Air Force goalie Jason Torf gave his teammates the second chance they needed and the Falcons took advantage to seize sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
Torf made 12 saves in the first 14 minutes as 10th-place Robert Morris dominated play before an Air Force timeout with 5:24 left in the first period woke up the Falcons.
“They took it to us in the first period,” said sophomore Cole Gunner, who scored the game-winner late in the second period of the 4-1 home win Saturday. “We knew they would peter out after that first 15 minutes. We told each other during that timeout that no one was going to outplay us or outwork us.”
Air Force then took control for its second league sweep in a row. The Falcons outshot RMU 41-16 after the timeout, after initially trailing 13-4. Air Force’s timeout came after Torf had to make an impressive glove save to his left, snagging a wrister by Adam Brace out of the air as he slid to his right on a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway.
“Thank God, Torf stood tall for us,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “It could have easily been 4-1 after the first. You hate to burn that timeout early but I had to change the rhythm of the game.”
Serratore did not yell, instead relying on the Falcons to motivate themselves. Sophomore defenseman Dan Weissenhofer chewed out his teammates, who responded by dominating play the rest of the game, which was tied at 1-1.
The sweep, along with Holy Cross’ 2-1 win at Bentley, puts the Falcons, 8-2-2 in its past 12 games including five wins in its past seven, in position for home playoff ice and a first-round bye (top four teams) behind league leader Niagara (15-4-5, 14-1-2 AHA).
Near-constant pressure by Air Force (11-9-5, 9-5-3) paid off with a second-period power play that Gunner cashed in with 39.6 ticks left for a 2-1 lead before 2,068 fans at Cadet Ice Arena.
Gunner one-timed a crossing pass from sophomore Chad Demers, sending his shot inside the near post to beat RMU goalie Eric Levine before he slid over from the opposite post.
The forecheck generated numerous scoring opportunities, but Levine stood his ground. The Colonials senior made 20 saves in the middle period and finished with 41.
Air Force’s Ben Persian scored only 2:19 into the game, but the 1-0 lead lasted less than two minutes. Robert Morris (12-9-2, 7-8-1) answered when Scott Jacklin poked in a rebound during a scramble in front. That put the Colonials firmly in control until the timeout.