COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Air Force came into Friday night’s game looking to take out its frustrations. Wisconsin-Stout proved to be the perfect opponent.
The Falcons, blanked by identical 7-0 scores against Denver and Colorado College last weekend, reversed the role against the Division-III Blue Devils on Friday, posting a 6-2 win to advance to the finals of the Radisson North Classic.
The victory, just the Falcons’ second in their last eight contests, improved Air Force’s record to 6-9-0. The Falcons will take on Augsburg College, a 4-1 winner over the Milwaukee School of Engineering earlier on Friday, in Saturday’s championship game.
Wisconsin-Stout, out of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, fell to 3-8-0 with the loss in its lone contest against a Division-I school this season.
“We outworked them the first two periods,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “But the third period is not the way we wanted to have things happen.”
Andy Berg gave Air Force a lead it would not relinquish with a pair of first-period power-play goals. His first, 9:18 into the game, was a one-timer off a pass from Steve Mead. His second tally came 3:30 later, as he took the puck at center ice, deked two defenders, and flipped the puck over the shoulder of Blue Devils’ netminder Jeff Dotson.
The goals boosted Berg’s team-leading total to 14, and with nine power-play markers on the season, he is tied with Colorado College’s Tom Preissing for first in the nation.
“We were lucky to have Andy Berg’s skill tonight,” said Serratore.
The Falcons broke open the game with a trio of second-period even-strength goals. Ryan Wiggins gave Air Force a 3-0 cushion, as he and Berg converted on a 2-on-1 break.
Kyle Fransdal scored the Falcons fourth tally of the evening unassisted, and Shane Saum’s backhander midway through the period sealed the victory.
Early in the third period, Wisconsin-Stout finally solved Falcons’ goaltender David Goodley, who was making his first collegiate start. Dan Winkler scored 17 seconds into the frame, and 1:36 later, John Schaffner cut Air Force’s lead to three.
From there, Goodley was perfect, stopping the remaining four shots he face, and 13 in all. Dotson, meanwhile, kept the Blue Devils in the contest with a terrific 37-save performance.
Still, losing the final 20 minutes to the Blue Devils left a bitter taste in Serratore’s mouth.
“Good teams put [lesser] teams away, like [Colorado College] and Denver did last week to us,” said Serratore. “I’m mad we didn’t do that tonight.”