Air Force has started to connect the dots and put together another solid effort against Bentley.
Freshman Willie Reim’s first career goal was the winner in Friday’s 4-2 victory, Air Force’s second straight and first at home. Alex Schilling made 24 saves and has won his two starts after taking over in net.
“Tonight he was unbelievable,” forward Matt Pulver said. “There were a few shots and a couple of breakaways where I was holding my breath, but he stood strong. He’s confident back there right now.”
Pulver got the scoring started. Kieran Durgan did the dirty work in the corner and sent a centering pass to the captain at 3:31 in.
Defenseman Jake Levin drew the penalty and then helped Air Force’s power play, scoring just its second goal in 38 opportunities. He took the puck off the boards, saw a lane and sent one in from the right faceoff circle.
“(The power play) has struggled lately, but we’re finding our rhythm here,” Levin said. “We’re putting pucks to the net and it’s working.”
About time. It was more goals than Air Force (2-7, 2-3 Atlantic Hockey) had scored in five of its eight games this season, but Bentley made the lead disappear in the third period before the ice had lost its post-Zamboni sheen.
Bentley carried over a minute and a half of power-play time and a Pierce Pluemer tripping penalty gave the visitors nearly a minute-long 5-on-3. Will Garin and Michael Zuffante scored on each side of it to tie the game.
Reim calmed the crowd, forcing his way in and depositing a Marshall Bowery rebound four minutes later. Pulver had a second goal overturned after it was determined Aidan Pelino (33 saves) was interfered with.
Brady Tomlak sealed the win with an empty-netter.
Though it would be understandable if the Falcons’ confidence was on thin ice after dropping seven straight to start the season, Pulver said there was no panic after their lead evaporated so quickly.
“We stayed calm the whole time,” he said. “You didn’t feel any pressure to make bad plays or get the puck off your stick faster than it needed to be.”
Coach Frank Serratore indicated changes were coming to the power play to make it “mirror” Air Force's identity, and more effective.
He said that identity could still use some solidifying as well.
“We have to embrace what we are as a team,” Serratore said. “We’re a forechecking team, not a puck possession team.
“They’ve got more skill than we do. They just do ... but they don’t have more legs and more heart. We have to play with our legs and we have to play with heart. When we do that, we’re good. When we try to take shortcuts and get cute, it just doesn’t work. Never has, never will. That’s not Falcon hockey.”