By Dave Toller
Air Force defeated Army in a two-game series at the Cadet Ice Arena here March 12 and Saturday to advance to the Atlantic Hockey Association’s final four.
Andrew Volkening earned a shutout against the Black Knights in the first game of the series for a 3-0 victory, while Jacques Lamoreaux scored the go-ahead goal in the second game to close the curtain on Army’s postseason, 4-2.
Air Force will play second-seed Sacred Heart today at the Blue Cross Arena at 5:35 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.
In the first game of the series, Volkening recorded his third-straight AHA Tournament shutout with 29 saves. The shutout was his fourth of the season and the 15th of his career.
Scoring goals in the first game for Air Force were Sean Bertsch, with two goals, and Derrick Burnett. Blake Page and Eric Artman each got two assists, with Matt Becker and John Kruse getting one assist apiece. Air Force outshot Army 38-29 in the first game.
“A question with our team this season was our depth, and (it) was pretty darn good tonight,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “There is no pretty way to win these games. You have to grind them out, and we did – and when we faltered, Volkening was there.”
Army took a 1-0 lead in the first period of the second game on a goal by the Black Knights’ Bryant Skarda with 2:05 left in the period. The Falcons tied the score on a lucky shot from Bertsch with 8:46 left in the second period – Bertsch’s pass to Page hit the stick of an Army defenseman and got past goaltender Jay Clark, making the score 1-1.
Army regained the lead on a power play when Owen Meyer redirected John Clark’s point shot with 15:20 to play in the second period. The Falcons answered with a goal by Brandon Johnson with 2:38 to play in the period off a pass from Paul Weisgarber.
Lamoreaux scored the go-ahead goal with 1:25 left in the third period on a power play. Mike Walsh sent a pass low from the left point. Burnett collected the puck behind the net and sent it to Lamoreaux, who was camped on the left post, for the winning goal – Lamoreaux’s 21st of the season, 12th power-play marker and team-leading fourth game-winner. Army pulled its goaltender with 1:17 to play, and Burnett weaved through three Army players to score the game’s final goal with 20 seconds left.
Burnett and Bertsch each had one assist, along with Weisgarber, Scott Kozlak and Tim Kirby.
“This is a huge series,” Serratore said. “This was very special for us. This isn’t the mighty Falcons of last year who beat Michigan – this is the scrappin’, fightin’ Falcons. This group is all about heart and character. I was in awe of the depth and talent of last year’s team, but this year’s team is different: this team wins by playing with a ‘never say die’ attitude in front of a great goaltender.”
“We had to come from behind twice in this game to win. I’m really happy this team gets the chance to go to Rochester,” he added. “We are not a deep or old team, but we are getting contributions from every player in one way or another, which is a must for this group.”