After being named preseason favorites in Atlantic Hockey, American International got their season off to a solid start with a 3-1 victory Air Force at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.
It was Air Force that got off to a strong start, scoring on their first shot on goal of the season. Will Gavin took a pass behind the net before skating to the side of the goal and beating AIC goalie Stefano Durante under the pad with a low-angle shot.
But from that point forward, American International took control of the game, only allowing another 15 shots on goal for the rest of the game.
The Yellow Jackets evened the score late in the first period when Luka Maver took a pass while parked in front of the Air Force goal and spun around to his backhand to tie the game.
Air Force goalie Alex Schilling was strong during an early second period barrage by the Yellow Jackets, but AIC would net what would stand as the game-winning goal late in the second period when Tobias Fladeby one-timed home a goal on the power play.
Despite trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, Air Force could not sustain much offensive pressure to generate a tying goal, and the Yellow Jackets were able to ice the game with a late empty net goal.
Final shots for the game ended 25-16 in favor of American International. The teams will conclude their weekend series on Saturday in a game scheduled for 3:05ET.
Notes and Thoughts:
-This was very much your typical Atlantic Hockey game with both teams really stacking their own blue line and trying to slow things down as much as possible. American International did an excellent job being very patient and deliberate in moving the puck up the ice.
They struggled to get clean zone entries most of the night against a very disciplined Air Force defense. One of their best of the night, however, came on their first goal. AIC perfectly executed a dump-and-chase play to establish possession deep in the Air Force zone, then strung together four passes to set up Luka Maver all alone in front of the net.
-Air Force meanwhile, just struggled to get anything going offensively all night. The one goal they did score was kind of a weak one on a low percentage shot that snuck through the goalie. It’s hard to think of any other quality chances.
-A lot of Air Force’s troubles however come down to the fact that American International is just a really solid team. They probably don’t have the talent to hang with some of the top teams in the country. But they play a very solid, responsible brand of hockey that is going to make them really tough to beat.
1:28 Will Gavin from Keenan Lund 1-0 Air Force
Gavin got the puck behind the net on a pass from Lund. He skated out from behind the net and took a low angle shot from the left goal line that snuck under the pad of Durante for the goal.
18:06 Luka Maver from Chris Dodero and Nico Somerville 1-1 tie
With the Yellow Jackets controlling the puck in the Air Force zone, Dodero took a pass at the left faceoff dot from Somerville, and as the defense shifted towards him, he found Maver standing alone in front of the net. Maver spun to his backhand to flip the puck past an outstretched Schilling.
15:46 Tobias Fladeby from Chris Theodore (power play) 2-1 American International
Theodore was able to split the seam of the Air Force penalty by firing a cross-ice to Fladeby at the right face-off dot. Fladeby one-timed the pass and beat Schilling before he could get across the crease.
19:20 Chris Dodero unassisted (empty net) 3-1 American International
Dodero picked up an errant drop pass in his zone and was able to skate the puck to the Air Force blue line before putting his shot in the empty net.