BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Chad Ziegler scored at 3:16 of overtime as third-ranked Yale, the top overall seed in the tournament, defeated 20th-ranked Air Force, 2-1, Friday, March 25, in the NCAA East Regional at Webster Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn.
Air Force’s season ends with a 20-12-6 overall record. Yale, 28-6-1 overall, advances to the Elite Eight against Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. ET. The winner of the regional final advances to the NCAA Frozen Four, April 7-9, in St. Paul, Minn.
In a scoreless first period, Air Force had an 8-7 shot advantage. Yale opened the scoring at 7:28 on Brian O’Neill’s 19th of the season. Jason Torf made a pad save, but the Falcons were unable to clear the puck out of the zone. Nick Jaskowiak knocked a puck down at the blue line and his shot from the right point was tipped in by O’Neill on the back door. Through the first 15 minutes of the period, Yale outshot Air Force, 9-1. However, in the final five minutes of the period, AFA had a 4-3 shot advantage. The Falcons tied the game with 1:26 remaining on Sean Bertsch’s fifth of the season. Ryan Timar collected a loose puck in the Yale zone and fed Mike Walsh for a shot from the slot. Scott Kozlak dropped the puck to Bertsch on the back wall. The senior from Woodland Park, Colo., scored on a back-hand wrap-around through the five hole to tie the game.
Each team had five shots on goal in the third period, but neither scored and the game went into overtime tied at 1-1. Air Force dominated the first few minutes of the overtime and five shots in three minutes. Once Yale got the puck in the Falcon zone, Jaskowiak took a shot and Jason Torf made a blocker save. Ziegler followed with a rebound and Torf made a kick save. Ziegler followed his own shot and as he was falling forward, he chipped the puck over the pad for the game winner at 3:16 into overtime.
“I could not be prouder of our team,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We had a plan and our guys executed it to perfection. Yale is so explosive and we knew they would come at us hard. We rope-a-doped them for two periods and they expended a lot of energy. I thought we had more legs in the third period than they did. But they made a second effort play and it went in. Sometimes life ain’t fair, but I could not be more proud of these boys.”
Yale outshot Air Force, 28-23, in the game. Each team was 0-for-3 on the power play. Torf made 26 saves for Air Force while Ryan Rondeau made 22 for the Bulldogs.
“Our coaches did a great job of preparing us for this game,” senior Jacques Lamoureux said. “We had them right where we wanted them, but their goaltender was great and they made a play. They are the No. 1 team in the tournament for a reason. They win games like these. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s tough.”
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