Published: January 18, 2014
After 21 penalty minutes and one goaltender followed by one defenseman ejected, Air Force earned another hard-fought win.
Air Force (14-6-4, 9-3-3 Atlantic Hockey Association) beat Sacred Heart (6-18, 5-12) Saturday at Cadet Ice Arena 4-0 to sweep the Pioneers for a 21-6-4 overall record against the visitor.
Following a 6-4 victory Friday, third-place Air Force pushed its win streak to five. The Pioneers fell to 11th in the league.
"We've been on the road for the past three weeks or so," junior wing Cole Gunner said. "The boys are excited to play back here. We've been playing hot, and we wanted to show people that."
The Falcons' consistent offensive pressure proved to be too much for Sacred Heart's deep defense and sophomore goalie Alex Vazzano.
With three minutes left in the first period, the Falcons' offense dominated with 12 shots to five and they killed a Pioneers' power play after Air Force junior Dan Weissenhofer was called for tripping. The strife for Vazzano continued until the sophomore netminder lost control of a save on Falcons junior Chad Demers. Gunner sliced the rebound from the slot to help Air Force to a 1-0 lead going into the first break.
The Falcons quickly followed up in the second period. With the second Sacred Heart power play killed, junior Mike McDonald slapped one into the slot from the blue line. It was redirected by Ryan Dau, a freshman, past Vazzano for a 2-0 lead. It was Dau's first goal.
McDonald later went into the box on a roughing penalty, but the Falcons easily killed the Pioneers' lackluster extra-man attempt with nine minutes to go in the period.
Air Force went up 3-0 with 6:30 left in the second with a goal from Weissenhofer. The junior stuffed the puck into the crease after Vazzano was out of position on all fours thanks to playmaking from Demers and Gunner.
"Friday night, we played a little soft," Gunner said. "Tonight, we knew he had to get guys up front and screen. It paid off big time."
Three periods was too much for harried Vazzano after a pileup in the Sacred Heart crease. Vazzano threw three punches to the back of Falcon sophomore Max Hartner's helmet. The folly resulted in a 5-minute contact to the head major to the goaltender and he was ejected for misconduct.
Pioneers junior Andrew Bodnarchuk assumed the role between the pipes and let in an Air Force power-play goal 21/2 minutes later.
Jason Fabian, a senior, notched the goal, assisted by junior Alex Halloran for a 4-0 lead.
Nine minutes into the third, Weissenhofer took his own major penalty on an elbowing call and game misconduct. Falcons killed the five minutes, however.
Chris Truehl broke 100 saves on the season with 18 stops on Sacred Heart.
"It was like night and day from Friday," Truehl said. "Tonight, our defense was blocking shots and covering well. They made my job pretty easy. I had more confidence to focus only on the shooter and know my guys were taking the back door guy."
Air Force finished with 37 shots.
Demers had two assists, and Gunner had one goal and an assist.
Atlantic Hockey Glance
W L T Pts GF GA
Mercyhurst 11 1 2 24 59 27
Bentley 9 3 2 20 56 34
Air Force 8 3 3 19 45 39
UConn 8 4 2 18 40 32
Canisius 7 5 1 15 43 26
Niagara 5 6 3 13 49 43
RIT 6 7 1 13 39 43
Robert Morris 5 6 3 13 43 43
American Intl. 5 8 1 11 39 56
Holy Cross 4 9 2 10 31 40
Sacred Heart 5 11 0 10 39 58
Army 3 13 0 6 33 68
OVERALL RECORDS: Air Force 13-6-4, American International 6-14-1, Army 3-17-0, Bentley 11-8-2, Canisius 8-11-1, UConn 10-7-3, Holy Cross 5-15-2, Mercyhurst 13-9-3, Niagara 5-13-3, Robert Morris 5-13-3, RIT 7-11-3, Sacred Heart 6-17-0.