Atlantic Hockey Tournament Semifinals
Force Is A Semifinal Steamroller Once Again
Frieder, M. Charbonneau
Charbonneau, J. Hajner
Hajner, M. Mayra
Andrew Volkening (60:00, 24 svs, 0 GA)
Louis Menard (51:14, 22 svs, 5 GA), Jared DeMichiel
(8:35, 2 svs, 0 GA)
AF 8/16; RIT 11/41
Plays: AF 2-8; RIT 0-7
N.Y. – The last time Air Force took the ice at Blue
Cross Arena, the Falcons roared to the Atlantic Hockey championship
with a dominating win over Army.
forward one year, and the Falcons are at it again.
Force took the best shot from home-standing Rochester Institute
of Technology and didn't flinch. The Falcons killed off
seven RIT power plays rolled to an improbable 5-0 semifinal
round victory before a stunned crowd of 3,933 at Blue Cross
Arena on Saturday.
last thing I expected was a 5-0 score, that blows me away,"
said Air Force coach Frank Serratore.
Air Force will meet Mercyhurst in Sunday's 7 p.m. title
game. The Lakers had a much tougher time with Army but they
broke open a close game with two goals in the first six
minutes of the third period for a 4-2 victory.
like (Friday) night, we found a way to win a game,"
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. "We are excited
to continue and play (Sunday) night. We like where we're
home early are the top two seeds: regular-season champion
Army and runner-up RIT. It marks the second year in a row
that the top seed failed to reach the final and the first
time that the top two seeds were eliminated early.
felt good, obviously, coming into the game. We don't feel
so hot leaving the game," said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.
"We got beat by a better team tonight."
"It was certainly not the outcome we were looking for,"
said Army coach Brian Riley. "As I told our players,
one game certainly doesn't define the season. … Obviously,
losing this game hurts right now. If this is the worst thing
that happens in all of our lives, life will be pretty good
Special play lifts Falcons:
Air Force got two power play goals from Brent Olson, a short-hander
from Matt Fairchild, and the Falcons killed off seven RIT
power plays. It was a pretty special night for the Air Force
"Every kill is pretty big," said
Fairchild. "Either they can get their team going or
get our team going."
Most notable was a 5-on-3 kill midway through
the second period. Air Force was clinging to a 2-0 lead
when Matt Charbonneau and Michael Mayra were sent off for
tripping within 64 seconds of one another. Goalie Andrew
Volkening stopped a Matt Smith one-timer from the right
circle and steered aside a tricky shot from Brent Patry
from the left point. In between, RIT lost the zone twice
and nearly a third time.
Fueled by success, Fairchild started and finished
off a breakaway, fending off Patry's backcheck to beat Louis
Menard from the left circle.
"In that case, that (penalty kill) pumped
up our team," Fairchild said. "Once you kill off
five-on-three, the momentum definitely shifts into your
advantage, and they capitalized on it," said Smith.
Fennell , B. Robinson
Ryan, J. Ammon
Graham, B. Phillips
Omilusik, L. Flicek
Bremner, M. Gurtler
Matt Lundin (59:58, 36 svs, 2 GA)
Josh Kassel (57:46, 23 svs, 4 GA)
M 9/18; A 9/18
Plays: M 1-5; A 1-5
Volkening just doing his job:
When Andrew Volkening beat Army to claim the 2007 Atlantic
Hockey championship, the freshman netminder was a lot more
A year later, Volkening is keeping his emotions
in check as he tries to backstop the Falcons to another
title. Asked about his fifth career shutout, a 24-save effort
over RIT, Volkening was not overly moved.
"To be honest with you, I didn't think
about it," Volkening said. "It's done and over.
During the game I wasn't thinking about it. It's not something
that is important to me. The (win) was important; it doesn't
matter what the score was. No matter what the score is,
I always think of it as a 0-0 game. I just don't want to
give up the next goal, or the first goal. I tried to ride
that through the game."
