COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Brian Rodgers was a factor in four of the five Air Force goals as the Falcons topped Manhattanville, 6-3, in a chippy, hard-hitting battle. Thursday night’s game was the second game of the first day of the Radisson Inn Classic at the Cadet Ice Arena on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy. Rodgers scored the team’s second goal, and assisted on three others.
“I was really pleased with that win,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “That is a team with rink savvy. They were a formidable opponent. They knew how to slow the game down and make plays. That’s an excellent way to prepare for Army next weekend.”
Manhattanville opened up the scoring at 13:16 of the first period. With Air Force forward Shane Saum in the penalty box, serving a slashing penalty, the Valiants took a 1-0 lead. The play developed as Manhattanville forward Ray Williams fired a wrist shot from the left point. Air Force goalie Mike Polidor made the initial save, but gave up a rebound right in front of the net. Manhattanville forward Chris Seifert was waiting in front of the net and quickly put in the net.
Air Force answered just over two minutes later with a power-play goal of its own. Falcon forward Brian Rodgers dug the puck out of the corner, and fed it to Joe Locallo on the point. Locallo passed it across the ice to Jace Anders on the other point. Anders shot a wrister that found its way through the legs of Manhattanville goalie Jon Peczka and into the net.
The Falcons took the lead just over two minutes later with another power-play goal. With Shawn Landry in the penalty box with a high-sticking call, Air Force scored its second power-play goal of the game. Scott Zwiers fired a shot from the point that Peczka saved. However, he could not control the rebound and Brian Rodgers backhanded it into an open net.
“We knew that we would be up against a clutch-and-grab team,” said Rodgers. “We had to keep up our intensity and keep moving throughout the game. They did not allow us to relax. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time on the goals.”
“We got down early,” said Serratore. “But we came back on them. We faced adversity and overcame it. Also, when the second goal was disallowed, we had to face the adversity to overcome that.”
Air Force extended its lead to two at 3:54 of the second period when Steve Mead scored his first career goal. Shane Saum carried the puck through the neutral zone but was stood up after skating over the blue line. The puck squirted through the Manhattanville defender’s skates where Brian Rodgers picked up the puck. Now on a two-on-none with Mead, Rodgers fed the puck across to Mead, who stuffed it through Peczka’s legs.
Manhattanville answered back three minutes later to make it a one-goal game again, when Ray Williams beat Polidor from the slot. Williams one-timed a pass from Damon Iannillo from behind the goal line. Jason Kenyan also assisted on the goal.
The Falcons regained the two-goal cushion at 10:10 of the period on a goal from Joe Locallo. Shane Saum carried the puck into the corner and sent a quick pass towards the crease. Brian Rodgers picked it up and shuffled a backhand pass to Joe Locallo who redirected the puck behind Peczka.
Manhattanville continued to hang tough as they once again moved within one goal at 17:11 of the second period. Dave Schmalenberg sent a centering pass from the top of the right circle towards the net. Guy Valleau knocked the puck out of the air and onto the net. Pollidor made the save but could not cover the rebound fast enough, as Valleau beat him to it to make the score 4-3.
Air Force reclaimed the two-goal advantage at 12:27 of the third period on an outstanding individual effort by Shane Saum. Saum came in on a breakaway after he walked past two Manhattanville defenders. He withheld the backcheck of the two defenders before slipping the puck on the short side of the Manhattanville net. Kyle Fransdal added an empty-net goal for the Falcons.
With the victory, Air Force will take on New England College tomorrow night at 7 p.m. MT in the championship game of the Radisson Inn Classic. The Pilgrims advanced to the championship following a 6-0 shutout of Minnesota-Crookston in the tournament’s opening game. Manhattanville will face Minnesota-Crookston in tomorrow’s consolation game at 3 p.m. MT.