Pioneers Shutout in AHA Elimination Game at Air Force

Steven Legatto (1)
Steven Legatto (1)

USAFA, Colo. – The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team was eliminated from the Atlantic Hockey Association Playoffs with a 4-0 loss at Air Force in game two of the quarterfinals, Saturday night.  The Pioneers finished the season 6-25-6 overall, while the Falcons sweep the series 2-0 and move on with a record of 18-11-6.

Sacred Heart and Air Force have faced off in each of the last three playoffs.  Last season, the Pioneers took down the Falcons 2-1 in the AHA semi-finals.  AFA holds a 2-5 edge in the all-time playoff series, with SHU being the only team to earn victories over the Falcons since joining Atlantic Hockey.  Air Force will head to the semis along with RIT and UConn next weekend in Rochester, N.Y., while awaiting the series winner of Canisius at Holy Cross.

Air Force scored the first goal of the night on a power play at the 11:44 mark of the first period.  Freshman forward Casey Kleisinger won the face-off to the right of the Pioneer net and slipped in front of the net to deflect in a shot off the stick of freshman defenseman Adam McKenzie.

Trailing 1-0 and with the Falcons on another power play, sophomore forward Eric Delong (Oakville, Man.) split a pair of defenseman and burst up the ice for a shorthanded breakaway, but his shot went just wide.

In the second period, Kleisenger came off the bench at the end of an Air Force power play and fired a shot on goal that rattled around the slot before junior forward Paul Weisgarber shoved it into the back of the net to push the lead to two.

Senior forward Jacques Lamoureux added his 21st goal of the season at the 14:32 mark of the third period and sophomore forward John Kruse chipped in with a score nearly two minutes later.

The Pioneers got a few great looks that glanced off the post and deflected juts wide.  In the second, senior forward Evan Mladenoff (Leawood, Kan.) deflected a shot out of midair and off the pipe, from a shot by classmate and team captain Patrick Knowlton (Colorado Springs, Colo.).  Sophomore forward Ben Ketchum (Greenwich, Conn.) later had a shot ring off the post, late in the third.

Between the pipes, sophomore goaltender Steven Legatto (Kelowna, B.C.) went the distance and provided 41 saves in the loss.  He finished the season with a .887 save percentage and 4.67 goals against average.  For Air Force, freshman Jason Torf finally solved the Pioneers as he stopped all 16 shots that came his way.

Junior forward Matt Gingera (Winnipeg, Man.) finished with the team lead in goals at 21 to go with nine assists and a share of the team lead in points with Delong (9-21-30). 

Tonight's game also marked the end of the career for defenseman Chris Brown (Sherrills Ford, N.C.), forward David Berube (Quebec, Que.), goaltender Olivier St. Onge (Wickham, Que.), Knowlton, and Mladenoff.

Knowlton leaves Sacred Heart as the top scorer of his class with 82 points on 24 goals and 58 assists, while Mladenoff was not far off in goals, with 23, to go with seven helpers.  Berube totaled 22 goals and 28 assists for 50 career points and Brown chipped in with 18 points, including two goals scored.  In net, St. Onge appeared in 43 games and stacked up a .894 save percentage and 3.73 GAA.