COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After a disappointing third-period crash the night before, Air Force came out flying on Saturday, scoring five times in the first period en route to a 9-2 rout of Union at the Ice Breaker Tournament.
The Falcons managed only 12 shots against Maine in a 3-1 loss on Friday night, but eclipsed that mark in the first period against Union. For Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, his team’s fast start was vindication for what he viewed as an undeserved loss the night before.
“To me, this kind of validates us,” said a beaming Serratore. “I think this proves that last night wasn’t a fluke, that we were right there.”
“The bottom line is life isn’t always fair,” he continued. “We thought we were cheated last night. But I said that if we can bring that effort every night, we’re going to have more happy endings than sad endings.”
“I’m not sure we came mentally ready to play,” said Union’s head coach Nate Leaman. “I was disappointed in our effort.”
Josh Schaffer kicked off Air Force’s first-period rush when he stick-handled his way past two defenders and lifted a shot over Union goaltender Justin Mrazek’s right shoulder.
After an unassisted power-play tally by Brian Gineo at 11:44, Air Force’s Eric Ehn scored his first of two goals on the night when he sneaked in behind two Union defenders and scored the eventual game winner on a breakaway at 13:25.
Union’s youthful defense, consisting of three freshmen and only one senior, also surrendered first period goals to Air Force co-captain Brooks Turnquist and defenseman Billy Devoney, and appeared overwhelmed for most of the night. Mrazek’s night ended at the start of the second, when the sophomore Union goaltender was replaced by senior Kris Mayotte.
“I believe in this group,” said Leaman. “They have potential. I mean, we had four guys who had never played a Division I game on our defensive corps this week. But I know they’re going to get better.”
Union’s Josh Coyle scored 16 seconds into the second period, but the Dutchmen fell even further behind when goals from Falcons Ehn and Theo Zacour gave Air Force a 7-1 lead heading into the final frame.
“Union was embarrassed in the first, and they came out and got a goal right away [in the second],” said Serratore. “Subconsciously it’s hard to keep that edge. But we came back and scored two more goals and won the period, and that’s the kind of answer that great teams have.”
Air Force’s Andrew Ramsey and Josh Frider each notched third-period goals, while T.J. Fox collected his first tally of the year for Union.
The victory gave Air Force a split at the Ice Breaker Invitational, a tournament through which the team felt it played well enough to earn a pair of victories as the weekend’s underdogs.
“Union and Air Force on paper should be pretty even teams,” said Serratore. “So I’m sure Nate wasn’t too pleased with his team’s effort, but I was sure pleased with ours.”
Meanwhile, having been outscored 15-3 in just two games, Union will need to right its ship as league play draws closer.
“We know we have a lot of work to do, and we’re looking forward to doing it,” said Leaman.
Air Force will face Lakehead in an exhibition match on Oct. 10 before taking part in the Qunnipiac Cup. Meanwhile, Union will welcome Sacred Heart and Connecticut in two more nonconference match-ups next weekend.