Falcons fall to Eagles in another tournament heartbreaker

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Raymond Hoy
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
"I feel like Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day': Here we are again."

Those were the words of a frustrated Coach Frank Serratore, whose Air Force Academy Falcons came up short in another close game against another top-ranked hockey team in the first round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament, losing to the Boston College Eagles 2-0 Saturday.

The Falcons played in five of the last six tournaments before Saturday night and were the first service academy to ever win a NCAA tournament game when they beat top-seeded Michigan 2-0. Two of their tournament losses were in overtime.

This time, they were hoping to be on the other end of a heartbreaker. And it was within their reach within two minutes of the end of the game.

The Eagles came out swinging and Falcons' sophomore goaltender Jason Torf endured a constant blur of maroon and gold in front of the net for the first seven minutes of the game.

"We knew they were going to try to come in the first and give us the knockout punch, and we were ready for that," Serratore said.

Torf made several good saves and the defense did their part trying to keep the Eagles on the perimeter. But it was a short-range goal from Boston junior Chris Kreider that jumped the Eagles out to a one-goal lead 7:39 into the first period.

It continued to be one-sided until about 19 minutes into the first period. The Falcons came to life and pushed the puck onto the Eagles' side of the ice. The tide of the game almost turned with a rebound shot from Falcons' defenseman Adam McKenzie, but it went wide.

"McKenzie had a shot in the first with about 10 seconds left and he had about a foot-and-a-half of open net," Serratore said. "We almost put it in there. We had some chances, but we just didn't get the rebounds and bounces we were looking for."

Torf kept the door shut with 11 saves in the period and the defense did their part by keeping Torf's vision clear in front.

"You don't want to get in a shootout against BC," said Paul Weisgarber, the Falcons' captain. "It's not going to end up well for you. They have so much skill offensively. We just tried to keep it low scoring. We felt if we did that, we could win the game."

According to Serratore, they had the Eagles right where they wanted them.

"Our game plan was to get to that third period with the score close," he said. "We were right where we wanted to be: 1-0 going into the third period. We just didn't find a way to score a goal. You've got to score goals to win games."

But it wasn't for a lack of effort. The Falcons had 15 shots in the third period, but they weren't able to get anything past the Eagles' junior goaltender, Parker Milner.

"We're not splitting atoms here, this is hockey," Serratore said. "It's 1-0 going into the third and you're playing the best team in the country. We needed to score the next goal, and we didn't get it done."

"When you get into these NCAA tournaments, it really comes down to getting a bounce," Weisgarber added. "We didn't get any of those bounces."

Penalties were a huge part of the Falcons inability to put one in and take the game to overtime. The Falcons, the least penalized team in the country, had four penalties in the third period, with the proverbial nail in the coffin being a cross-checking call against Falcons' freshman defenseman Dan Weissenhofer.

"We shouldn't have even been in that position in the first place," Serratore said. "Whether it was a good call or a bad call, you can't put yourself in that position."

The Falcons came to the tournament with a game plan, and they stuck to it. They showed they were ready for the top team in the country.

"We knew we weren't going to beat BC 7-6 or 6-5 or 5-4," Serratore said. "If we were going to beat them, it was going to be 1-0 or 2-1, that's the way it was going to be. We put ourselves in the position to win a 2-1 game; we just didn't convert the goals. We got into that third period exactly where we wanted to be and it just didn't happen. Give BC all the credit in the world for doing what champions do, they found a way to win.

"That's a heck of a hockey team and, in my opinion, I think they beat a heck of a hockey team."