COLORADO SPRINGS — In a game that had playoff implications on the line, it was only fitting that it had a playoff tone.
With their 4-2 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials, the Air Force Academy Falcons came one step closer to earning a first round bye in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. A tie or win in tomorrow’s game for the Falcons will clinch it for them.
“All that entire effort was nothing more than to set the stage for tomorrow,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore.
The Colonials controlled the play early in the game, getting the first few shots on net. When the Falcons finally got a shot on net five and a half minutes in though, they made it count.
Scott Kozlak won the puck forechecking behind the Robert Morris net and threw it out to Kyle De Laurell in the slot, who put a point blank shot on RMU goaltender Brooks Ostergard (35 saves). Ostergard made the initial save, but the rebound came out to Jacques Lamoureux, who promptly smacked it in.
The Falcons went up 2-0 with about six minutes left in the period when an Adam McKenzie blast from the point beat Ostergard far glove side.
RMU came out reenergized in the second, scoring just nine seconds into the frame. Ron Cramer won the opening draw to Nathan Longpre, who dished it immediately back to Cramer. The two came down on essentially a two-on-one on AFA goaltender Jason Torf and Cramer beat Torf high glove side.
Air Force took back its two-goal lead 7:20 later. George Michalke came down the left side and tried to pass the puck across the slot to Stephen Carew. However, the puck went off the RMU defenseman’s skate and bounced back to Michalke. The attempted pass drew Ostergard out of position, giving Michalke an open spot to blast the puck in to make it 3-1.
The Falcons maintained their lead despite a string of penalties late in the period including a disputed unsportsmanlike conduct call to captain Jacques Lamoureux with about six minutes remaining. According to Serratore, the officials blew a play offsides and Lamoureux shot the puck after the whistle.
“The call on Jacques was sketchy; first of all, it was a borderline offside if it was offside and to be honest with you, I don’t know if anybody heard the whistle because it was so loud in here,” said Serratore. “I don’t want the people out there to think that Jacques said something to the ref and got a penalty. He got the penalty for shooting the puck after the whistle. I thought Jacques said something because I didn’t hear the whistle.”
The Colonials made things interesting with 3:43 remaining when Brandon Blandina blocked an Air Force clearing attempt and passed the puck to Furman South in the slot, who sniped a shot past Torf (31 saves).
RMU coach Derek Schooley pulled Ostergard with 1:41 remaining to try and get the equalizer, but about 30 seconds later, Paul Weisgarber came down the near side boards and was able to beat his defender to backhand a shot into the empty net.
“I think that was a very good hockey game,” said Schooley. “I thought they controlled parts of the game, I thought we controlled the start of the game, they jumped out to a big lead and we tried to inch our way back but just ran out of time.”
The two teams face off again tomorrow night. Game time is at 7:35 p.m. MST.