Air Force sophomore goaltender Jason Torf had a rough weekend in the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals against Connecticut, getting pulled on Friday and Saturday and ultimately losing his starting job to senior Stephen Caple, who won the third and deciding game to send the Falcons back to Rochester for the sixth time in a row.
“Last weekend was a spotty weekend,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We did not play our best hockey. We were lucky to get out of that series.”
So it wasn’t until late Thursday night that the Air Force brain trust decided to go with Torf, who had pitched a magnificent 1-0 shutout against RIT in the finals last season.
In Friday’s first Atlantic Hockey semifinal, Torf responded with a 24-save performance to help the Falcons to a 5-2 win over Mercyhurst. He was poised, and, as Serratore had hoped, looked like a guy who had been there before.
“We had a Dr. Phil meeting around 10:30 [Thursday night]”, said Serratore. “I met with ‘Corby’ [assistant coach Mike Corbett] and [captain] Paul [Weisgarber] and let me tell you, I wasn’t the brains in the conversation. We went through a lot of scenarios and ultimately made the decision we made.”
Serratore and crew ultimately thought it was better to start Torf, who had more big-game experience, and have Caple waiting in the wings if needed. “There’s been a number of games where Torf hasn’t had his mojo and [has] gotten pulled early,” he said. “It’s crazy how many times we’ve done that, but Caple has come in and we’ve won the game.
“You need to make a decision that your team feels good about. I think it got down to we don’t know what’s going to happen but who do we want to start and who do we want to come in if we needed to?”
“We have a lot of confidence in Jason Torf, especially in single-elimination games,” said Weisgarber. “He had a shutout against RIT in the finals last year and had one against Robert Morris in the last game of the [regular] season to win the regular season title. He’s big in big games.”
Torf did not attend the postgame news conference and left the building without granting interviews. He had apparently decided to do his talking on the ice, making his case for a start in the title game.
Serratore had once before switched goalies between the semifinals and finals. In 2007, the first year the Falcons won the championship, he replaced senior Ben Workman with rookie Andrew Volkening. Was he considering another game of goalie roulette?
“It’s highly unlikely,” said Serratore. “I think [Torf] showed us what we needed to see tonight.”