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College Hockey:
Torf stops 22 as Air Force notches win against Robert Morris

— The Air Force Falcons came into tonight’s conference battle with Robert Morris hungry for their first win of the season, and as they left the confines of the Island Sports Center, they found themselves satisfied, posting a 4-1 victory in front of a standing room only sellout crowd.

“It feels great to get that monkey off our back; we really played well enough and also deserved to win tonight.” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore

The Falcons had the answer for a Colonials offensive onslaught that had tallied 10 goals in their past two games against Quinnipiac and RIT. The answer looked fairly simple, as the Falcons seemingly had a stick on every Colonials shot and a body in every passing lane at the most critical times of the game.

The Falcons’ hunger for victory was overwhelming in the first period, as Air Force amassed a 15-3 shot advantage, neutralizing any hope for a consistent Colonials attack. The defensive performance from Air Force was completely smothering, and the Colonials were guilty of numerous forced and unforced giveaways for most of the first frame. The Falcons opened the scoring at the 16:18 mark on their second power-play attempt when forward Scott Holm camped himself in front of the net and tipped a shot from defenseman Adam McKenzie past Colonials netminder Eric Levine.

The second stanza saw the Falcons capitalize on an early opportunity when Colonials forward Zach Hervato was sent off for roughing at 1:22. The resulting power play lasted only 12 seconds and saw the Falcons lead doubled when defenseman Alex Halloran took a cross-crease pass from forward John Kruse and buried it past Levine, with the secondary assist going to standout Kyle DeLaurell.

The Colonials then started climbing back into the game. Robert Morris benefited from power plays that it could have used to slash the Falcons’ lead, but were thwarted by an Air Force penalty kill that sent the puck out of the zone with precision and purpose.

“We passed up way too many shots tonight; we just have to get those pucks to the net,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley.

What may have also kept Robert Morris off the board was the stellar performance of Falcons netminder Jason Torf, who made key saves on several even-strength opportunities, the best coming at around the 14-minute mark when he robbed Colonials forward Cody Wydo, who skated across the crease and released a backhander that appeared bound for the back of the net.

The Colonials continued the hard work in the third, but the Falcons worked as smart as Robert Morris worked hard, intuitively anticipating Colonials passes and shots while not sacrificing numbers at the back.  With the clock winding down in the final period, Colonials freshman forward David Friedmann found a loose puck and beat Torf clean at 14:09 to cut the Falcons’ lead to one. The Colonials would not go away and battled to the end, but couldn’t find a way to beat Torf for a second time.

“I commend our guys for our effort in coming back, but Air Force out-competed us, especially in the first period tonight,” said Schooley. “It’ll be interesting to see how we respond to adversity; we’re going to find out a little bit about ourselves after this one.”

Falcons forward Jason Fabian put the game on ice for Air Force with two empty-net goals nearly 30 seconds apart in the final minute to give the Falcons their first win of the season.

“We took a major step in the right direction this weekend,” said Serratore. “We still have to get better at one-on-one battles, and our compete level will have to improve. We won tonight because we scored the first goal and we out-special-teamed them. Their goalie was good tonight; our goalie was better.”

Both teams continue conference play in Atlantic Hockey action next weekend, with Air Force hosting Holy Cross, while the Colonials take on Bentley at the Island Sports Center.

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