Jacques Lamoureux scored the only goal of the game, his third of the weekend, and freshman Jason Torf stopped all 40 shots he faced to lead Air Force to a 1-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology in the Atlantic Hockey championship game.
Air Force (20-11-6) advances to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
“I thought it was a terrific game,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “If I had to use a word to describe our play these past two games, it would be ‘courageous.’ We had two very courageous wins against tough opponents.”
The Tigers, in front of a partisan, Atlantic Hockey championship game record crowd of 3,400, had several quality scoring chances, but couldn’t beat Torf, who recorded his second shutout of the post-season.
“Their goalie played well and stood on his head,” said RIT forward Andrew Favot. “He won the game for them.”
“Last night, I didn’t think we played that well and won the game but tonight I was happy with our game,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We generated enough chances offensively, but couldn’t score.”
“I thought the number of times we had Torf on his back I thought we would get one by them,” said RIT senior Sean Murphy. “But sometimes the hockey gods don’t let you win.”
“Jason has gained confidence as the season has gone on and the team has confidence in him,” said Serratore. “He’s the youngest player on our team. We originally wanted him to play another year of juniors, but realized we needed to solidify our goaltending. He’s earned this. He’s playing with confidence, and he’ll have even more when he hits puberty.”
“(A shutout in the title game) is something I won’t be able to truly appreciate for a couple of years,” said Torf. “I didn’t have any shutouts until these last few games. It’s been a credit to the defense, who have never played better. They were there when I made mistakes.”
The Tigers outshot Air Force 14-8 in the first period and failed to convert on two power-play chances. Air Force also had a pair of power plays in the first period, but capitalized on their only man advantage of the second period when Lamoureux scored his 24th of the season at 13:41.
“Tim Kirby started the breakout behind the net and beat the ‘D’ up ice,” said Lamoureux, who was voted Most Valuable Player of the tournament. “He got it on net and I put it in off the goalie’s pad.”
RIT continued to put pressure on Torf, but couldn’t get the equalizer. The Tigers pulled goalie Shane Madolora with 1:08 to play, but Air Force kept the Tigers to the outside in the final seconds to seal the win.
“For whatever reason, we’ve been playing our best hockey at the end of the season,” said Serratore of his team’s postseason success since joining Atlantic Hockey. “When we won in ’09 we were supposed to. It was pure relief. But there’s something very gratifying about winning when you’re not supposed to. But this team came on at the end and are worthy champions.
“You only get so many chances, and you have to have a little luck. We got some bounces, but in a 1-0 game things can go either way. You have to make the most of it because you don’t know when you’re going to get back.”
Air Force will most likely face Yale in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Falcons defeated the Bulldogs, 4-3, in November at the Air Force Academy.
“I’m sure they’re looking forward to playing us again, and without Atlantic Hockey officials,” said Serratore, referring to the 10 power plays the Falcons had in the earlier game. “But keep in mind we beat a good Michigan team (in the NCAAs) and RIT beat a good Denver team and a good UNH team and Holy Cross beat a good Minnesota team. We’ll take our swings and see what happens.”
“Scoring the only goal in a 1-0 game to win a championship your senior year is a dream come true,” said Lamoureux.”I’m happy for all the seniors. But our season isn’t over yet.”
All Tournament Team:
Jacques Lamoureux, Sr., Air Force
Sean Murphy, Sr., RIT
Cole Schneider, Fr., Connecticut
Tim Kirby, Jr., Air Force
Scott Mathis, Jr., Air Force
Jason Torf, Ffr., Air Force
MVP: Jaques Lamoureux, Air Force
Interview with Frank Serratore
Interview with Jason Torf