late in the second period and we had a lot of shot attempts, but missed the net a lot in the third period."
Niagara sealed the game late in the third period with a short-handed, empty-net goal. While on the power play, Air Force pulled Harper from the net for a two-man advantage with just over three minutes remaining in the game. However, with 2:17 left in the period, Niagara forward Ryan Gale stole a puck in the Air Force offensive zone and skated in uncontested for an empty-net goal.
Air Force outshot Niagara in two of the three periods, but the Purple Eagles held a huge advantage in the second period. Niagara out-shot the Falcons, 13-4, in the second period and held a 20-15 advantage in the game. The Falcons were 0-for-6 on the power play and 0-for-12 in the series. Niagara was 1-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-13 in the series. Niagara goalie Jeff Van Nynatten made 15 saves and improved his career record against Air Force to 9-1. Harper, a freshman from Colorado Springs, made 17 saves.
"You would think this was a trapping kind of game since the score and shot numbers were low, but it wasn't," Serratore said. "There was good end-to-end action and some good hitting. There were a lot of good things for us this weekend. We only gave up five goals (minus the empty-netter) and we only gave up 40 shots in two games at Niagara. Defense has to be the foundation of our game and right now we are playing pretty well defensively. We just need to expand our game and grow a little more offensively. I really like this team. We have good depth and we work very hard. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember how far we have come in the last couple years."
Air Force is now idle until the Robert Morris series, Feb. 4-5, at the Cadet Ice Arena.