Falcons senior Tony Thomas delivered a clutch third-period goal to spark the Falcons to a 3-2 upset win over No. 4 Providence in the championship game of the 25th annual Ledyard Bank Classic tournament Monday night.
“I am really happy for our guys and couldn’t be more proud of them,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “It is probably the biggest back-to-back wins in program history. Now we have to hope Ben Carey heals quickly and Jason is not hurt too seriously.”
The netminder, who recorded his 50th win at the academy, made 17 of his 29 saves in the third period when the Friars (13-3-3) out shot the Falcons 19-3. Torf appeared to injure his groin with about three minutes remaining but finished the game, making a huge save with 2.7 seconds left. The nonconference game ended with a blocked shot by Jason Fabian.
“If Fabes didn’t take on that shot it is moré than likely in the net with an injured Jason Torf and we have a tied game,” Serratore said.
Carey left the game with 14:32 left in the second period. Two straight wins over two top-20 teams — AFA beat No. 16 Northeastern 5-2 on Sunday — are the most in a row in program history.
Down 2-0 entered the third, Providence would not go quietly, dominating play and drawing within one on a goal by Steven Shamanski, before Thomas cashed in the Falcons’ second shot of the period for a 3-1 lead with 7:39 remaining.
The Friars would draw within one again when Noel Acciari scored an extra-attacker goal with 30.5 seconds left.
Junior Cole Gunner and Torf made the all-tournament team while senior Mitch Torrel was named MVP.
“Mitch Torrel brings it every night,” Serratore said. “He is a Tommy Try Hard.”
The victory is Air Force’s first over a top five-ranked team since a 2-1 road win over No. 5 Colorado College on Dec 30, 2011. The Friars entered the game atop the Pairwise rankings, which mimic the selection process for the NCAA Tournament.
Air Force pulled away when the Falcons stymied a 5-on-3 power play for the Friars, thanks in part to two blocks in a row by junior defenseman Adam McKenzie.
A few moments later, Torrel fired a shot from inside the face-off circle that blew past Providence freshman goalie Nick Ellis. The unassisted goal made it 2-0 with 7:19 left in the second.
“He has the best shot on the team,” Serratore said. “He flippin’ rips it. The goalie didn’t even move.”
It was Torrel’s third goal of the tournament in Hanover, N.H. and fifth this season, which began without a score for the senior forward.
Air Force (9-5-4) took a 1-0 lead during the first period when junior forward Chad Demers cashed in a power-play goal with 1:35 left in when he tapped in a pass from Gunner after he skated into position by the left post.
Demers managed to get a piece of the puck with the heel of his stickblade before he was leveled by a Providence defenseman.
The title is Air Force’s first regular-season tournament win since the 2004 Thanksgiving tournament at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.