Air Force senior Kyle De Laurell found a new home and fortunately for Falcon fans, it was in front of the Army net.
The Pine Creek High School graduate recorded his second college hat trick and jumped into the glass by the Cadets section in celebration after he tapped in a rebound with 4:29 left in the 4-1 Atlantic Hockey Association victory.
“I’m going to make that my home,” the left wing said, referring to the front of the net. “It is always sweet to get three but it is especially nice against Army.”
De Laurell scored twice on redirects in the second period to spark the Falcons past their service academy rivals. It was payoff for a week of practice focused on generating more shots from the blue line and getting the forwards in close for redirects and rebounds.
“We have been spectating too much,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “We have to get all five involved and get some blue-collar goals.”
They did on Friday.
De Laurell’s first score came on a power-play shot by defenseman Adam McKenzie toward the right post where Army senior goalie Ryan Leets (32 saves) was waiting.
Fortunately for most of the 2,497 fans at Cadet Ice Arena, so was De Laurell, who reached out and poked the puck inside the opposite post to make it 2-0 with 5:21 remaining in the second. De Laurell did the same four minutes later on a long shot by defenseman Mike Walsh to make it 3-0 with 1:27 left.
His third came on the power play when Tony Thomas’ hard-angle shot from the right rebounded across where De Laurell was alone. His jump into the glass looked more difficult than the score.
Army’s Shane Hearn scored 32 seconds after De Laurell for the final margin.
The key for seventh-place Air Force (7-9-4, 5-5-2 AHA) in the first 32 minutes was its penalty kill, which shut down Army (7-10-2, 7-5-2) during three power plays and a struggling AFA man advantage that suddenly clicked.
“You can credit our special teams, faceoffs and our goaltending,” Serratore said. “Jason Torf did not make a lot of saves but the ones he made were timely.”
The junior goalie finished with 26 saves.
The Falcons went ahead 1-0 on a “greasy” goal when sophomore Ben Persian poked the loose puck in from underneath Leets with 11:31 left in the first period.
“We were fortunate to be ahead,” senior Stephen Carew said.
“Army always comes out hard and tries to bully us. If we weather the storm they usually fizzle. Hopefully we can keep it going (Saturday).”