Feb 27, 2010 2:42 AM

Falcons clinch home ice for first round of playoffs

Air Force clinched home ice in the Atlantic Hockey Association quarterfinals with a 6-3 win over Sacred Heart in an Atlantic Hockey Association game, Friday at the Academy's Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force scored five goals in the second period, including three on the power play.

Air Force improved to 13-14-6 overall and 13-8-6 in the AHA. Sacred Heart fell to 18-11-4 overall and 16-8-3 in the league. SHU is now 15-2-2 in their last 19 games.

Sacred Heart opened the scoring with 5:46 left in the first period. Eric Delong started a 2-on-1 rush up ice and fed Matt Gingera who gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.

Air Force had not scored a goal in five periods and more than 100 minutes until Scott Kozlak scored at 2:19 of the second period. Jacques Lamoureux skated down the left side and fed Kozlak coming down the slot. Kozlak was taken down but, as he was sliding on the ice, batted the puck past Steven Legatto. Four minutes later, Air Force took a 2-1 lead as Matt Fairchild scored his 10th of the season on the power play. Scott Mathis took a shot from the point and Kozlak and John Kruse battled in front as Fairchild gave the Falcons a lead it would never relinquish. Just over a minute later, the Falcons had a 3-1 lead. Stephen Carew skated the puck down the right side and went around the net. His wrap around pass found Tim Kirby coming down the slot for his fifth of the year at 7:11. The Falcons took a 4-1 lead at 8:16 when John Kruse scored the eventual game-winner. Kirby's point shot got to the net and Kruse put in the rebound for his first of the game. After the goal, Legatto was replaced in the SHU net by junior Olivier St Onge. SHU stopped the Air Force rally at 10:04 when Eric Delong redirected a shot from Alex Stuart on the power play. With nine seconds left in the period, Kruse gave the Falcons a 5-2 lead. Scott Mathis made a centering pass from behind the net and Kruse scored his fifth of the year from the top of crease.

Early in the second period, Paul Weisgarber scored a short-handed goal at 2:09 for a 6-2 lead. Weisgarber forced a turnover in the neutral zone, skated down the right side and sent a wrister past St. Onge. Midway through the period, SHU cut the Falcon lead to 6-3 when Delong took a shot from the left circle that was saved by Andrew Volkening. However, Nick Johnson poked the puck away from the goaltender and Stuart scored his first of the year.

Air Force outshot Sacred Heart, 35-30, in the game. The Falcons were 3-for-3 on the power play while the Pioneers were 1-for-1. Volkening made 27 saves for the Falcons. Legatto was tagged with the loss as he gave up four goals and made 17 saves in 28 minutes. St. Onge played the final 31 minutes and had 12 saves while allowing two goals.

"We were 0-5-1 in the last six and in the majority of those games, we haven't played that bad. But haven't been scoring goals," head coach Frank Serratore. "Tonight pucks went in for us. Securing home ice in the playoffs is huge. We needed a legitimate win for our confidence and tonight we beat one of the top teams in the league and one of the hottest teams in the county. Knowing what we did tonight, when we get into the playoffs we are capable of beating anyone. Tonight we were the better team and we deserved to win. My hat is off to the boys. I really liked our blue collar attitude tonight."

Air Force and Sacred Heart close out the regular season on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Cadet Ice Arena. The game will be the final regular season home game for five Air Force seniors, Matt Fairchild, Jeff Hajner, Brandon Johnson, Brett Nylander and Andrew Volkening. Saturday's game is sold out.





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