STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut men's hockey team downed Air Force on Friday afternoon, 2-1, at the Mark Edward Freitas Forum in Storrs. Billy Latta added two assists and senior goaltender Garrett Bartus stopped 35 shots to earn the victory.
UConn improved to 3-5-1 (2-4-0 AHA) while Air Force dropped to 3-5-3 (2-2-1 AHA).
The two teams will play again on Saturday afternoon at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. at 3:30 p.m. as part of a double-header with the AHL's Connecticut Whale. The CT Whale play the Norfolk Admirals at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
This afternoon's contest was a rematch of the 2012 AHA Quarterfinals in which UConn dropped a best-of-three series at Air Force, 2-1.
"They are very aggressive. We played them five times last year, so we are pretty familiar with them," said Assistant Coach David Berard. "If you don't make good puck decisions against them, they'll create turnovers and goals."
Latta was a catalyst for the Huskies from the drop of the puck and finished with his third and fourth assists of the season.
"We've developed a bit of a rivalry with them in the three years I've been here," said Latta. "There was some bad blood last year I thought and we weren't happy with the final result. We followed our game plan and executed the way we wanted tonight."
UConn scored on the power play with Alex Gerke finishing from Latta and Sean Ambrosie early in the second. After an equalizer from Air Force, Jordan Sims buried a shot midway through the second period for the game-winning goal.
Connecticut came out strong in the opening minutes and quickly put five shots on frame, compared to just one from the Falcons. Brant Harris nearly opened the scoring on a miscue by Air Force netminder Jason Torf at 16:05 of the first period. Torf saved a shot by Kyle Huson at the left point and attempted to hold onto the puck for a face off. The puck fell to the ice, unknown to Torf, but Trevor Gerling shot wide from in front.
Air Force picked up the action towards the end of the second but failed to beat Bartus on 13 attempts, including two from the bottom of the right face-off circle in the final minute.
The first ended 0-0 with Air Force ahead on shots, 13-10.
Connecticut scored the game's opening goal with a perfectly executed power play at 2:13. Billy Latta sent the puck along the right half wall to Sean Ambrosie. Ambrosie skated towards goal and slid a pass through the top of the crease to Alex Gerke back door for the one-time goal. It was Gerke's first of the year with Ambrosie and Latta each tallying their third assists of the season.
Air Force equalized at 10:49 with Kyle DeLaurell's third of the season. DeLaurell finished a one-timer in the slot after a slap-pass from Cole Gunner following a Connecticut turnover in the neutral zone.
Connecticut took the lead once again at 13:41 with Jordan Sims' third goal of the year. Latta skated behind the Air Force net and dropped a pass with his backhand to Sims at the right doorstep with Torf and the rest of the Air Force defense following Latta. Sims gave UConn its second lead of the night with the easy finish. Freshman Tyler Cooke also assisted on the play, his third.
After two, Air Force held a 26-23 edge in shots with the Huskies ahead on the scoreboard, 2-1.
The third period was fast paced with back and forth action from in the neutral zone by both teams. UConn's fourth line of Evan Carriere, Shawn Pauly and Trevor Gerling generated three quality chances in a 30-second stretch beginning at 7:00.
Gerling skated through the slot from left to right, waiting for Torf to commit, but couldn't beat the Air Force netminder. The rebound fell to Carriere who's backhanded attempt was denied once again by Torf. The same shift saw Gerling redirect a slap-shot from the point that was kicked away.
Torf finished with 27 saves.
Air Force pressed in the final minutes nad pulled the goaltender with 2:44 remaining. The Falcons had chances, but two shots from Stephen Carew and an attempt by John Kruse were denied by Bartus.