COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After an 0-4 start to the regular season, the Air Force Falcons look as if they have gotten back on track. With a 4-1-1 (4-5-1 overall) record in their last six games, all in conference play, Air Force finds itself sitting alone on top of the Atlantic Hockey Association, one point ahead of RIT .
Behind an outstanding effort on special teams and a great performance in the net by Andrew Volkening, playing in his 100th collegiate game, the Air Force flew to a victory Saturday night.
“I thought the game had somewhat of a playoff feel,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “They kept numbers back and they didn’t want to get into a track meet with us, so there wasn’t a lot of flow in the game. They wanted to win ugly and score off of transition offense and the power play.”
Air Force used special teams to get on the board first, as they put a power-play goal on the board 9:46 into the first period. In a goal reminiscent of the night before, Jacques Lamoureux found a gift goal as a shot by Kyle De Laurell glanced off the far post and went straight onto Lamoureux’s stick. A quick shot and the Cadets were on the board 1-0.
The second period saw a lot of chippy play. The teams combined for a total of six penalties, but once again it was only Air Force that could capitalize on the man advantage. Despite being on the penalty kill for the first four minutes of the period, the Cadets were able to turn their superb penalty kill into momentum that propelled them to their second power-play goal of the game.
“Today, special teams was the difference in the game,” remarked Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “They had two on the power play and we didn’t have any, and going 0-7 is the difference in the game; our power play has to step up to the plate and get it done.”
Less than a minute after Bentley’s Ryan Kayfes had taken a holding penalty, Air Force’s Derrick Burnett found the back of the net. Despite a nice effort by Bentley goalie Kyle Rank (26 saves), where he was able to get a leg on the puck, it squirted by to give Air Force a 2-0 lead with 12:42 left in the second.
It was tough going for Bentley (2-2-1 in Atlantic Hockey, 2-4-1 overall) offensively for nearly a whole period, as they totaled only a single shot halfway though the second period until almost half the third period was over.
“There was a lack of offense because Air Force stepped back and trapped us and we had trouble breaking the trap in the neutral zone,” Soderquist said.
Following the second goal, Air Force turned to the skill of their senior goaltender, as their strategy went from being offensive to a more defensive style; luckily for Air Force, Volkening was up to the challenge.
After being shut down for most of the game, Bentley went on the attack almost midway through the third period. Volkening made a sliding save to keep the puck out of the net on more than one occasion and repeatedly turned back Bentley shots that were coming at point-blank range.
In an effort to cut Air Force’s lead, Bentley pulled their goalie with just over two minutes remaining in the third period, but it was all for naught as Air Force sealed the game with an empty-net goal.
Serratore was much happier with his team’s overall performance Saturday night.
“We didn’t give them any outnumbered situations, we didn’t give them any easy ones, but neither did they, so the game comes down to special teams and goaltending. We scored three special-teams goals if you count the six-on-five empty-netter, and our penalty killers were the stars of the game by forcing them to go 0-7 on the power play.”
Air Force hits the road next week for a weekend series at Holy Cross while Bentley is at home against Sacred Heart.