Air Force blanked Canisius 3-0 and punched its ticket to Saturday night’s Atlantic Hockey Championship in Rochester, N.Y.
Fifth-seeded Air Force will face seventh-seeded Robert Morris in a rematch of last season’s title game, which the Falcons won 2-1. Once again, an NCAA Championship bid is on the line.
“This group — we’re not done,” Air Force assistant coach Joe Doyle told Xtra Sports Radio after the game.
Billy Christopoulos earned his second straight shutout with 24 saves. None were more important than a stop on the Golden Griffins’ Felix Chamberlin at the back door early in the second period to keep the game scoreless.
“These games can be so tight and can turn on a dime. Billy was solid all game,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “If that puck goes in, who knows that happens.”
The Falcons got on the board later in the period when freshman Zach Mirageas’ shot through traffic was tipped by junior Kyle Haak. Erik Baskin picked up the rebound of a Jake Levin shot and beat Canisius’ Daniel Urbani low 10 minutes later. His team-leading 16th goal of the season made it 2-0.
Matt Serratore buried another rebound and ended a lengthy scoring drought 5:51 into the third period. Mirageas and Haak earned assists for multi-point nights.
The oft-penalized Golden Griffins hindered their comeback attempt with third-period penalties. Urbani turned away 34 shots, but his team could never solve Christopoulos.
Robert Morris advanced with a wild 5-4 overtime win over top-seeded Mercyhurst. The Colonials tied the game with 45 seconds left in regulation and Michael Louria’s goal ended it.
Air Force and Robert Morris met once, with the Falcons taking a win and a tie in both teams’ final regular-season series. There will be a quick turnaround for both before the championship game rematch at 5:35 p.m.