By Dave Toller
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – In a bizarre finish involving video replay, Vermont advanced to the Frozen Four with a 3-2 double overtime win over Air Force in the NCAA East Regional Final Saturday at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn. Vermont was the No. 3 seed while Air Force was the No. 4.
Vermont improved to 22-11-5 overall and advances to the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. Air Force’s season comes to an end with a 28-11-2 record. Air Force earned its first ever NCAA Tournament win March 27 and the Elite Eight finish is the farthest an Air Force hockey team has ever advanced.
The game ended late in the second overtime when a whistle stopped play after a flurry in front of the Air Force net with 4:01 remaining. However, a play that occurred nearly two minutes before went to a video replay review. Vermont defenseman Doug Lawson took a slap shot from the center point that seemed to go wide of the post and hit off the back boards with 5:50 remaining and play continued for nearly two minutes. Once the whistle blew, and after a nearly 15-minute review, it was determined that the puck went into, and through, the net and the goal was awarded to Vermont. The goal was Lawson’s second of the game and came at the 14:10 mark of overtime. The game was the longest in Air Force history at 94:10 and took four hours and seven minutes to complete.
A fast-paced first period saw both goaltenders make some key stops, but neither team was able to score. Air Force had 10 shots on goal while Vermont had eight. Each team was 0-for-1 on the power play. Vermont had two quality chances early that were turned away by Andrew Volkening. Colin Volk walked off the back wall and skated through the crease, but Volkening made a right pad save 36 seconds into the game. Air Force then had five shots on a power play but was kept off the board by Catamount goalie Rob Madore.
Air Force drew first blood early in the second period on a goal by freshman Paul Weisgarber. On a 4-on-2 rush, Weisgarber put back a rebound of a shot by Sean Bertsch from the left side of the net. For Weisgarber, it was his sixth of the season.
Air Force fell behind for the first time in five games, as Vermont scored the next two goals of the game. Josh Burrows snapped Volkening’s shutout streak at 262 consecutive minutes, and 13 periods, with a goal at 3:56 of the third period to tie the game. His shot from the right point through traffic was his fifth goal of the year. Just over five minutes later, Dan Lawson scored with a slap shot through a screen from the center point for a 2-1 lead. Air Force answered with 8:42 left in the period as the Falcons’ fourth line scored its second goal of the game. Mike Phillipich made a pass from the corner to Bertsch in the high slot. His shot caromed off the goaltender and into the net for his seventh of the season and tied the game at 2-2. Both teams’ goaltenders made several big saves down the stretch as the Falcons and Catamounts went into overtime.
In the first overtime, Air Force had eight shots on goal while Vermont had six. At the end of the first overtime, a puck got underneath Volkening and Viktor Stalberg tried to slide it into the open net. Air Force forward Brett Nylander slid into the net and knocked the puck away as it was sitting on the goal line. The play was reviewed for several minutes before it was determined it was not a goal.
In the second overtime, Vermont outshot Air Force, 7-6. AFA outshot Vermont, 46-35, in the game. Air Force was 0-for-4 while Vermont was 0-for-3 on the power play. Volkening made 32 saves in the game and had 75 in the two games in the NCAA East Regional. Rob Madore had 46 saves for Vermont.