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Air Force hockey wins AHC title, heads to NCAA Tournament - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Air Force hockey wins AHC title, heads to NCAA Tournament

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Billy Christopoulos made 35 saves as Air Force defeated Robert Morris, 5-1, in the Atlantic Hockey Conference Championship game, Saturday, March 17, at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.

Air Force won its seventh AHC tournament championship in the last 12 years and advances to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time. The Falcons will find out their first-round opponent, and NCAA regional site, during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday at noon ET. The show will air live on ESPNU.

Air Force jumped on the board early with two goals in the first three minutes of the game. On the rush, Jordan Himley’s centering pass from the left wing was redirected by Kyle Haak for a 1-0 lead at 2:16 of the first period. Haak’s second of the weekend was also assisted by Matt Serratore. Just 50 seconds later, the Falcons took a 2-0 lead on a slap shot from the center point by senior Jonathan Kopacka. Brady Tomlak and Walker Sommer assisted on Kopacka’s third of the season.

Trailing 2-0, the Colonials had a 3-on-2 rush, but Luke Lynch’s shot was saved by Christopoulos with 11 minutes left in the period. Air Force took a 3-0 lead at 15:34 on the power play. While fending off a defender, Phil Boje carried the puck through the neutral zone and deep into the Colonials’ end. His shot from the left circle was saved but Jordan Himley put back the rebound for his 10th goal of the season.

Early in the second period, the Falcons built a 4-0 lead. Evan Giesler forced a turnover in the Colonials’ end and zipped a wrister from the left circle for his 11th goal of the season. Late in the period, Robert Morris scored on the power play. Nick Prkusic cleaned up a rebound in the slot for his fifth of the season at 15:52. The goal was the first Air Force allowed in the AHC Final Four and the first goal allowed by Christopoulos in a span of 214 minutes, the second longest streak in school history.

Down 4-1 with 6:30 left in the third, Robert Morris pulled its goalie in a 4-on-4 situation and with a power-play coming. Thirty seconds into the extra attacker situation, senior defensemen Phil Boje and Dylan Abood worked the puck up the wall and Haak’s shot from the neutral zone found the empty-net to seal the 5-1 win.

Robert Morris outshot Air Force, 36-32, in the game. Air Force was 1-for-4 on the power play while RMU was 1-for-6.

“What an impressive performance by our guys,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “To think that we were in 10th place in December, and to win this championship, is a testament to our depth with all the injuries we had. We were in 10th not because we didn’t have a good team, but because we were decimated by injuries.  To persevere like we have, and grow as a team, means so much. And to think we were one shot away from being eliminated at West Point. That series prepared us and hardened us and us for this weekend. This team is very special. On paper this is not the best group of individuals we have ever taken to the NCAA Tournament, but it very well could be the best team.“ 

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