WORCESTER, Mass. – Air Force coach Frank Serratore rubbed his face Saturday as he trudged off the ice, partly frustrated, mostly disappointed and even a little bewildered. He had experienced those emotions so many times, too many times. And it never gets easier.
“I feel like I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day,” Serratore said. “Here we are again.”
Another top-notch postseason effort by Jason Torf was wasted with Chris Kreider scoring a pair of goals, and fourth-seeded Air Force got largely neutralized in a 2-0 defeat to the No. 1 overall seed, Boston College, in the Northeast Regional at the DCU Center.
It marked the first time all season Air Force (21-11-7) had been shut out – the victim of a 34-20 deficit in shots, only two shots on two power plays and a hot goaltender in Parker Milner, who received support from a suffocating defensive unit that routinely pushed the Falcons to the perimeter. It also represented another painstaking departure in the NCAA Tournament, where Air Force has dropped five games by a combined total of six goals.
Kreider gave Boston College (30-10-1) all that it needed when he beat Torf (8-5-2) on a one-timer from Kevin Hayes less than eight minutes into the game, and he scored on the power play with 81 seconds left to seal the national-best 16th straight win for the Eagles. In between, Hockey East champion Boston College dominated, enjoying shot margins of 11-4 in the second and 14-8 in the third, and Milner (26-5) turned back everything.
Serratore admitted his players looked “a little tentative, a little nervous” at the start. Still, “you’ve got to win a period to win a game,” Serratore said, adding that “the bottom line is we didn’t find a way to score a goal. … We needed a bounce. There were some pucks that bounced around Milner and some shots we had, and they just didn’t go for us.”
Paul Weisgarber generated five shots, and Stephen Carew and John Kruse had four each, benefiting from a 31-25 faceoff advantage that Air Force held but doomed by a lack of a transition game and a slew of turnovers. The best chance for the Falcons to score was late in the first, as Milner stuffed Weisgarber, Carew and Cole Gunner, and Adam McKenzie misfired on an open net. In the initial minutes of the second, Kyle De Laurell was denied, and Milner stopped Weisgarber and Kruse in the third after both created turnovers.
Four penalties in the third hampered Air Force, the most damaging a cross-checking call on Dan Weissenhofer with less than two minutes left that appeared more like incidental contact – preventing Serratore from pulling Torf for an empty net until after Kreider had hit on the power play. “I’m not allowed to comment on that,” Serratore said. “Regardless of whether it was a good call, a bad call, whatever I think, it really doesn’t matter.”
The Falcons were “a hard, tough out,” said Boston College coach Jerry York, whose team will face second-seeded Minnesota-Duluth, a 5-2 winner over third-seeded Maine, in the regional championship game Sunday for the right to advance to the Frozen Four. “They were a really tough team to play against,” said Kreider, with a team-leading 22 goals.
For Milner, “we really shut them down offensively,” he said. “All the shots they had were from outside the dots. … The times that they got in the zone, I think we did a great job of keeping them to the outside and keeping the shots to the point where I could save them.”
Kruse won’t blame Torf, who suffered the loss last season in the NCAA Tournament, 2-1 in overtime vs. Yale. “He kept us in it,” Kruse said. “He was making unbelievable saves, and we just couldn’t capitalize for him and help him out.” Weisgarber noted, “We wanted to keep it low-scoring. Limit their chances in the slot area. We felt if we could do that, we could win the game late in the third. Everything was right where it was supposed to be.”
BOSTON COLLEGE 2, AIR FORCE 0
Air Force 0 0 0 – 0
Boston College 1 0 1 – 2
First period – 1. Boston College, Kreider 21 (Hayes, Straight), 7:39. Penalties – Weisgarber, Air Force (tripping), 1:03.
Second – None. Penalties – Arnold, Boston College (slashing), 17:05.
Third – 2. Boston College, Kreider 22 (Wey), 18:39 (pp). Penalties – Kirby, Air Force (hooking), 0:40. Shea, Boston College (boarding), 5:33. Holm, Air Force (hooking), 7:01. Weissenhofer, Air Force (cross-checking), 18:07. Mathis, Air Force (slashing), 19:18.
Shots on goal – Air Force 8-4-8-20. Boston College 9-11-14-34. Power-play opportunities – Air Force 0 of 2. Boston College 1 of 5. Goalies – Air Force, Torf 8-11-13 (34 shots-32 saves). Boston College, Milner 8-4-8 (20-20). Attendance – 5,925. Time – 2:20. Referees – Mark Wilkins, Barry Pochmara. Linesmen – Joe Hutek, Bruce Vida.
DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.
No. 1 Boston College 2, No. 4 Air Force 0
No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth 5, No. 3 Maine 2
Boston College vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 6 p.m. Sunday, ESPNU