The No. 4 Providence Friars (13-3-3) have been one of the most successful teams in college hockey this season to date, but the 2013 calendar year closed on a very sour note in the championship of the 25th annual Ledyard National Bank Classic.
After junior Ross Mauermann scored a late power play goal to defeat host Dartmouth in the semifinal, offense was hard to come by on Monday night at Thompson Arena as the Air Force Falcons (9-5-4) put forth a complete effort from start to finish to win the tournament title by a 3-2 score.
Before the Falcons clinched the win, North Dakota was the only team not from the ECAC or Hockey East to win the tournament and Holy Cross was the lone AHA squad to have won a game in it (2009).
Air Force had also played a guest in Dartmouth's holiday get-together in 1979, 1984 and 1998, but had not won a game in Hanover before this weekend as it entered with an 0-6-0 mark in games played on DC's ice.
The Falcons took advantage of their second power play opportunity of the night to take a 1-0 lead with under three minutes remaining in the first period as third-year Chad Demers potted home a transition rebound for his team-best eighth goal and 20th point of the season.
PC was unable to find the back of the net on a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage and things turned from bad to worse for the Friars just after the fact, at the 12:41 mark of the second period. Senior Mitch Torrel, who scored a pair of goals in Sunday's 5-2 win over Northeastern, drove down the wing and lifted a wrister top-shelf on freshman netminder Nick Ellis to give the AFA a 2-0 edge.
The Friars showed a sign of life with 15:03 left in regulation as senior Steven Shamanski drove a wrister through a sea of traffic to make it a 2-1 game, but the lead did not last very long as senior Tony Thomas capped a tic-tac-toe passing play for the winner at 12:21.
Sophomore Noel Acciari (Johnston, R.I.) crashed the net and banged a loose puck by AFA senior Jason Torf (29 saves) for his seventh goal of the season, putting PC within one with exactly 30 seconds remaining, but it was not enough as the Falcons became the first Atlantic Hockey team to win the Ledyard Classic.
Starting in place of sophomore Jon Gillies who is part of the United States team at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden, Ellis made a career-best 27 saves. At 13-3-3, the Friars, which lost for the first time since Nov. 22, have still matched their program high for wins recorded before Jan. 1 of a season. They also hit that same mark in 1989-90.
Quinnipiac 5, Sacred Heart 0
The No. 8 Bobcats (14-3-4) put forth one of the most impressive performances one will ever see en route to capturing the UConn Hockey Classic title with a shutout win of the Pioneers (5-13-0) at XL Center in Hartford, Conn. Junior Bryce Van Brabant scored the lone goal QU needed 7:57 into the proceedings, while senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (West Hartford, Conn.) registered two assists. Sophomore Michael Garteig was rarely tested as posted 12 saves and did not have to make any as QU held a 25-0 shooting advantage in the second period. The Bobcats, which captured its second UConn tourney title and first since 2008, finished with a 4-for-9 mark on the power play and out shot the Pioneers by a 54-12 mark.
Northeastern 8, Dartmouth 8 (OT)
Where to begin? The No. 17 Huskies (10-6-3) jumped out to a 4-2 lead midway through the second period, surrendered six straight goals, and then clawed back for four goals of their own over the final 12 minutes of the third to salvage an 8-8 tie with the host Big Green (2-11-1) in the Ledyard Classic consolation game at Thompson Arena. The game saw the most goals scored combined between both teams in any Division I game this season, and tied for the second-most in Ledyard history. Freshman Mike Szmatula scored a pair of goals, including one of NU's two with an extra attacker in the final 1:18 of regulation. For Dartmouth, freshman Josh Hartley scored a pair, while junior Eric Neiley potted two goals and added a helper to lead the offense along with classmate Jesse Beamish.
Connecticut 2, Massachusetts 1
Senior co-captain Billy Latta scored the game-winning goal at 14:56 of the third period to propel the Huskies (7-6-2) to a 2-1 win over the border rival Minutemen (6-13-3) to win third at the UConn Hockey Classic. Third-year Steven Guzzo scored UMass' lone goal of the game, beating Husky freshman Robby Nichols, who was very strong with a career-high 37 saves in his third start.