Air Force goaltender JEFF TORF, the highly-experienced senior from Hermosa Beach, California, who has already appeared at the prestigious NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament twice in his career, bounced back from a tough weekend in Alaska by blocking 59 of 62 shots faced in a pair of contests with traveling Penn State at the Cadet Ice Arena.
A shorthanded goal seven and a half minutes into the final frame snapped a scoreless deadlock and an insurance tally less than three minutes later allowed a motivated AIR FORCE squad to defeat visiting PENN STATE 3-1 and complete the sweep of the two-game weekend series in Colorado Springs.
Prior to the return match on Saturday night, Penn State head coach GUY GADOWSKY made several changes to the overall line-up in addition to tinkering with the Nittany Lions’ different line combinations, as well. As could have been expected, sophomore MATT SKOFF replaced the unspectacular freshman EAMON MCADAM in between the PSU pipes for the second contest with Air Force. Canadian legionnaire MIKE WILLIAMSON, another newcomer of the Nittany Lions who, like McAdam, had been drafted by a National Hockey League club last summer and had made his official NCAA collegiate debut in the 5-2 loss to the Falcons on Friday night, lost his place on the Penn State blue line for fellow freshman DAVID THOMPSON, the homegrown defenseman from Glen Mills.
MICHAEL MCDONAGH, the hard-working senior from Wilmington, Massachusetts, who skated in 23 varsity games (1 go, 7 pts, + 1 def rating) for Penn State last season, made his first appearance of this new 2013/14 campaign at right wing on the fourth line. And RICKY DEROSA, the homegrown freshman from Aston, Pennsylvania, made his collegiate debut by centering the fourth line which also Penn State captain TOMMY OLCZYK. Making way on the Nittany Lions’ team sheet were two freshmen forwards, left wing DAVID GOODWIN and center DYLAN RICHARDS.
The trio of right wing MAX GARDINER (27), center TAYLOR HOLSTROM (28) and left wing CASEY BAILEY (18) emerged as Penn State’s number one forward line and, collectively, totaled 26 goals (Bailey 14, Holstrom 9, Bailey 3) to account for a little more than one-third of all Nittany Lions’ scoring last term … after Penn State’s first thee contests to begin this brand new 2013/14 NCAA campaign, all three players comprising this important unit are each still to bulge the back of the net for the first time this season.
Penn State, who certainly have one of the bigger teams in all of college ice hockey, immediately sought to establish a physical presence at both ends of the rink right from the outset of Saturday night’s tilt with Air Force. This would prevail all throughout the contest, even after the Nittany Lions’ Canadian legionnaire JONATHAN MILLEY, the gigantic (6’4″ 245 lbs) sophomore left wing from Gatineau, Quebec, went to the penalty box for slashing only 26 seconds into the match. And it was one that seemed to benefit Penn State, who, after looking a little bit tired on Friday night (as observed and reported by the Air Force radio announcers) were able to skate with the Falcons on level on level, albeit scoreless, terms for more than two periods.
The game, itself, quickly developed into a bona fide duel between the two netminders facing each other at opposite ends of the rink. The Penn State goaltender Skoff, who had come into this match fashioning a resume of seven wins against two losses in his last nine starts (2.44 avg, .922 save pct), had to be sharp early and, ultimately, was called upon to make 15 saves in the first period alone. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions came into the game more and more as time passed on and would find themselves outshooting Air Force 27-25 after two periods of play.
It is to Air Force goaltender JEFF TORF’s enormous credit that Penn State did not get on the scoreboard ahead of its hosts; particularly towards the end of the second period, Torf came up with quality saves including a point-blank denial of Nittany Lions left wing CASEY BAILEY, the dangerous sophomore from Anchorage, Alaska, who led the fledgling NCAA varsity program in scoring last season (27 ga, 14 go, 27 pts, +3 def rating).
Air Force right wing GEORGE MICHALKE (18) appeared in only five NCAA contests last season before suffering a devastating check from behind against Canisius College in Buffalo that left the diminutive (5’11″ 165 lbs) Falcon skater with a serious concussion that resulted in Michalke sitting out the remainder of the 2012/13 campaign.
Penn State were presented a glorious opportunity when Air Force right wing RYAN DAU, a freshman from Hudson, Wisconsin, received a minor penalty for high sticking almost five minutes into the final period. But, with time winding down on the power play, Falcons left wing RYAN TIMAR, the senior from Novi, Michigan, made a diving play to poke the puck out of his own defensive zone and then led a charge up ice. This shorthanded rush culminated with a wide-open GEORGE MICHALKE, the redshirt junior right wing from Parma, Ohio, sending Air Force out in front 1-0.
Less than three minutes later, the Falcons’ most leathal forward line struck to increase Penn State’s woes as right wing COLE GUNNER buried a one-time blast to score his second goal in as many nights against the visiting Nittany Lions. An undersized (5’9″ 170 lbs) junior from Richfield, Minnesota, who shot seven goals in 37 games for Air Force last season, is now in the midst of a modest three-game goal-scoring streak at present. CHAD DEMERS, the junior center from Grafton, North Dakota, earned an assist on the play and enjoyed a very productive weekend, himself, with a goal and five points in the two-game set with Penn State.
With Torf in such fine form, it was Gunner’s strike that left the Nittany Lions with a genuine mountain to climb.
Michalke officially confirmed the result by netting his second goal with a rebound at the 16:41 mark of the third period. This prompted the Penn State head coach Gadowsky to replace his netminder with a sixth attacker on the ice and, surprisingly, the play worked almost immediately, as well. It was DeRosa, the 21-year-old freshman who is the product of Cardinal O’Hara HS in Philadelphia that played for the Port Huron Fighting Falcons in the North American Hockey League last season, who finally spoiled Torf’s shutout bid and notched his first collegiate goal in the process.
October 19, 2013
Cadet Ice Arena – Colorado Springs, Colorado
Attendance : 2,189
AIR FORCE 3 – PENN STATE 1
46:44 … AFA – Michalke (Timar) – shg
49:37 … AFA – Gunner (Demers, Halloran)
56:41 … AFA – Michalke (Thomas, McDonald)
17:14 … PSU – DeRosa (Olczyk, Juha)
shots-on-goal : AIR FORCE 35 (15 + 10 + 10) – PENN STATE 34 (12 + 15 + 7)
penalty minutes : AIR FORCE 8 – PENN STATE 4
AIR FORCE : Torf – McKenzie, Weissenhofer ; Hrabovsky, Halloran ; McDonald, Musselman – Holm, Demers, Gunner ; Thomas, Carey, Michalke ; Timar, Fabian, Persian ; Doucet, Birkinbine, Dau
PENN STATE : Skoff – Juha, Yanis ; Koudys, Thompson ; Jensen, Varley – Bailey, Holstrom, Gardiner ; Milley, Scheid, Saar ; Loik, Glen, Brooks ; Olczyk, DeRosa, McDonagh