COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The only time that anything from Bemidji State got by Air Force goaltender Marc Kielkucki was during the post-game handshake.
In a crucial four-point CHA matchup, Kielkucki backed the Falcons with an outstanding performance in net for a 3-0 shutout victory on Sunday. The win put Air Force in a three-way tie with Niagara and Findlay on top of the CHA.
“Shutouts can be tricky,” Kielkucki said with a smile. “Sometimes you just have to get lucky, and I had one of those nights. And I had a lot of help from the defense, which played phenomenally.”
The Falcons got on the board at 8:47 of the first and were able to hold the 1-0 lead through the end of the period. Senior winger Billy O’Reilly fired in a shot from just outside the faceoff circle. Bemidji goaltender Grady Hunt blocked the shot, but Air Force’s Scott Zwiers was able to snag the rebound and shoot it high into the net for the Falcon goal.
The Air Force squad extended its lead to 2-1 early in the second period. Both teams had a man in the box — the Beavers’ Rico Fatticci for interference and the Falcons’ Scott Bradley for holding. After a scrum in front of the Bemidji net, Zwiers knocked in the loose puck at 2:14.
At 16:35 of the second period, the Falcons found the back of the net again. Sophomore left wing Kyle Fransdal, with help from senior captain Scott Bradley and freshman defenseman Buck Kozlowski, took a slap shot on net. The puck bounced off Hunt’s blocker, over his shoulder, and across the goal line.
Bemidji State struggled throughout the third period, but strong defense and stellar goaltending by Kielkucki held the Beavers at bay.
“This was our second-biggest win since I’ve been here,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “The first being last year when we defeated Bemidji in a four-point contest in the last game of the season to make the CHA playoffs.”
“They played a very intelligent game,” Bemidji coach Bob Peters said. “They checked well and they were very disciplined. We just couldn’t mount any attacks.”
Zwiers, who finished the game with two goals, was very satisfied with the win.
“This was a huge game for us,” he said. “We put together a full 60 minutes and were able to get the early goal and hold them down.”
Serratore had nothing but good things to say about Hunt.
“He was very good,” he said. “I expect we’ll be hearing a lot about him in the coming years.”
Serratore’s focus, though, was his team’s success.
“I think this was the soundest, most complete game the Air Force team has played since I’ve been here,” Serratore said. “They took control, they were never scrambling, they always knew who their men were. I just couldn’t be prouder. Our guys answered the bell.”