Most coaches would consider three penalties for six minutes a sound, disciplined hockey game.
However, when you face Air Force, any minutes in the box can spell disaster. AFA entered Saturday’s game with Bentley as one of the nation’s most efficient teams on the man advantage, clicking at a rate over 30 percent. It’s hard to imagine that so few penalties can decide a game, but Air Force was able to convert on two out of three chances en route to a 6-1 win over Bentley.
“In college hockey, games generally come down to special teams and goaltending. We put a premium on both those facets of our game,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “We have special, intensive practice on goaltending and special teams, hoping that we can count on those two parts of our game to be there.”
Air Force (8-7, 0-4 CHA) goaltender Mike Polidor held up his end of the bargain, stopping 23 of 24 shots for the win in net. His most impressive saves came in the second period, taking the wind out of a Bentley comeback attempt.
Polidor said, “I definitely tried to stay focused even though I didn’t face too many shots. I knew that, if we were going to pull things out, I had to come up big. There were about four times in a row where they came down and got open looks or had numbers and I just tried to stay strong.”
And how. Bentley (2-14-1, 2-11-1 MAAC) had chance after chance in the second period to wear Polidor down. On the fifth scoring opportunity in a row, Bryan Goodwin was able to bring Bentley within a goal at 2-1 in the second.
“They certainly played some good hockey in the second period,” said Serratore. “We lost the territorial battle and they were able to beat Mike on a tough shot.”
Less than a minute later, Andy Peters broke in alone on Polidor, but the goalie came up with a big save.
“It was wild. As soon as I turned around, he was in alone on me. He looked like he was going to flip to backhand and I beat him to the far post with my pads,” Polidor said.
The breakaway was as close as Bentley would come to evening the score. Air Force, a bigger, more physical team, was able to wear down its opponent in the last frame to pull away. AFA won almost all the individual battles en route to four unanswered goals in the third for a 6-1 victory.
Despite the score, Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre was strong as well. He stopped 40 shots in the losing effort, almost single-handedly keeping Bentley in the game for 40 minutes.
Both teams will compete in Cingular/UConn Classic second-day action on Sunday afternoon. Bentley and host UConn will play at 2 p.m. EST, and Air Force will face off with Holy Cross in the championship at 5:15. AFA will be looking for their first-ever tournament championship not played at home — Air Force has won the Radisson Inn Classic, hosted by the Academy, twice.