The Air Force Academy Fighting Falcons just keep rolling.
In front of a standing room only crowd of 2,731 at Cadet Ice Arena Saturday night, the Falcons beat the Sacred Heart University Pioneers 7-1 on the strength of five power-play goals in six tries.
“That was awesome; that’s not going to happen too much,” said freshman Scott Mathis about the power play. “It was nice when you were the first group going out there, but then if you weren’t the first group going out there, you were like ‘Crap, they’re going to score’ I’m not going to be able to go out.'”
“There’s nothing special that we did that we didn’t do last night,” said senior defenseman Greg Flynn, who had two goals on the night. “When things are hot, things are hot.”
The Pioneers came out firing to start the period, but it was the Falcons who took the first lead of the game 11:57 into the opening frame when Flynn one-timed a rocket from Jeff Hajner top shelf on Sacred Heart goaltender Stefan Drew (27 saves) from the top of the zone.
“Sacred Heart was a much more difficult team to play against tonight; they deserved a much better fate in the first period,” said Falcons’ coach Frank Serratore. “They outplayed us and [Andrew] Volkening made some great saves and the first period came down to special teams and goaltending.”
The Falcons went up 2-0 on their second power play of the game with about five minutes left in the first period on a relatively fluky play. Mike Phillipich’s centering pass banked off of both Jacques Lamoureux and Mathis before finding its way into the back of the net behind Drew. The goal, credited to Mathis, was the first of his career.
“Philly laid a pass across and it just hit my skate and went in,” said Mathis. “Lucky, if anything, but it doesn’t matter how it goes in. It was ugly, but I’ll take it.”
Air Force took a three-goal lead 1:18 into the second period on their third power-play tally of the night. Hajner took a pass from Flynn near the bottom of the right-side circle, skated the puck around the circle to the high slot and shot it low past Drew just inside the left post.
Sacred Heart got on the board 7:11 into the middle frame when Matt Gingera one-timed a Matt Gordon pass across the slot high over Andrew Volkening’s left shoulder as he was sliding back across the crease.
The Falcons regained their three-goal lead with 2:20 to go in the period on their fourth power-play goal in as many man advantages. Flynn scored his second of the game with an almost identical play as his first marker of the game.
“Being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it,” said Flynn. “I’ve just got my shots to drop. I took about five shots last night and none of them went in and I took three tonight and I got two so sometimes it’s just luck of the draw.”
Air Force went five-for-five on the power play 2:29 into the third period when Brett Nylander knocked in a Flynn rebound in traffic past Drew.
Just 1:43 later, the Falcons went up 6-1 on their first even-strength goal of the game. Air Force broke into the zone three-on-three, Lamoureux skated the puck around the net and sent a centering pass in front to Phillipich who slammed it home.
Air Force sealed the deal with three minutes left in the game to go up 7-1. Brett Olson and Michael Mayra broke the puck out of their zone and came up the ice on a two-on-four. Mayra carried the puck into the zone and slipped a pass across the crease to Olson, who slid the puck under Drew’s left pad.
Besides the Falcon power play going five-for-six, the defense combined for four goals and three assists, seven of the 21 total points.
“We do our best to recruit defensemen that have an offensive element to them because we don’t get those NHL draft choices,” said Serratore. “We need to rely on five-man offense.
“There was a defenseman involved in every goal except one.”
The Pioneers next play a home-and-home series with Holy Cross, while the Falcons play two games against in-state non-conference rivals Colorado College and the University of Denver.