Connecticut's special-teams play and superior goaltending proved too much for Air Force to overcome in a 5-3 loss.
The Atlantic Hockey Association game turned in UConn's favor over a span of 133 seconds with two power-play goals and an even-strength tally early in the second period before the 1,259 fans at Cadet Ice Arena on a snowy Friday night.
"They out special teamed and out-goaltended us," Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. "We didn't make a big save and their four good shots all went into the net. Down the stretch and in the playoffs you have to be better in those."
UConn's Patrick Kirtland split two defenders for a breakaway, and beat junior goalie Paul Moberg with a backhander for the eventual game-winner with 15:24 left.
The score made it 4-2 but the Falcons were not done. Serratore pulled Moberg with 3:30 left and five seconds later, AFA freshman Ryan Doucet drew a slashing penalty for a 6-on-4 advantage. It took only 28 seconds for Scott Holm to knock in a rebound with 2:57 remaining.
Air Force pulled Moberg again with 1:56 remaining and the Falcons sustained pressure on UConn freshman goalie Robby Nichols (40 saves) but to no avail. The rematch is at 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
"There goalie was very good," Serratore said. "I liked our effort and determination."
Air Force got a goal late in the second period when defenseman Dan Weissenhofer chased down a loose puck along the far boards and then skated behind the UConn net, beating two Huskies to the opposite side. The junior attempted a wraparound shot that went off Nichols's leg pad straight out to forward Ben Persian, who was skating hard at the net. His one-timer made it 3-2 with 1:46 remaining.
"It was good to see our third and fourth lines guys getting going," Holm said. "We did a good job putting pressure on them late but it didn't work out."
The Huskies power play scored twice in 42 seconds, taking advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage to make it 2-1 with 11:53 left in the second period.
UConn, despite being out shot by a 16-7 margin at that point, added a third goal during even strength play about 90 seconds later.
That ended Air Force freshman goalie Chris Truehl's night since UConn tallied three goals on four shots. Moberg, who took the loss, replaced Truehl with 10:22 left in the second period and finished with 10 saves.
Air Force took a 1-0 lead when Doucet tracked down the puck after it deflected high into the air and scored on the wraparound with 17:18 left in the second. It was his first goal as a Falcon, coming in his 12th game.