Max Harper and Nate Horn finished with two goals and an assist apiece to lead Air Force to a 5-1 victory over Canisius in Atlantic Hockey Association action Saturday at the United State Air Force Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena.
Shawn Knowlton opened the scoring for the host Falcons (2-9-1, 2-9-1 AHA) while Zack LaRocque stopped 21-of-22 shots faced as Air Force completed the weekend sweep with Saturday’s victory.
Freshman Jami Virtanen accounted for the lone goal for the Golden Griffins (7-4-0, 7-4-0 AHA) while junior goaltender Matt Ladd finished with 35 stops between the pipes.
Knowlton gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at the 10:12 mark of the first, redirecting a pass from Willie Reim past Ladd from the slot.
Harper doubled the Air Force advantage to 2-0 just 56 seconds into the second period as he capitalized on a 2-on-1 break, shoting the puck under the pads of Ladd.
Horn notched the Falcons’ second power-play goal of the contest with 5:21 elapsed in the middle frame, placing a wrist shot just inside the left post from the middle of the slot to give Air Force a 3-0 cushion.
Virtanen got Canisius on the board with less than three minutes to play in the middle frame, firing a slap shot by LaRocque from the right faceoff circle to make it a 3-1 contest.
Horn and Harper added their second goals of the game during a 2:09 stretch late in the third to put the game out of reach. Horn made it 4-1 at the 15:50 mark of the third when he finished off an Air Force rush with a backhanded effort while Harper notched an empty-net with 2:10 remaining to close out the scoring.
Head Coach Trevor Large’s Postgame Comments
“Disappointed in our compete level. It is inexcusable for us to not out-compete an opponent at all in a weekend. So, that’s what we need to remedy. We are going to lick our wounds and come back home to Buffalo and make sure that our compete level gets corrected. There’s obviously details and how we want to play that are also going to be adjusted and refocused. All in all, we’re extremely disappointed in our effort out in Colorado this time. But there is no choice. We get back home; we rest up and we prepare for Niagara.
“Special teams definitely were disappointing tonight. It’s hard to go on the penalty kill when you’re tired or your energy is low or your compete is not where it needs to be. That makes it really difficult to kill penalties. So it wasn’t necessarily mental errors that were the cause, it was we needed more effort to get it done on the penalty kill. It’s back-to-back nights where we did not win the special teams battle. Our power play needed to be way better. Very disappointed in the execution from both units. They were unable to get momentum for us. They obviously were not able to get us goals. But if you’re not going to score, we need to at least get some momentum and we left every power play this weekend disappointed. Special teams are always an ultra-important element in winning hockey games. This weekend proved to us that if you’re going to lose the special teams battle on back-to-back days, that is not a good recipe for success against any opponent.”
• Air Force out-shot Canisius by a 40-22 margin for the contest, highlighted by a 19-11 edge in the second period. The 40 shots by Air Force were a season-high for a Canisius opponent.
• The Falcons were 2-for-4 on the power play while Canisius was 0-for-2 with the man advantage. The two power-play goals by Air Force represented the first time this season that the Griffs have allowed multiple power-play goals against.
• Canisius failed to score multiple goals in a game for the first time this season.
• Virtanen’s second-period goal was his third of the season and the first that has come at even strength
• Senior Austin Alger appeared in the 100th game of his collegiate career on Saturday and picked up an assist on Virtanen’s second-period tally.
• Freshman Jackson Decker also recorded an assist on Virtanen’s goal, his first career assist and second point in as many contests.
• Ladd recorded 30 or more saves in a game for the fourth time this season and the 13th time in his career with his 35-save effort on Saturday.
• Canisius is scheduled to close out the regular season Feb. 26-27 with a home-and-home series versus “Battle of the Bridge” rival Niagara.
• The Griffs and Purple Eagles open the two-game set at LECOM Harborcenter in downtown Buffalo before the series shifts to Dwyer Arena in Lewiston the following day.
• Puck drop for both contests is set for 7 p.m.
(Canisius College Hockey Photo)