Thanks to its freshman netminder, Army will have a nice flight back to West Point.
Brad Roberts saved 30 shots, including all 11 in the final period, and sophomores Chris Casey and Chris Garceau each scored goals as the Black Knights defeated Air Force, 2-1, in front of 1,796 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena on Sunday.
The win capped an impressive weekend for Army, which swept a two-game series in Colorado for the first time in the program’s 100-year history. The Black Knights are now 8-11-0, while the Falcons, who completed a six-game homestand without a victory, dropped to 8-15-1.
“With a team like that, you need to get the lead,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “They didn’t give us any easy ice, and I don’t remember having a breakaway all weekend.”
After neither team could convert on their first two opportunities with the man advantage, Army opened the scoring late in the first period with a power play tally. Senior Nic Serre fired a shot that Air Force junior netminder Mike Polidor stopped but could not corral. The rebound went to Casey, who notched his 10th goal and fifth power-play marker of the season, both team highs.
The Falcons returned the favor 2:49 into the second period, capitalizing on an Army checking from behind infraction. Sophomore Ryan Wiggins took a pass from senior Brian Reaney and one-timed a shot that Roberts kick-saved. The rebound bounced to senior Scott Zwiers, who converted on the putback.
The goal was redemption for Zwiers, who late in the opening period had a goal disallowed as the net came loose.
“On [the disallowed] goal, Wiggins was run off into the net by [an Army] player,” said Serratore. “Why would our player knock the net off? That was a tough call for us, and as it always seems, that would end up being the difference.”
The Black Knights wasted little time in regaining the lead, scoring less than four minutes after the Falcons’ lone tally. Garceau picked off a pass deep in Air Force’s defensive zone, and backhanded a shot through Polidor’s legs for an unassisted goal.
Air Force controlled the puck in its offensive zone for much of the final 20 minutes. However, as was the case all night, the Falcons could not convert on long-range slap shots. Air Force’s best scoring chance of the period came with six minutes remaining, as Roberts robbed Zwiers with a sprawling kick save on a rebound attempt.
“We’ve been concentrating on defense, and to allow only two goals is a positive,” said Zwiers. “We just need to get guys to the net for second chances.”
The Falcons pulled Polidor after a timeout with 1:48 remaining, but failed to put one past Roberts, who stopped 72 of 74 Air Force shots on the weekend.
Polidor, who faced just two shots in the third period, finished with 19 saves in defeat.
“That’s why we play Division I athletics, to deal with adversity,” said Serratore. “But in the game of war, we are always the favorites.”