It’s the most exciting play in basketball: the Buzzer Beater. A last-second basket that wins a game just as time expires.
It’s a rare, but not miraculous occurrence in a sport where lots of points are scored and the final minute can take a half an hour to play.
Hockey is another matter. But then there’s the Air Force Falcons, who scored with 0.6 seconds to play in overtime to defeat Holy Cross on Saturday. It’s the second time this season, and the third time in less than a year, that Air Force has pulled off a buzzer-beating goal.
“It’s bizarre,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. “How many times have you heard of getting a game-winning goal with less than a second to play? And we’ve done it three times in two [seasons].”
On Feb. 13, 2009, Mike Phillipich and Matt Fairchild hooked up on a shorthanded goal with less than a second to play in regulation to defeat Bentley. In October, Fairchild got the game winner just as time expired in overtime to beat RIT, 3-2. And last Saturday, Tim Kirby scored with six tenths of a second left in overtime for a 4-3 win over Holy Cross to earn a split on the weekend.
“It was the perfect storm in terms of things going our way,” said Serratore. “We caught them on a panicked line change. They dumped the puck and everybody [for Holy Cross] headed to the bench. [Brad] Sellers got it in our zone and put a no-look pass right on to Kirby’s tape at the blue line. He went in a took a slap shot. All those events happened in just a perfect way.”
“It was one game of 34, but obviously it was a dramatic end,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said after the game. “We played so well the whole weekend and then just made an absolutely stupid mistake, and you just can’t do that. I don’t know exactly what happened there and why they came [off the ice], and it’s just unfortunate. We got two points out here, which is the way we have to look at it.”
Air Force is tied with RIT for first place. Without those two last-second victories, the Falcons would trail the Tigers by three points in the standings. In all, the Falcons have won five games this season on goals in the final three minutes of play.
“Those kind of wins give you self confidence,” said Serratore. “So the next time you’re in that situation, you’re asking yourself, ‘Who’s going to be the hero?’”
The next two weeks feature rivalry games for Air Force. This weekend, the Falcons travels to Army for a pair of contests, followed by games back in Colorado against neighboring Colorado College and Denver. Then, Air Force gets a weekend off before returning for its final four games of the regular season.
“It’s always especially exciting to play at the [Military] Academy,” said Serratore. “It’s always a big series and especially in the past few years where’s there’s four points on the line.”
Serratore says he likes the time off as well.
“A week off is never a bad thing at a Service Academy,” he said. “Ideally, you’d like a break in the middle of the first half of the season and the middle of the second half of the season. The kids are so busy. The break will be more mental than physical, which is what we will need at that point.”
Sacred Heart extended its unbeaten streak to an NCAA-leading 10 games with two wins and a tie. Last weekend, the Pioneers posted a 4-2 and a 5-5 tie against Canisius, and on Tuesday, Sacred Heart defeated American International 6-1. The Pioneers put the streak on the line this weekend with a pair of games at Connecticut.
Player of the Week for Jan. 25, 2010:
Nick Johnson, Sacred Heart
The senior forward had three goals and two assists to help the Pioneers take three points from Canisius last weekend. Johnson leads the AHA with 18 goals.
Goalie of the Week for Jan. 25, 2010:
Jay Clark, Army
Clark posted his first career shutout, stopping all 31 shots he faced in a 5-0 win. He made 20 saves on 22 shots the next night, for a weekend save percentage of .962.
Rookie of the Week for Jan. 25, 2010:
Brett Hartung, Bentley
The freshman from Tallahassee, Fla., had two goals, including the game winner with 4:58 to play, to help Bentley to a 4-2 win over Mercyhurst.
From the Blue Line
Canisius senior defenseman Carl Hudson had a career game on Saturday, posting his first hat trick to help the Golden Griffins come back to earn a 5-5 tie with Sacred Heart. It was the first-ever hat trick by a Canisius blueliner in the program’s Division I era.
Hudson now holds the single season point mark for a defenseman with 26, and the Griffs still have at least eight games to play. He is currently tops in the nation in goals per game by a defenseman with 0.40.
“It felt good to get the hat trick and help my team earn the point,” Hudson said after Saturday’s game. “I just shot the puck and got a little lucky tonight. It would have been better to get the two points considering how tight the upper half of the conference is but to rally for the point is nice.”
Going, Going … Gone
This weekend’s games between Army and Air Force at Tate Rink on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy are already sold out. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, former coach and hockey legend Jack Riley will be on hand Saturday to drop the first puck. Riley coached Army for 28 years and guided the 1960 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal. He’s the father of current coach Brian Riley.
Bentley College will be seeing pink over the next few weeks. This Saturday, RIT hosts the Falcons in a “Make the Rink Pink Game,” which features pink jerseys for the home team that will be auctioned off for charities supporting cancer research. Holy Cross will be having a similar event, “Pink the Rink” on Saturday, Feb. 13. The Crusaders’ opponent in the game will also be Bentley.
Contributing: Candace Horgan
USCHO covers Atlantic Hockey all week long on the Atlantic Hockey Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.