Torf Enough to Fill Big Shoes
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter
Jason Torf’s season can be summed up in the two games against RIT on Feb. 4 and 5.
On Friday, the Air Force goaltender played brilliantly, holding the Tigers scoreless until just over two minutes into overtime. But coming back on Saturday, he surrendered three goals on seven shots and was pulled in the first period.
You’ll have to forgive Torf if he feels any pressure this season, replacing the man who Falcons coach Frank Serratore calls the greatest player ever at the academy.
“Nobody can replace (Andrew) Volkening,” Serratore said. “Volkening is arguably the best player ever to play at Air Force.”
All Volkening did was lead the Falcons to two conference tournament championships, a regular-season championship and never finished lower than third. But he has graduated and the job of filling those shoes has fallen on Torf.
After a rough start, losing his first three decisions, Torf turned things around when he become the first goalie to defeat Yale. Since then he has been Serratore’s No. 1 in net.
But Torf had to earn the starting job. He had to compete with sophomore David Bosner and junior Stephen Caple to earn the starting job.
“All three of us are really competitive kids,” Torf said. “All three of us were giving it everything we had. We were all smile off the ice but on the ice we were at each other’s throats a little bit, hoping the other would let in a goal.”
Even though Torf may have won the job, he is still being constantly pushed by Caple and Bosner.
“They push me,” Torf said. “They’re tremendous in practice and it helps me to know that I have to keep getting better.”
And Torf has started every game since, compiling a 9-8-3 record and helping Air Force stay within reach of the top of the Atlantic Hockey standings. The Falcons are currently just two points behind second place Robert Morris and end the season with the Colonials paying a visit to the academy.
But Air Force wouldn’t be in this position if not for Torf. While the Falcons had two returning goalies, Serratore wasn’t comfortable with them.
“We weren’t sure of our two veterans coming back so we brought Jason in,” Serratore said.
While Torf has taken control of the No. 1 goalie job, there was some added pressure, especially replacing Volkening.
“The only pressure there’s been is the fact that everyone here is used to having a great goalie that brings success,” Torf said. “Those expectations don’t die when a new goalie gets in the net.”
And while Torf faced some tough situations in junior hockey there was nothing that could have prepared him to replace Volkening.
“That’s something that nothing could have prepared me for,” Torf said. “People told me before hand that I was stepping into some big shoes but I didn’t really understand the magnitude of it before I got here.”
While there’s some pressure to replace Volkening, but it also provides Torf with someone to look up to.
“It’s inspiring when I can look up in the rink and he has his banner up here,” Torf said. “He’s a historic goaltender here at the Air Force Academy. I’d love to be that historic at some point too.
“Just the idea of being that successful is a goal of mine.”
While he wants to be as successful as Volkening, Torf plays with different style and isn’t trying to copy Volkening.
“I’m a very different goalie than he was,” Torf said. “He had some tremendous size that he could use to his advantage. I don’t have that. It doesn’t help me too much to try and play like he played. I just try to bring my own game and try and make it work.”
And while one day Torf may be as successful as Volkening, he still has a ways to go.
“Once he gets stronger every facet of his game will be consistently better,” Serratore said.
And this could prove to be essential, especially on back-to-back games where Torf has struggled this year on the second night.
“He’s had some really good nights and he’s been pulled from several games,” Serratore said. “He’s especially struggled on the second night of two game series. He’s played really strong on the first night but struggled on the second night.”
Torf has gone 6-2-3 on Friday nights while only winning once on Saturday nights (1-6). He has gone 2-0 in games not on Friday or Saturday.
And when he does struggle, the rest of the Falcons are there to help him out.
“Whether it’s the guy next to me or every single guy in the room they tell me it’s done, it’s over. You just have to play the next period like its 0-0. Be who you are,” Torf said. “A number of guys, especially my captains, Derrick Burnett, Jacques Lamoureux, Paul Weisgarber, they’ve all come up to me and said, ‘We believe in you. You don’t have to be try and someone you’re not. We know you have what it takes.’”
And with the season winding down, the Falcons by be relying on Torf even more when the playoffs start. And after recent success in the playoffs, Torf and the Falcons are ready to get back and challenge for the Atlantic Hockey title.
“We hear it all the time from our coach, we’re just as good, if not better than any of those championship teams.