Game of inches: Mercyhurst
goalie Matt Lundin is good but he knows when to thank the
hockey gods and his friendly goalposts.
Locked in a 2-2 tie late in the second period,
Army pulled its goalie to get a sixth attacker with two
seconds on the clock. The move paid off as Bryce Hollweg
won the offensive zone faceoff and got the puck to Owen
Meyer. His quick rip hit Lundin and trickled right to the
left post. Army swiped the puck in but not until after the
horn had sounded.
"When things are going for you, the puck
seems to stay out of the net," Lundin said. "Luckily,
we got a few breaks tonight."
You can point to Chris Risi's game-winner
in the early seconds of the third period. Down a man, Risi
threw a puck on net from the right circle and beat Army
goalie Josh Kassel. It was hard to tell on video replay
whether the puck went off Nick Vandenbeld's skate, and Kassel
threw his arms up in a fruitless appeal.
"Nick went hard to the net and I threw
it there," Risi said. "I am pretty sure he got
a piece of it."
So why didn't Risi give his teammate the goal?
Risi laughed and said he was trying to change the scoring
but the goal remained his.
"It was a big goal," Risi said.
"Both teams were working hard. We got a bounce and
we broke the momentum. Momentum is huge in a game like this."
Neil Graham finished off a pretty passing play with his
fifth goal at 5:41.
Getting in the way: Mercyhurst
forward Matt Pierce has opened the scoring in both of the
Lakers' Final Five games with re-directs on the power play.
"I can't even take credit for any of
that," he said. "I put my stick in the way and
the pucks go in the net."
Pierce has a team-leading 14 goals, eight
on the power play. The Lakers have produced power play goals
in seven consecutive games.
Repeating history: This is
the first time Atlantic Hockey has used a Final Five concept
so there is no history for winning three games in three
days. Mercyhurst has that opportunity on Sunday.
"That's a pretty good fifth seed there,"
said Army coach Brian Riley.
Last year, fifth-seeded Alabama-Huntsville
won the College Hockey America tournament with a 4-3 overtime
win over Wayne State, a 5-3 decision over Niagara and a
5-4 overtime triumph over Robert Morris.
Last year Air Force was the lowest seed (four)
to win the Atlantic title. Mercyhurst was a three seed when
it beat Quinnipiac in 2005.
Losing their cool: Army is
the second-least penalized team in Atlantic Hockey (12.6
minutes per game). That wasn't the case Saturday as the
Black Knights were whistled nine times for 18 minutes. Mercyhurst
produced only one power play goal but having to kill off
penalties hurt Army's offensive rhythm.
"The guys maybe were playing with too
much emotion and trying to do too much," said senior
captain Bryce Hollweg. "You never get on a guy for
trying too hard."
"All you can ask of your guys is they
work as hard as they can and they don't give up," said
Army coach Brian Riley. "Our guys did that. I am not
walking out of here feeling … the guys could have
done any more. It just wasn't our night."
AND HEARD AT BLUE CROSS ARENA
Music comforts from home:
As the top seed in the semifinal matchup, Army got to provide
the pregame music. It was a copy of the same music that
is played at West Point's Tate Rink.
Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick's
Day is Monday but the city of Rochester rolled out the green
two days earlier for thousands of revelers. A nearby street
is named St. Patrick's Boulevard and hosted a morning parade.
Hours before the semifinals, large groups of Irish and would-be
Irish whooped it up around the Arena. At least Mercyhurst
dressed appropriately with its green road uniforms.
Golden: Army decided to use
its alternate third jersey, a gold sweater with the Black
Knights' third logo on the front, three stars on the sleeves
and one on each of the shoulders. It brought Army good luck
with wins in its last four home games, but not in Saturday's
Three Stars of the Night
Matt Lundin, Mercyhurst
gave up two goals to Army in the opening 22 minutes
and then stoned the Black Knights the rest of the
way. His 36-save effort puts the Lakers into the finals
for the first time since 2005.
