These aren’t teams you work out your issues against.
Air Force remained winless to start the season and couldn’t find the net, among other issues, in a 3-0 loss to Arizona State on Friday night at Cadet Ice Arena.
No. 10 Notre Dame and Arizona State, which was in the USCHO.com poll two weeks ago, make up most of the Falcons’ nonconference slate. They haven’t waited around for the Falcons to connect the dots and fix their longstanding scoring problems.
The Sun Devils sent the Falcons to 0-3 with a rematch set for Saturday.
“We’ve got such a mighty spirit on this team,” forward Joe Tyran said. “You see the jump on the ice, you see the energy. But I feel like we need to be stronger on the pucks.
“It’s a long season and we’re still going to fight for it.”
Johnny Walker's odd goal finished the Falcons with just under eight minutes left in the game. Walker squared off with goaltender Zach LaRocque and made it a little too complicated, stickhandling until Brandon Koch came up and picked his pocket.
But Koch lost it, James Sanchez passed it right back to Walker and the Sun Devils’ program-leading goal-scorer didn’t make the same mistake.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore maintained that he and the Falcons are focused on the process.
“The bottom line is we need to get a lot better as a team before we even think about having a chance to win games,” he said.
The defense held strong through a period and a half, but good scoring chances were few and far between for Air Force, which put just seven shots on goal through two periods. Many more went into the Sun Devils’ pads, as they blocked 22 shots to the Falcons’ eight.
Perhaps the best came from Ty Pochipinski, who shoveled a rebound too low in the first period.
The Falcons were outshot 11-3 in the second period but managed to limit the damage to just one goal. That goal was standard fare, with Tyler Busch pouncing on a puck sitting near the crease.
LaRocque (20 saves) was taken out by a sliding Sun Devil seconds before Kieran Durgan lay down a thundering hit. The referee deemed it excessive and handed him a roughing minor, but he'd earned the admiration of the cadet section, which chanted his name.
The officials continued to call the game tightly. Max Harper went off on a short breakaway, tried to stuff the puck past ASU goaltender Evan DeBrouwer in close and managed to acquire a goaltender interference penalty on what appeared to be a standard finish to such a play.
Trevor Stone did his part on both sides of the ice on the penalty kill, going off on a 2-on-1 with Jake Levin that DeBrouwer (15 saves) had the answer to. He then got back in time to cut off the Sun Devils’ rush.
But Arizona State kept picking at Air Force and eventually the visitors were rewarded. An empty-netter from Willie Knierim sealed the win.
Serratore, who pointed to awkward line changes as another area to work on, said it could have been worse.
“What are you going to do when you’re backed into a corner? Are you going to cower, or are you going fight back? That’s kind of where we’re at,” he said.