NEW YORK - Ben Carey scored two goals and Jason Torfmade 34 saves as Air Force beat Niagara, 4-1, in an Atlantic Hockey Association game, Saturday, March 1, at Dwyer Arena in Niagara, N.Y. With the win, Air Force earned a first-round bye for the eighth straight season as the Falcons will be the third seed in the AHA Tournament. The Falcons improved to 20-12-4 overall and 15-9-3 in the league. Niagara fell to 11-18-5 overall and 11-11-5 in the AHA.
Air Force opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the game as sophomore Ben Carey scored. Chad Demers and Scott Holm controlled the puck in the zone and Carey scored on a wrap-around at the 1:58 mark. Niagara quickly answered as Chris Lochner scored after an Air Force turnover deep in its own end. Midway through the period, Holm drew a penalty and the Falcons broke a three-game slump on the power play. Chad Demers won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Adam McKenziesent the puck across to Carey at the right point. The sophomore skated into the top of the right circle and netted his second of the night for a 2-1 lead at the 12:00 mark of the first period.
Early in the second period, a major penalty for contact to the head was called on Niagara's T.J. Sarcona and the Falcons had a five-minute power play. The Falcons were unable to convert, but shortly after the teams went back to even strength, Air Force took a 3-1 lead. Senior defenseman Adam McKenzie led the rush down the left side and scored with a wrister from the left circle from Jason Fabian and Mitch Torrelat the 12:09 mark.
After killing two Niagara penalties in the third period, the Falcons scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the final minute to seal the win. Jason Fabian scored his eighth of the season from Ryan Timar and Adam McKenziefor the 4-1 victory. Niagara outshot Air Force, 35-23, in the game. Torf made 34 saves for the Falcons while Jackson Teichroeb made 19 for the Purple Eagles. AFA was 2-for-5 on the power play while Niagara was 0-for-6.
"I am really, really proud of the guys," head coach Frank Serratore said. "Niagara is a very difficult team to play against. We were much better tonight than last night and we were much more physical. Our special teams were very good and we got good goaltending from Jason Torf. Things were beginning to spiral downward on us, but our guys hung together. Adversity really tests your character and I am so proud of how the guys banded together and got it done."
Air Force is now off until March 14-16 when the Falcons host an AHA Quarterfinal Series at the Cadet Ice Arena. The Falcons' opponent will be determined March 7-9 during the AHA First Round games.