COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Ben Worker stopped all 17 shots he faced as Air Force blanked Holy Cross, 3-0, in the Atlantic Hockey Association quarterfinals at the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena Saturday.
With the win, Air Force advances to the AHA semifinals in Rochester, N.Y., March 16-17 at the Blue Cross Arena. The fourth-seeded Falcons will face top-seeded Sacred Heart on Friday, March 16, at either 4 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Falcons improved to 17-15-5 overall while Holy Cross fell to 10-20-5.
With just over four minutes left in the first period, Theo Zacour scored the eventual game winner as he skated the puck through the neutral zone and past two defenders. He then passed the puck around a Crusader, collected it in the slot and scored his fourth of the season. Defensemen Matt Charbonneau and Frank Schiavone assisted on the play.
Neither team scored in the second period as the Falcons carried a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes. Air Force outshot Holy Cross, 13-3, in the final period, despite the Crusaders having six full minutes of power plays in the period.
Mike Phillipich gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead at the 5:25 mark with a wrister from the right side. Ehn fed Phillipich in the neutral zone for the sophomore’s 14th goal of the season.
With two minutes left in the third period, Phillipich drew a penalty on HC’s Marty Dams, giving the Falcons a power play. Just 39 seconds into the power play, Air Force capitalized as Ehn won a faceoff and Greg Flynn fired a slapshot from the left point for his first career goal. Phillipich also assisted on the play.
“There was nothing easy about this win,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “I am just relieved. Both teams played well and it was a hard-nosed game. Holy Cross has a lot of playoff experience and, let’s not forget, they knocked off Minnesota in the NCAA tournament last year.
“Theo’s goal was huge for us. This was a team win and typical of the playoff game. Both teams battled hard and it came down to special teams and goaltending. Their goalie was good tonight, but Ben was better.”
Air Force outshot Holy Cross, 34-17, in the game. Holy Cross was 0-for-6 on the power play while Air Force was 1-for-4. The Holy Cross power play was 13th in the nation coming into the game. Worker made 17 saves for AFA while Charlie Lockwood made 31 for the Crusaders.
Sacred Heart and Air Force are joined in the AHA Final Four by Army and UConn in the semifinals on March 16. The two winners of the semifinals meet on Saturday, March 17, at 7:00 p.m. EST. The winner of the AHA tournament gets an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.