WEST POINT, N.Y. — The NCAA Rifle championships may not be coming to West Point for another month, but the Army hockey set up its own shooting gallery at Tate Rink Friday night.
The Black Knights outshot American International 42-17, including a lopsided 21-2 margin in the second period, en route to a 4-0 win over the Yellow Jackets in front of 2,489 fans at Tate Rink. The win put Army within striking distance of first place in the Atlantic Hockey Association, one point behind idle RIT with a game in hand.
“Anytime you can beat anybody in this league, it’s a good win,” Black Knights coach Brian Riley said. “The pack is so close that you’ve just got to try to get points, because you know that other guys are going to be doing it. There’s a lot of hockey to be played, and anybody can win this league, and anybody can get home ice. You’ve just got to go out and make sure that you take care of business, and if you do that, you’ll find yourself in a good situation come the end of the year.”
“I thought we competed in the first period, but the second and third period, they really had a big edge on us,” AIC coach Gary Wright said. “They’re a very fine team, and if you to have success down here, you’d absolutely better bring your ‘A’ game. We didn’t, and a lot of that had to do with their play as well.”
The first period was a scoreless affair that saw the Black Knights hold the Yellow Jackets without a shot on goal for the first 11:10 of the contest until AIC captain Jereme Tendler tested Army’s Josh Kassel on a shorthanded breakaway. Kassel stopped that shot and the four others that the Yellow Jackets put on net, while AIC freshman Dan Ramirez stopped all eight shots the Black Knights were able to put on net, with the AIC defense keeping Army from capitalizing on any rebound opportunities.
In the second period, however, things took a dramatic turn.
“They were extremely fast coming through the neutral zone,” Wright said. “We had some trouble with that. I thought their quickness tonight got us a little out of sorts. We got a little bit jumpy, and that caused even more turnovers.”
The damage was serious: AIC put two shots on goal early in the period, but went well over 15 minutes without an attempt the rest of the period.
The Black Knights got on the scoreboard at 7:45 of the middle frame on Zack McKelvie’s second goal of the year. As an Army power play expired, McKelvie took a pass from Bryce Hollweg at the left point and let fly, hitting pay dirt.
Army extended its lead to 2-0 less than a minute and a half later at 9:12 on the fourth goal of the season for freshman Joey Ammon. AIC was able to dispossess Aaron Anderson of the puck as he tried a wraparound from behind the net, but the puck slid to Ammon, who knocked it past Ramirez before he could get across to make the save. Robb Ross was also credited with a helper on the score.
All the while, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get an offensive chance, missing out on their best opportunity when Chad Richardson whiffed on a one-timer with just over three minutes to play in the frame.
“In the second period we were able to get some sustained pressure, which wore them down a little bit,” Riley said. “I was extremely pleased with how our guys played.”
The Yellow Jackets played better in the third period, putting 10 shots on net to 13 for the Black Knights, but with Josh Kassel standing tall in net, the damage had been done.
Robb Ross connected on a a bad-angle shot from the left-wing corner at 7:04 for his fifth goal of the season with assists from Ian McDoguall and Matt Hickey, and Owen Meyer scored his 15th of the season with a blast to the top right corner of the net just before time expired off of an assist from Bryce Hollweg.
Kassel finished with 17 saves in a shutout effort, but the goaltender who got the most attention, naturally, was Ramirez, who finished with 38 saves, building on what’s been a standout first year.
“He played very, very well tonight,” Wright said of his goalie. “I thought Dan was just exemplary tonight. He’s really given us a lot of heightened stature this year.”
“He made some great saves,” Riley said. “That seems to be the case every game out. Every team in this league seems to have a real good goalie, and he’s certainly a very good goalie.”
The two teams head to Springfield this evening, with faceoff set for 3:05 p.m. on Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center.