It is usually the home Falcons that are showing off their speed game early at altitude in Cadet Ice Arena but it took until the second period for No. 2 seed Air Force to get its game going. Three goals in less than six minutes during the middle stanza and 18 saves by goalie Shane Starrett led Air Force to a 4-0 win over Bentley in game one of the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Bentley won its best-of-three first-round series against Sacred Heart by winning the final two games, including a double overtime win last Sunday to earn the quarterfinal date with No. 18 Air Force. The visitors clearly wanted to set the tone early and controlled play in the first 20 minutes, outshooting the home Falcons 8-3 and forcing Starrett to make a pair of stupendous saves to keep the game scoreless.
“We had two weeks off which has advantages and disadvantages,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. ”They came after us with great speed and really forechecked well in the first period. We need better first touches and cleanly moving the puck from a white shirt to another white shirt. I thought they were on us good in the first period and Shane came up big for us to keep them off the scoreboard.”
The second period saw Air Force turn the tables on Bentley as its cycle game below the dots in the offensive zone wore down the Bentley defenders. Phil Boje finally broke through for the home team when a loose puck came to the top of the circle along the boards where Boje utilized a great screen from Kyle Haak to beat Bentley goaltender Jayson Argue on the short side for a 1-0 lead.
After an apparent goal by Jordan Himley was disallowed, Evan Feno, off a feed from Trevor Stone rocketed a wrister that blew the water bottle off the net for a 2-0 lead.
The cycling game down low continued to pay dividends for Air Force just 35 seconds after Feno scored when Dan Bailey fired a wrister past Argue from the right point. Evan Giesler created a great screen and the goal from Bailey made it 3-0 and ended Argue’s night.
“We had great net presence on all three goals in the second period,” said Serratore. “We had great position in front of the cage and pucks on net got through. You know someone has to pitch and someone has to catch. When they were effective on the forecheck we had challenges in the defensive zone, and when we had our forecheck going on their defensemen they had trouble getting out of the zone and we took advantage of it.”
The third period was a parade of penalties, including a five-minute major to Air force’s A.J. Reid for boarding that overlapped a Bentley minor penalty. Both teams went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and Air Force closed out the scoring with the third goal of the night by a defenseman when Kyle Mackey scored into an empty net, shorthanded from the face-off circle in his own end. Starrett finished with 18 saves earning his fourth shutout of the season and eighth of his career while Feno chipped in two points on a goal and an assist.
“The toughest thing to do in hockey is to end another team’s season,” stated Serratore. “I expect they are going to come after us hard tomorrow night so we will need to be better from the start and counter their forecheck much better than we did tonight.”
In other Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals
Robert Morris 6, Holy Cross 3
After the Crusaders’ Mike Barrett and Colonials’ Alex Tonge exchanged power-play goals through the first two periods of play, the home team broke the game wide open in the third period to capture the series opener. Spencer Dorowicz and Brady Ferguson scored 42 seconds apart in the opening three minutes of the third period to break up the deadlock with Ferguson’s coming shorthanded. Daniel Mantenuto and Tonge for the second time in the game, padded the score to 5-1 before the halfway mark of the final stanza and Robert Morris was in the driver seat. Holy Cross’ Ryan Ferrill and Mitch Collett sandwiched goals around Kyle Horsman’s final marker for Robert Morris. Francis Marotte picked up the win, stopping 16 of 19 Crusader shots.
Army West Point 6, Mercyhurst 4
The Black Knights hosted a wild game one against Mercyhurst as the teams combined for 83 shots on goal and 10 goals in Army West Point’s win. Joe Shecter gave the hosts an early 1-0 lead only to see the Lakers answer with a power-play goal by Joseph Duszak. Kyle Dutra gave the visitors an early lead in the second period but goals by Dominic Franco on the power play and Nick DeCenzo gave the Black Knights a lead they would not relinquish. Brendan Soucie scored his first of two goals in the third period to pad the Army lead and goaltender Parker Gahagen made 14 of his 37 saves in the third period to earn the win.
Canisius 3, Niagara 0
The top-seeded Griffins scored a goal in each of the three periods and goalie Charles Williams stopped all 24 shots he faced to post the shutout in Canisius’ win. Jimmy Mazza scored what proved to be the winner on the power play for Canisus in the first period. Niagara held the home team to a 1-for-5 night with the man advantage and goalie Jackson Teichroeb stopped 36 of 39 shots to keep last weekend’s upset winners over RIT in the game. Dylan McLaughlin and Nick Hutchison closed out the scoring for Canisius. Williams’s shutout was his sixth of the season, which leads the nation.