Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Coming into this game, Air Force Head Coach Frank Serratore was 7-0 in Atlantic Hockey Championships. Tonight his group lost 7-0 to AIC. Tonight, like last year, AIC Head Coach Eric Lang challenged a play for a potential major penalty. It was successful as Air Force lost freshman defender Mitchell Digby for the rest of the game due to a slew-footing major. Unlike last year’s Atlantic Hockey Championship, the Yellow Jackets did not score on the five-minute power play.
The Yellow Jackets had put up four goals before that major in the second, including three in that period. Despite all that, the Falcons played their physical brand of hockey, and made Alec Calvaruso work in the net, as he finished with a shutout, becoming the first goalie on his third college hockey team to do so in a Conference Championship with 18 saves. As the game went on, AIC made life tough for Air Force.
The scoring started in the first on the first errant play that Air Force made. Blake Bennett picked off the Falcons and found Julius Janhonen who showed his hands and put home his first of the night. It was a 1-0 game after one, but Air Force showed that they could keep up with the Yellow Jackets. The turning point of the game happened at the end of the period. Brandon Koch took a two-minute penalty for hitting after the whistle. AIC then came out in the second and scored on the ensuing power play. Brian Rigali put home the power-play goal and AIC did not look back. Chris Dodero scored two goals including a shorthanded tally, Zak Galambos put home a wrist shot on the power play.
Serratore was pretty blunt in saying of AIC, “They were better than us in every facet of the game. We can’t go up and down on the ice with their speed and skill.” He called the four straight regular-season titles, and three straight tournament championships won by Lang’s group as a “dynasty.” Serratore thought his team took too many penalties. On the Koch penalty, he said that it was an “avoidable penalty.”
On the night AIC Head Coach Eric Lang said of the moment, “You have to embrace moments like this because it is not easy.” Lang added that simply, “its a good day for AIC Hockey.”He also took the time to praise Chris Dodero, saying that, “ he’s like a third coach for us.” He said of Dodero “some of our best adjustments on the season have come from Chris.”
Forward Blake Bennett, named the most outstanding player of the tournament once again called the feeling “surreal.” He, like Lang and everyone else know there is more work to do. Lang said of what comes next in the national tournament, “now it’s time to do some hunting.”
Dodero finished by saying of winning another postseason title simply that “It does not get old, obviously it’s a great feeling.” Now AIC will wait and find out tomorrow where they are heading to face , in all likelihood, the number one overall seeded Michigan Wolverines.
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