It may have been a loss, but it wasn't from a lack of performance.
Air Force (19-11-4, 14-8-3 Atlantic Hockey Association) said farewell to its regular-season home schedule Saturday at the Cadet Ice Arena splitting its two-game series against RIT (9-18-5, 7-15-3). The Falcons lost 3-2 after beating the Tigers 4-3 Friday.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore said the Falcons played better in the loss than they did in the win.
"We won the game they should have won last night, and tonight they won the game we should have won," Serratore said.
Four minutes into the second period, the Tigers' Mike Colavecchia found senior center Ben Lynch alone in the slot. Lynch, who drew two penalties in the game, sliced a shot past senior goalie Jason Torf, in his third start back from injury, to tie the score 1-1.
On the Falcons' second power play of the period, right wing junior Cole Gunner had a shot bounce in traffic which ended up past goalie Mike Rotolo. The goal was disallowed, however, as officials decided second-line wing Tony Thomas interfered on the play.
Seven minutes later, RIT freshman Todd Skirving converted a one-on-one breakaway into a 2-1 lead. After an intercepted pass in the Tigers' slot, third-line wing Ryan Timar, a senior, drilled a wrist shot to tie the score at 2 with three minutes left in the period. With the goal, Timar had scored in the last three games.
"It definitely helps build confidence, which is good from an individual standpoint," Timar said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win, so it's not that great."
In the final minute of the second, the Tigers' power-play unit took to the ice after a second penalty to Gunner. Timar broke through the defenders for a chance at a short-handed goal, but Skirving tripped him up and the game went 4-on-4 to the second break.
The Tigers regained the lead as Colavecchia passed to wing Josh Mitchell, who scored to give the Tigers a 3-2 advantage with nine minutes left.
"They were definitely an opportunist team," Timer said, "and they made good on those opportunities."
Late in the physical game, the Falcons pulled Torf for the extra skater, but could not convert any chances.
Serratore said having not capitalized on any of the Falcons' five power plays was costly.
"We couldn't get a bounce," he said. "We had two disallowed goals, one at the whistle. One shot hit the pipe. (Chad) Demers had two open nets, and he never misses."
Four seconds left and a faceoff in RIT's end, Air Force took the loss without another shot on goal.
"It's better that this happened now rather than two or three weeks from now in the playoffs," Timar said.
The Falcons outshot the Tigers 28-22. With the loss, Air Force is tied for third place in the conference standings with UConn. Mercyhurst remained in the No.?1 spot, while Bentley claimed No. 2 coming out of the weekend.
Air Force finishes the season on the road next weekend at Niagara. Serratore said the Falcons are still the creators of their own destiny since a sweep at No. 7 Niagara (10-17-5, 10-10-5) would still clinch them a first-round bye in the playoffs.
"It's going to be a war," he said.