UTICA, N.Y. – Top-seeded AIC scored four power-play goals in a 7-0 win over Air Force in the championship game of the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament, Saturday, March 19, at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y.
AIC has won four straight regular-season titles, three straight tournament titles and is headed back to the NCAA Tournament. Air Force, who was in ninth place in the league on Jan. 14, reached the championship game for the first time since 2018 and the eighth time overall. AIC and Air Force are the only two teams in the league to with three straight tournament titles. Air Force did it from 2007-09.
AIC (22-12-3 overall) opened the scoring after forcing a turnover in the Falcon end early. Blake Bennett set up Julius Janhonen for his fifth of the season at 5:16. The Falcons had several chances later in the period that were turned away by AIC goalie Alec Calvaruso.
At the end of the first period, a penalty was called on Air Force and the Yellow Jackets capitalized with a power-play goal by Jake Stella at 1:37 of the second period. AIC took a 3-0 lead in a 4-on-4 situation as Chris Dodero scored at 7:32 on the rush. After another penalty, AIC took a 4-0 lead on Zak Galambos’ power play goal at 9:56. Late in the period, the Falcons killed a major penalty and trailed 4-0 entering the third.
The Falcons had a power play opportunity midway through the third period, but AIC scored short-handed as Dodero capitalized on a Falcon turnover at the blue line. AIC then scored two more power-play goals later in the third period as Bennett and Janhonen each scored.
“Give all the credit in the world to AIC,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We took some avoidable penalties and they made us pay. Eric Lang (AIC coach) has done a remarkable, masterful job. And he is also one class act too. Doing it four years in a row is a dynasty. They were better than us in every way, shape and form. They took advantage of every mistake we made and they beat us handily. But we have a lot to be optimistic about. We have just one senior, Alex Schilling, and I told him that this team is his legacy. We will be back and we will not let him down. It took a good team to get to this championship game and we are a good team. It just didn’t go our way.”
AIC outshot Air Force, 31-18. The Yellow Jackets were 4-for-8 on the power play while Air Force was 0-for-2. Senior Alex Schilling made 23 saves. Freshman Guy Blessing played the final six minutes and made one save. Alec Calvaruso made 18 saves for the Yellow Jackets.
Air Force’s season ends with a 16-17-3 overall record.