COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers shut down the Air Force Academy Fighting Falcons in their home-opener Friday night, 4-2, quieting the Falcons ninth-consecutive sell-out crowd in the process.
Alabama-Huntsville opened up the scoring early, getting on the board 2:09 into the first when Chris Fairbanks streaked down the far side boards after forcing a turnover and took a shot from the right face-off dot that beat Falcons goaltender Andrew Volkening (11 saves) up top.
I thought our effort was very good. The problem was, we dropped some bombs, said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. And what I mean by dropping bombs is, when weve got possession of the puck and were breaking out, our players are at their breakout positions; theyre not in their defensive zone coverage positions. When you turn pucks over in that situation, you cant defense it.
We gave some pucks away that we just couldnt defense and we needed Volkening to save us, and he wasnt able to.
The Chargers took a 2-0 lead 61 seconds later when Justin Cseter picked up his own rebound, walked around Volkening and deposited the puck into the empty net.
Neil Ruffini almost potted another one for the Chargers 30 seconds later when he snuck the puck just inside the post, but the officials signaled no goal.
The whistle doesnt have to be blown, [its] as soon as he thinks he should be blowing it, said UAH coach Danton Cole. He came over, it was fine, he just said, Hey, Volkening had it, I was going to blow my whistle and it went in. Once they wave it off, its fine; he didnt even have to come over and explain it.
The period quieted down until a late power-play opportunity for the Falcons, when Jeff Hajner made it a 2-1 game by letting a rocket fly from the left point that beat Chargers goalie Cameron Talbot (40 saves) five-hole.
The second period saw three total goals exchanged between the two teams, all within a 70 second span, starting at the 4:26 mark.
UAHs Ruffini got a partial breakaway, deking Volkening to put the Chargers up 3-1. 33 seconds later, Hajner netted his second power-play goal of the night with a carbon copy of his first marker. Then, 37 seconds after that, Andrew Coburn gave the Chargers back their two goal lead, causing Serratore to pull Volkening in favor of sophomore Stephen Caple (6 saves).
Its big, because they get another power play goal and then I guess your options are get back on your heels or go back at them, said Cole. Coburn and [Cody] Campbell and [Kevin] Morrison are three of our better forwards and they went out and got a pretty big goal for us to come right back in. Thats how you want to see them respond.
Thats demoralizing. Its good for them and demoralizing for us, said Serratore.
In an oft-favored move, Serratore pulled Caple early (with 4:33 remaining, to be precise) in the third to try to claw back into the game. However, despite their dominance in the shot column (42-21 final shots in favor of Air Force), the Falcons couldnt get anything else past Talbot.
I thought we were a little too high-risk, probably, for my concern, but Talbot made a lot of big saves back there, said Cole. I thought our guys worked pretty hard.
The two teams face-off again Saturday night at Cadet Ice Arena. Game time is at 7:05 p.m.