Saturday, February 12, 2011

Air Force nips Niagara, moves up in AHA standings

Scott Kozlak took a Sean Bertsch pass on the right wing and clinked it off the left post and into the net with 1:16 remaining to give Air Force a 3-2 win over Niagara on Friday night.

It was only Kozlak’s third goal of the season, but the game-winner moved the Falcons (12-10-6, 10-6-6 Atlantic Hockey Association) past the Purple Eagles (15-11-3, 12-9-1) into third place in the AHA standings. Air Force is 2-0 against Niagara this season and defeated the Purple Eagles for just the second time at Cadet Ice Arena in their last 13 meetings there.

“I heard the post first and then saw the net move, and it was a great feeling,” Kozlak, who also had an assist, said of the game-winner. “I saw the low blocker was a little open, so I shot and it hit the post and went in. It felt like a playoff atmosphere tonight.”

The series with Niagara is a crucial one for Air Force, as the teams are fighting for playoff positioning with just five regular-season games remaining.

“This is playoff hockey,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “We played a very, very good game and, in my opinion, we were the better team tonight. I couldn’t have been happier with the performance, and we got off to the start we needed to. If we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”

Air Force took a 2-1 lead with 16:02 remaining when Bertsch, of Woodland Park, deposited a Tim Kirby rebound into the net, but Niagara’s Bryan Haczyk knotted the game at 2-2 two minutes later, beating Falcons goalie Jason Torf on a breakaway.

The Falcons got on the scoreboard first, on a first-period power play goal by Derrick Burnett, who redirected a Adam McKenzie shot past Niagara’s netminder Cody Campbell — a Pine Creek High School graduate. Niagara tied it on a goal by at Matt Williams.

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