SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Army captured the first of a must-win two-game series with American International Friday night, making a 4-3 winner out of head coach Rob Riley in his 500th game behind the Black Knights’ bench.
In picking up its first road win of the 2001-02 season at the Olympia Ice Center, Army (6-15-5/4-8-5) moved three points ahead of AIC for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings.
The Black Knights jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the first period. Senior captain Tim Murphy got the visitors started when he scored 4:55 into the contest off a feed from Nathan Mayfield. Thirty seconds later, Mayfield made it a two-goal advantage when freshman defenseman Justin Fagan sent the senior winger in all alone on a breakaway. After AIC (6-13-0/5-12-0) pulled within a goal three minutes later, Army answered right back as freshman defenseman Matt Field scored unassisted.
The Black Knights dictated much of the play in the second period, outshooting the Yellow Jackets, 17-7. Freshman Chris Garceau scored a power-play goal midway through the middle stanza, staking Army to a 4-1 lead. Garceau redirected a shot from classmate Chris Casey at the point. Casey received a cross from Chad Mayfield, who had held the puck in the zone along the far boards, and fed Garceau standing right in front of the goal.
Senior goaltender Scott Hamilton picked up his second straight win, making 28 saves on the evening. AIC freshman goaltender Frank Novello also made 28 saves in the losing effort.
“(Hamilton) has gotten two wins in a row for us. He made some big saves near the end,” Riley said. “In the third period, he did a good job of clearing the puck out of our end. His puck-handling certainly was a key down the stretch.
“It was a must-win for both teams. We need to learn how to win on the road if we want to be a factor in the playoffs.”
AIC battled back, scoring a power-play goal in the third period and then getting its third tally of the night on a tip-in that just trickled over the goal line. But it was not enough to beat a determined Army hockey squad backstopped by the stellar play of Hamilton between the pipes.
These same two teams will go at it again Saturday night at Tate Rink with faceoff scheduled for 7 p.m.