ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Patrick Knowlton scored with 41 seconds left in regulation to lead Sacred Heart to a 2-1 victory over defending champion Air Force in the second semifinal of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.
The Falcons had scored an extra-attacker goal with 1:29 to play to even the score.
“Give [Sacred Heart] all the credit for having the guts to come back after we scored,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore.
“I’m proud of the way we responded,” said Pioneers coach C.J. Marottolo. “It was pretty wild.”
The teams managed only one goal in the first 58 minutes before the wild finish. Erik Boisvert dove to sweep in a rebound off a shot from Eric Delong at 10:14 of the second period. That goal broke a shutout streak of 161:07 for Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening at Blue Cross Arena. Volkening had back-to-back shutouts in the semifinals and finals last season.
“He’s the best player to ever wear the blue and silver,” Serratore said of his goaltender. “We let him down by only scoring one goal. Your margin of error is pretty small when you can only score one goal. We died from the disease that has plagued as all season — the inability to score goals. If it wasn’t for Andrew Volkening we would have wound up sixth or seventh in the league.”
With two minutes to play and Sacred Heart leading 1-0, Serratore used his timeout and pulled Volkening. The Falcons won the ensuing faceoff and worked the puck to the Sacred Heart net, where Jacques Lamoureux put in a rebound.
“It’s ironic that three years ago, we had a wild finish with Sacred Heart,” said Serratore. “We pulled our goalie and tied it up and won in overtime. I thought we were going to do it again.”
With 42 seconds to play, Dave Jarman found Knowlton at the side of the Air Force net, and he was able to roof the pass before Volkening could slide over.
“Jarman looked for me,” said Knowlton. “He made a pass and it hit off a skate and came right back to him. He looked for me again and made a great pass.”
A bright spot for Air Force was the return of co-captain Jeff Hajner, who had been diagnosed with a blood clot a month ago and told his hockey career was over. A change in medication allowed him to return to the Falcons lineup.
“I appreciate the opportunity to play one more game before I hung up my skates,” said Hajner. “Frank had to take another deserving player out of the lineup and I appreciate that.”
Sacred Heart will be playing for its first league title. The Pioneers were picked to finish eighth in the AHA preseason poll, but first-year coach Marottolo has his team on the brink of a title.
“We just keep building and building,” said Marottolo. “A lot of the game is believing in yourtself and your teammates. And we believe.”