March 28, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Falcons give BC a run for its money

By Allen Lessels

The Falcons had the Eagles right where they wanted them and prepared to take their last shot. 

The Falcons can look forward to Jason Torf being back between the pipes next season after a strong sophomore year for the netminder. (Dave Arnold Photography)

Granted, it would have been nice to be up by a couple of goals in the first game in the NCAA’s Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., but Air Force coach Frank Serratore wasn’t counting on that in his team’s battle with Boston College, the No. 1-ranked team in the land.

“We were right where we wanted to be,” Serratore said from Colorado on Tuesday. “We wanted a situation where if we won the third period, we had a chance to win the game. We knew we had to beat them 1-0 or 2-1, and if it was 3-2 it would be in overtime. Our biggest thing was not to fall behind by three or four goals because we were not going to come back on a team like that late.”

Just a couple of minutes remained in regulation and BC clung to the 1-0 lead it secured on a first-period goal by standout Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.).

On the Air Force bench during a television timeout, Serratore mapped out the Falcons’ strategy for pulling goalie Jason Torf and getting a sixth attacker on the ice to charge the BC net and go for the tying goal.

Play resumed. Serratore had his arm up to call Torf to the bench and then it happened.

In transition, Air Force’s Dan Weissenhofer crashed into an Eagle and was called for cross-checking with 1:53 to play. 

“They just collided,” said Serratore, who didn’t like the call one bit.

That was it.

Thirty-two seconds later, Kreider scored on the power play and BC soon locked up a 2-0 win and was on to the regional finals. After beating Minnesota-Duluth, 4-0, on Sunday night, it advanced to the Frozen Four.

The Falcons closed out a championship season -- they won the Atlantic Hockey regular-season and tournament titles -- with a 21-11-7 record.

But it was a tough way for the season to end.

In 2011, the Falcons fell to Yale, 2-1 in overtime, in their first game in the NCAA tournament.

“They hung in there and beat us in overtime, and got all their swings,” Serratore said. “This year, we didn’t get all our swings. If we pull the goalie and they stick one in, hats off to them. If they keep coming and don’t allow us to pull our goalie, hats off. The frustrating part for us is we were right where we wanted to be, within one shot.”

The Falcons return plenty, including Torf in goal, and will be right back at it in the fall.

They lose forward Paul Wesigarber -- “the best captain we’ve ever had,” said Serratore -- and arguably the best pair of defensemen the team has had in Tim Kirby and Scott Mathis, along with goalie Stephen Caple.

“We don’t lose a lot in quantity, but it is a lot of quality,” the coach said.

The Falcons have won the Atlantic Hockey tournament and advanced to the NCAAs five times in the last six years, and will try to make it six of seven.

“I’m real proud of our guys,” Serratore said. “The league’s never been deeper than it was this year. To win the regular season and then the tournament gets tougher and tougher every year and to be able to do that is pretty good.”

Atlantic Hockey power ratings

  1. Air Force (21-11-7, 15-6-6 AHA) … The Falcons gave Boston College, the No. 1 team in the nation, quite a run before falling, 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA’s Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., on Saturday.  BC advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-0 win over defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth the next night. 
  2. RIT (20-13-6, 14-7-6)
  3. Niagara (17-11-9, 14-6-7) 
  4. Mercyhurst (20-16-4, 15-8-4)    
  5. Holy Cross (20-15-4, 15-8-4)  
  6. Bentley (16-16-8, 13-7-7)  
  7. UConn (16-19-4, 12-12-3)    
  8. Robert Morris (17-17-5, 13-9-5) 
  9. Canisius (10-22-4, 10-14-3) 
  10. AIC (8-26-3, 6-18-3)
  11. Sacred Heart (6-28-3, 4-20-3) 
  12. Army (4-23-7, 3-19-5)

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.