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Falcons fend off late RIT rally

By: Justin Felisko sports@gazette.com
February 21, 2014 Updated: February 21, 2014 at 11:20 pm
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photo - Air Force Academy celebrates their second goal by right wing, A.J. Reid in the closing minutes in the first period Friday, February 21, 2014. The Air Force Academy hockey takes on Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT, at the Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette
Air Force Academy celebrates their second goal by right wing, A.J. Reid in the closing minutes in the first period Friday, February 21, 2014. The Air Force Academy hockey takes on Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT, at the Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette 

It's becoming an uneasy trend for Air Force, and the Falcons are well aware it needs to change.

Once again Air Force struggled to play a full three periods of consistent hockey, looking a bit lethargic and disinterested at times against an inferior opponent, but the Falcons were able to hold on for a 4-3 victory over Atlantic Hockey Association foe RIT at Cadet Ice Arena.

While Air Force (19-10-4, 14-7-3) is happy to earn the crucial two points - the Falcons sit in sole possession of third place in the AHA standings, one point up on Robert Morris with three games to play - they know they have to play better.

"We have a very good idea of what we can do when we decide to show up," said senior goalie Jason Torf. "We need to show up every night. We have had a few bad Fridays in a row now."

Torf, making his second start since returning from a groin injury that cost him 13 games, finished with 28 saves, but received help from the goal itself as two Rochester Institute of Technology (8-18-7, 7-14-3) shots ricocheted off the posts.

"We come in and we seem a little lackluster at times and a good team is going to pop a few in," he added. "That game was decided by inches, they hit two posts tonight."

Senior Scott Holm notched the eventual game-winner with 4:04 remaining when the left wing froze goaltender Mike Rotolo (25 saves) on a two-on-one rush and fired home a wrist shot past the freshman's left hand to make it 4-2.

"I got a nice pass there (from Johnny Hrabovsky) and the goalie was leaning the other way a little bit and I was able to beat him short side," Holm said.

RIT's Ben Lynch then scored with 2:04 left before Holm helped create two crucial clears with under a minute remaining as Rotolo sat on the RIT bench for the extra attacker.

The Falcons recovered from a poor penalty kill that surrendered two RIT power-play goals (Dan Schuler and Adam Mitchell) in the first two periods by holding the Tigers to one shot on their final two chances with the man advantage in the third.

Senior Adam McKenzie said it was an improvement of effort and execution.

"For the most part it was being more detailed and working a little harder on the dot to get clears," McKenzie said.

The defenseman, who admitted the team "didn't have a great week" of practice, put the Falcons up 3-1 when he beat Rotolo five-hole at 10:33 of the second with a wrist shot for his sixth goal of the season.

Ryan Timar and A.J. Reid each picked up their fourth goals of the season in the first period. Coach Frank Serratore spoke with the team at length following Friday's victory.

"Right now it all starts with effort," Serratore said. "It all starts with playing with a sense of urgency."

Torf, Holm and McKenzie believe the Falcons can improve before the start of the AHA playoffs.

"This team has a lot of confidence and we know we can bounce back from this," Holm said. "We are a resilient bunch and we will be alright."

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