Patience was key for the Air Force in Saturday’s game against Alaska Anchorage.
The Falcons dominated the UAA early on with shooting and possession. But the Seawolves led midway through the second period.
The Air Force never panicked. The Falcons scored three straight goals after Anchorage’s early goal in the 3-1 win.
“We always did the right thing throughout the game and that kind of wore them down,” said second striker Clayton Cosentino. “We just knew the shots were coming from our systems and we didn’t want to deviate from that.
The Falcons had total control early on. They beat the Seawolves 24-9 in the first two periods and dominated possession in the attacking zone.
But the scoreboard didn’t show that. The UAA’s Matt Allen scored after less than eight minutes of play, putting the Falcons in an early gap.
Despite falling behind, coach Frank Serratore said the side played “pretty well” in the early stages.
He preached sticking to their plan on the first break — and it paid off.
“It wasn’t a fun time for her,” Serratore said. “I said to the guys, ‘If we keep playing like this for the next two periods, I don’t think they’re going to have the legs to go to 7,000 feet with us.'”
The Air Force finally found the back of the net in the second period when Holt Oliphant scored. The Falcons took their first lead with 13 minutes remaining when Cosentino grabbed a backhand.
And they let the Seawolves back in.
UAA pulled their goalie for an extra skater with a minute left. But the Falcons canceled out that advantage and Mason McCormick scored an empty goal to end the game.
“I just loved how we played from start to finish,” Serratore said. “We stayed true to the game. I thought we handled the situation well.”
In addition to their efficient offensive performance, the Falcons also excelled defensively.
Alaska Anchorage recorded just 14 shots on goal versus the Air Force’s 32. The Seawolves struggled to maintain puck possession, largely thanks to the connection between the Falcons’ defensive pairs.
What made the defensive effort more impressive was that the Falcons did it undermanned. They were without three of their best defensemen, Sam Brennan, Luke Rowe and Luke Robinson.
“Our defensive pairs were linked,” Serratore said. “Our exits were so much better and as a result we played so much better in our offensive zone.”
The Air Force’s win on Saturday was followed by a 5-3 win over UAA on Friday. Although Air Force won that game, Serratore said it wasn’t a great performance and his team likely won due to goaltender Guy Blessing’s performance as a sophomore.
The Falcons played well offensively, defensively and in goal on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” Serratore said.
The sweep is the Air Force’s first this season. Ahead of the series, Serratore stressed the importance of enabling the team to win on consecutive days.
The Falcons did that against UAA.
“It’s great that we found a way to win both games,” said the coach. “We played as complete a game as I think we could play tonight. You can’t ask for that much more.”
Next up for the Air Force is its second conference series, a two-game home game against Bentley. Bentley is 2-7 overall and recently lost two games to Niagara.
Before facing an Atlantic Hockey Association opponent, it’s comforting for the Falcons to know they can win back-to-back games and take care of an opponent.
“It’s a big confidence boost, but it’s also one thing the team knows — hey, we can do it,” Cosentino said. “We can win two games and get all the points we need in the conference game.”