WEST POINT, N.Y. — Freshman Luke Flicek scored two goals and added an assist to help lead Army past AIC, 5-3, in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey tournament Wednesday evening at West Point’s Tate Rink.
The verdict delivered Army its first playoff victory since the 1976-77 campaign and secured a quarterfinal date with top-seeded Quinnipiac Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Northford Ice Pavilion in Northford, Conn.
Flicek, who set a career high with four points on the night, put Army ahead 3-1 at the 14:30 mark of the third period. His tally set off a frenzied third period, which saw a total of five goals scored within a span of 10:47.
“Our line has been playing well over the last five or six games,” said Flicek. “Tonight we were able to come up with some rebounds and get a few past their goalie.”
C.J. McConnell led the way for AIC (4-23-4) as the forward picked up his first career hat trick.
McConnell’s second goal of the evening made things interesting in the third period as the junior drew the Yellow Jackets to within one goal (3-2) at the 12:29 mark.
“I just felt I was in the right place at the right time,” said McConnell. “My teammates kept finding me, and I just had to put it in the back of the net.”
David Andros potted the game-winning goal less than two minutes later at the 11:06 mark as the senior skated in all alone on the power play and slipped it into the net as he was falling down. The firstie upped his team-high goal total to 13 on the season.
Flicek added his second marker of the night less than four minutes later to give Army a three-goal cushion (5-2) with 7:52 remaining in the third period.
“We played well down the stretch tonight,” said Army head coach Brian Riley. “It is nice to come out of here with the win.”
McConnell closed the scoring by netting a power-play goal with just over three minutes remaining.
Army (11-20-3) came out firing on all cylinders offensively in the first period, peppering AIC netminder Frank Novello with 15 shots during the opening 20 minutes. Novello was up to the task, however, stopping 14 of Army’s 15 attempts. Despite Army’s 15-3 advantage in shots, the contest went into the first intermission as a 1-1 deadlock.
The Black Knights’ persistence finally paid off when Brady Dolim rammed home a rebound to give Army a 1-0 advantage 8:34 into the first stanza.
AIC responded less than five minutes later as McConnell skated in and ripped a shot past Army goaltender Brad Roberts and into the top left-hand corner of the net to knot the score at 1-1 with 6:23 remaining in the first period. Ron Miller and Preston Cicchine were credited with assists.
“We felt pretty good about ourselves after the first period,” said AIC head coach Gary Wright. “Frank (Novello) came up with some big saves and we scored that goal late to take some momentum into the intermission.”
Army’s Aaron Anderson broke the 1-1 tie with a goal at the 11:55 mark of the second period. The freshman took a feed from Justin Fagan and powered the puck into the back of the net to give the Black Knights the lead.
Novello made 28 saves for AIC, while Roberts came up with 16 stops in the Army net.
“Frank (Novello) has been so competitive and so consistent for us all year,” remarked Wright. “He’s been the backbone of our team all year long; unfortunately we let some people in uncontested and gave up a couple of breakaways, so that made it a little more difficult for him.”