2. Brent Olson and
Matt Fairchild, Air Force
Olson produced two power-play tallies and Fairchild
netted a shorty and even-strength tally to lift Air
Force into its second final in two years of Atlantic
1. Andrew Volkening,
Volkening knows what it takes to win in the post-season
and he proved it once again with a solid 24-save shutout
What do Tigers eat?: Taking
advantage of decent weather and temperatures approaching
50 degrees, a host of fans from Rochester Institute of Technology
decided to do some tailgating in a nearby parking lot.
A good up of Joe: Mercyhurst
coach Rick Gotkin knows where to find a good cup of coffee
before the game. Before each playoff game, Gotkin has strolled
up to the fourth floor of BCA where coffee was being brewed
for the corporate sponsors.
Puddles: The start of the
second period for the Army-Mercyhurst game was delayed a
few minutes while pooled water left by the Zamboni had to
freeze. Play started with visible puddles, and one pool
collected and stopped a puck, thwarting an Army offensive
A little premature: The goal
judges on both ends of the BCA rink had troubles during
the Army-Mercyhurst game, both setting off the red light
in anticipation of goals that never came.
Falcon repeat: Air Force
is the first team to reach an Atlantic Hockey final in consecutive
years. No. 1 Holy Cross beat No. 4 Sacred Heart, 4-0, in
the 2004 final at West Point, N.Y. No. 3 Mercyhurst edged
No. 1 Quinnipiac, 3-2 in overtime, in the 2005 final in
Northford, Conn. No. 1 Holy Cross beat No. 4 Bentley, 5-2,
in the 2006 title game in Worcester, Mass. No. 4 Air Force
routed No. 2 Army, 6-1, in the 2007 final in Rochester.
Force's 5-0 shutout of Rochester Institute of Technology
was the ninth in Atlantic Hockey playoff history (46 games).
It matched the largest shutout set in 2004 when No. 1 Holy
Cross beat No. 9 American International. There have been
two shutouts in 2008, plus two in 2007, none in 2006, one
in 2005 and four in 2004.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
goodness for RIT hockey fans. Sure, they can be obnoxious
with some of their chants (hardly original, I might add)
but they brought fun and excitement to the Blue Cross Arena,
and their presence will be missed Sunday since their beloved
Tigers were ousted.
been ripping Rochester for two years about the lame atmosphere
of the tournament, but I must say it was a bit more lively
for Semifinal Saturday. There was music and the video scoreboard
was operational (that was not the case on Friday).
and Sacred Heart were the only schools to bring along any
pep bands. The Sacred Heart musicians struggled, much like
their team. The RIT band, though, was excellent and on cue
with appropriate selections. The band wasn't too pleased
with some of the calls and they serenaded the officials
with "Three Blind Mice" and the evil empire music
from "Star Wars."
is it with those thunder sticks? I can't stand those things.
What ever happened to good, old-fashioned clapping and yelling?
The arena cleaning staff definitely had their work load
increased, picking up all the orange RIT balloon remnants,
most of which were popped, along with their team's NCAA
Who's hot? Both of Sunday's finalists. Mercyhurst
has won four in a row and is unbeaten in five. Air Force
has four wins in a row and is unbeaten (7-0-1) in its last
Air Force and Mercyhurst gained splits on
each other's home ice. The teams met in Colorado Springs,
Colo., in early November. Mercyhurst won the opener, 5-3,
and Air Force bounced back with a 6-2 win. They met in Erie,
Pa., five weeks ago and again Mercyhurst took the opener,
3-1. Air Force responded with a resounding 7-0 rout.
"Air Force is big, strong and physical,"
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. "They possess the
puck well. We have to play pretty darn well and continue
to get great goaltending from Matty (Lundin)."
"Mercyhurst is a dangerous animal,"
Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. "They are playing
with nothing to lose. Nobody expects them to win three games
in a row. … They have got some handy guys that if
they get the puck in the right spots, they can hurt you."
It all could come down to goaltending. This
month, Lundin has four playoff wins and Volkening has three.
McMillan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.