COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After a couple years of struggle, the Army seniors have enjoyed recent success, notably reaching the Atlantic Hockey semifinals last spring.
But that progress in rebuilding the program hardly compares to the memories they now cherish after sweeping Air Force on the road for the first time in 14 years.
Behind a 29-save shutout by senior goalie Cole Bruns, the Black Knights downed their service academy rivals 2-0 on Saturday before a sold-out crowd in Colorado Springs. It also was Army’s first road shutout of the 19th-ranked Falcons since 2007.
“I am really proud of our guys,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “Our seniors, we brought them in to help turn this program around. For them to come in here for the last time and come away with two wins is something they can always take with them. We talked about legacy (before the game).. They will always have this.”
Bruns made 12 of his 29 saves in the third period when Air Force took advantage of two power plays to tilt the ice. But the senior did not falter, recording his first shutout since 2014 with several good saves and a few great ones to stymie the injury-riddled Falcons (5-4-1, 1-3 AHC). The win improved Army (5-3, 5-3 AHC) to 5-1 on the road and gave the Black Knights their first road sweep of AFA since 2003.
Nothing washed away the bad taste of losing two home league games to RIT better than beating Air Force, which entered the weekend with a 11-1-3 mark in their last 15 games against the Black Knights, including eliminating them in the aforementioned AHC semifinals.
“It’s good for the boys after last weekend,” Bruns said. “We were really upset with our play last weekend and that lit a little fire under us to do things right and get back to our roots.”
For Air Force the 2-0 loss, clinched by Conor Andrie’s goal with 1:24 left, stung, even if the Falcons were without several of their top forwards due to injury.
Army relied on its usual defensive structure, a second-period goal by Alex Wilkinson, and Bruns’ performance to frustrate the Falcons and most of the 2,477 fans on hand.
“You have to give Army credit,” AFA coach Frank Serratore said. “They have a real good group of seniors who have not have had a good deal of luck against us in the previous three years. Good for them.. They play hard and they are good kids. Maybe we will see them later this season. You never know.”
The Falcons take hope in knowing some of their seven injured forwards – notably seniors Tyler Ledford, Ben Kucera and junior Kyle Haak – are expected to return in time for the playoff push in 2018.
“We are going to pick up some nice acquisitions at the trade deadline,” Serratore said. “The better team won this weekend. The majority of the years we haven’t been the best team in October and November but it is rare when we haven’t been one of the best teams in late January, February and March. That is what we have to build toward. That’s the only girl we have to dance with right now.”
Niagara 4, Bentley 3
Niagara won a back-and-back affair with Derian Plouffe scoring the eventual game-winner 71 seconds after Bentley’s Kyle Schmidt had tied the game only 2:35 into the third period.
The Eagles’ Brian Wilson made that lead hold up over the final 16:14 with 15 of his 26 saves recorded in the third. Jayson Argue made 26 stops for the Falcons..
AIC 3, RIT 2 (OT)
Tobias Fladeby scored a power-play goal 2 minutes, 57 seconds into overtime to lift American International past the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday night.
Gabe Valenzuela scored both goals for the Tigers, with his second coming with 3:38 left in regulation to force extra time. Dan Willett assisted both of Valenzuela’s tallies. Stefano Durante made 27 saves in the win while Logan Drackett stopped 28 for RIT, which had its three-game win streak end
Sacred Heart 6, Canisius 2
Jason Cotton scored and assisted another during a four-goal spurt in the second period for the Pioneers that put Sacred Heart ahead for good against Canisius.
Brett Magnus made 28 saves for the win. Vito Bavaro recorded a goal and assists for the Golden Griffins.
Robert Morris 3, Holy Cross 0
Colonials goalie Francis Marotte made 27 saves for the home shutout victory while Spencer Dorowicz scored the eventual game-winner 5:44 into the game and assisted the other RMU goals by Ryley Rislng and Luke Lynch. Matthew Graham and Michael Louria both made two assists.
Holy Cross goalie Paul Berrafato made 26 saves in the loss.
No. 17 Penn State 7, Mercyhurst 5
James Robinson recorded a hat trick and Andrew Sturtz accounted for a school record five points (four assists) as the Nittany Lions avoided a nonconference sweep at the hands of the AHC’s Lakers.
Mercyhurst was paced by three points apiece by Taylor Best (two assists) and Zach Todd (two assists) while Kane Elliot added a goal and assist. Lakers goalie Brandon Wildung made 50 saves in the loss while PSU’s Peyton Jones had 36.