March 16, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Familiar Foes Meet Again in Atlantic Hockey

CHN Staff Report

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — With RIT's overtime win over Niagara on Friday night, the Tigers set up yet another meeting with Air Force for the Atlantic Hockey championship. Since Air Force joined the league six years ago, RIT is the only team other than the Falcons to win the title and go to the NCAAs, in 2010, when RIT went to the Frozen Four.

Air Force's heroics weren't as dramatic as RIT's, but it still got two goals from Paul Weisgarber to lead the way.

Air Force improves to 20-10-7 overall. The top-seeded Falcons head to the AHA championship game for the fifth time in six years.

Air Force drew first blood when Cole Gunner scored his seventh of the season. Stephen Carew passed the puck up to the top of the left circle and Gunner’s wrister went high over the blocker for a 1-0 lead at the 1:40 mark. Mercyhurst came back to tie the game at 6:27. Daniel O’Donoghue scored with a wrister from the slot as he received a pass from the side boards. The Falcons went ahead again at the 13:28 mark on the power play.

The Falcons extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period. Junior John Kruse skated the puck off the side boards and into the slot. His wrister went top shelf for his 15th of the season at the 3:49 mark.

Early in the third period, Mercyhurst (20-16-4) cut the Falcon lead to one when Derek Elliot scored with a wrister from the slot at 2:01. The Falcons clung to the one-goal until late in the third period. Jason Fabian, who dove in front of a slap shot late in the game in the defensive zone, scored his sixth of the season with 1:47 remaining. Casey Kleisinger made a no-look pass in the neutral zone to Fabian on the right wing. The sophomore winger skated in and went high for a 4-2 lead. Mercyhurst pulled its goalie with 1:10 remaining, but Weisgarber sealed the game with an empty-netter.

AFA outshot Mercyhurst in every period and 42-25 in the game. AFA was 1-for-2 on the power play while Mercyhurst was 0-for-2. Jason Torf made 23 saves for the Falcons while Max Strang made 37 for the Lakers.

“I expected it to be a real tough game and it was,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We had chances to break it open, but Strang kept it close. Things got real interesting thanks to Strang. We played fairly well defensively and the guys stuck to the game plan. But sometimes when you play against a good, hot goaltender, the plans can get sabotaged. My hat is off to Mercyhurst, coach Rick Gotkin and Max Strang. This was a good character win for us. We had to overcome Strang and we did. We were the better team tonight. We are happy to be heading to the championship game and we will take our swings tomorrow night.”

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