Air Force kept itself well positioned in the race for the Atlantic Hockey Conference regular-season title with a convincing sweep at Bentley this past weekend. The games followed similar templates – close early with AFA pulling away. The main difference was it happened about a period and a half earlier on Friday. What follows are some pluses and minuses and the weekend’s three stars.
The Falcons had a four-goal second period on Friday and three-goal third on Saturday to pull away in two tight games against a desperate Bentley team.
Both goals Bentley scored were on special teams – a short-hander Friday gave it a short-lived lead, and a power-play strike – the first AFA had allowed in four games – evened the score early in the second period Saturday.
Goalie Shane Starrett made game-turning saves on breakaways in both games and has been on an incredible run for two months. Since the first weekend in December the sophomore has allowed more than two goals once – vs. Canisius on Jan. 13 – a string of 12 starts.
That Starrett has had to stop breakaways semi-regularly means there still is some work to do in the defense department.
Air Force continues to get scoring from all over its lineup despite the fact it is dogged by injuries to key players Matt Serratore, Ben Kucera, Matt Pulver, Jonathan Kopacka, and now freshman Pierce Pluemer. Eight different players scored goals on the weekend, with A.J. Reid and Kyle Haak each getting a pair Friday and Haak adding another on Saturday.
Pulver and Kopacka are out longterm. The Falcons can ill afford to lose anyone else for any duration heading toward the playoffs.
- Starrett – He allowed just two goals all weekend in a crucial series, on the road, and made some show-stoppers. AHC agreed in its weekly awards.
- Haak – He has been really good for three months but he took it to another level vs. Bentley, scoring the game-winners both nights.
- Reid – His first goal Friday blunted any momentum Bentley could have seized and then he helped salt the game away with his second. He added an assist Saturday.
Honorable mention – It could be a long, long list. The entire defense contributed to Starrett’s stellar weekend. Haak line mates Jordan Himley (goal, three assists) and Eric Baskin (two assists) were solid, as were Brady Tomlak and Tyler Ledford (goal, two assists each).