DENVER, Colo. — Denver scored two power play goals and then added an even-strength goal with a minute left as the 12th-ranked Pioneers beat Air Force, 3-1, in the championship game of the 19th annual Denver Cup college hockey tournament, Saturday, Nov. 27, at Magness Arena in Denver. Air Force, who earned its first ever win in the Denver Cup last night against Clarkson, placed second in the tournament with a 1-1 record.
Air Force fell to 5-7-1 overall while Denver improved to 10-4-2. Denver extended its nation’s best winning streak to six games. Air Force’s four-game unbeaten streak came to an end.
Denver broke the ice with a goal 2:21 into the first period on the power play. David Makowski took a shot from the point that was redirected by Dustin Jackson. The Falcons outshot Denver, 16-7, in the first period, but were unable to get one past Pioneer goalie Sam Brittain.
DU dominated play in the second period but Falcon tender Jason Torf kept the score at 1-0 until late in the period. With 6:52 left in the period there was a scramble in front of the Air Force net and an apparent Pioneer goal was scored. After video review, the goal was disallowed, but the Pioneers scored two minutes later for a 2-0 lead. On the power play, Drew Shore scored on a shot from the right point after Anthony Maiani won a faceoff. DU outshot Air Force, 23-3, in the second period but Torf made 22 saves for the Falcons.
Denver continued to control play early in the third period, but Torf kept the game close. Air Force got on the board midway through the third period and cut the DU lead to one goal. Brad Sellers made a long outlet pass from his own end to Blake Page at the DU blue line. Page’s shot didn’t get through and the puck ended up in the high slot. Freshman Casey Kleisinger skated in a fired a slap shot for his first career goal. With just over a minute left in the third period, Pioneer Beau Bennett tried a wrap around shot that was saved, but he put back his own rebound for a 3-1 lead. Air Force pulled the goaltender in the final 68 seconds but was unable to score.
DU outshot AFA, 42-26 in the game and had a 35-10 shot advantage in the final 40 minutes. Torf made a career high 39 saves in the game. Brittain made 25 for DU. Denver was 2-for-3 on the power play while Air Force was 0-for-2. Torf made 75 saves in the two games and allowed just four goals.
Air Force placed two players on the all-tournament team, the most the Falcons have ever had in the Denver Cup. Sellers, a senior defenseman from Centennial, Colo., scored the game-winning goal on Friday vs. Clarkson and had an assist against Denver. Page, a senior forward from San Clemente, Calif., assisted on all three Air Force goals in the tournament.
“Our power play didn’t get it done tonight, ” head coach Frank Serratore said. “If you are going to beat a team like Denver, you have to out-goaltend them and out-special teams them. We out-goaltended them, but we did not out-special teams them. This was a great opportunity, because they were playing on less rest than us and I am really disappointed that we didn’t give them a better game. We had some great goaltending tonight and that is the reason the score was 2-1 late in the third. ”
Air Force returns home for a pair of Atlantic Hockey Association games against Holy Cross, Friday-Saturday, Nov. 26-27, at the Cadet Ice Arena.