DENVER, CO. — Ferris State scored two third-period goals and then held off a feisty Air Force team for a 3-2 win in the consolation game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup.
Air Force, 9-8-1 overall this season, nearly gave the tournament’s fans a fantastic finish. Trailing by two goals with just over three minutes left, Air Force battled back as Scott Zwiers scored with 3:04 remaining in the game.
Air Force then pulled Marc Kielkucki from the goal with 1:01 remaining. Then with 33 seconds left, Ferris State nearly put the game away with an empty-net goal as a Bulldog skated into the Falcons’ zone uncontested.
However, Falcon defenseman Jace Anders threw his stick at the puck and knocked it away just before the shot. Anders was penalized and FSU choose a penalty shot rather than a power play. Rob Lightfoot’s penalty shot was stopped by Kielkucki keeping the score at 3-2.
With less than 10 seconds left and Air Force having an extra skater, Zwiers tipped a shot in front of the net and the puck slowly trickled toward an open goal as Vince Owen was out on the ice. With several Falcons diving toward the puck, a Bulldog defenseman knocked the puck away, just inches from the goal line, and the buzzer went off.
“I was a fan at the end of the game,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “We gave a valiant effort late in the game, but we waited until we were down two goals to turn it on. Our team has come a long way. We are much more competitive and had a chance to win both of these games.”
Air Force got on the board first as freshman Spanky Leonard scored a power-play goal at the 11:26 mark of the first period. With Shane Saum screening the Bulldog defense in front of the net, Leonard found a seam through traffic from the point and scored his third goal of the season.
Air Force maintained the 1-0 lead through the end of the first period. Ferris State tied the game in the second period, but the Falcons were fortunate to not find themselves behind after two periods. The Bulldogs out-shot the Falcons, 12-5, in the period and tied the game at the 12:40 mark. With three seconds remaining in their third power play of the period, Bulldog Kevin Swider scored off of a rebound.
Ferris State, 5-11-4 overall, took a 2-1 lead on a bad Falcon bounce midway through the third period. FSU’s Trevor Large slid a wrister from the corner near the goal line that hit off of a Falcon defenseman’s skate and went in the goal at 8:43.
Less than two minutes later, the Bulldogs took a 3-1 advantage with a power-play goal as Rob Collins skated to the bottom of the circle and slid a shot under Kielkucki’s pad.
Air Force made the game interesting in the final three minutes as Zwiers scored at 16:56. Zwiers took a pass from Brian Reaney on the left wing and scored his eighth goal of the season.
“We played our best when we were down,” Serratore said. “We need to have a sense of urgency when the game is close, not only when we are down. I’m proud of our team’s effort, especially when we got down. But there is a big difference between winning close games and losing close games.”
The Falcons return home next weekend for a two-game non-conference series against Connecticut and Ferris State travels to Notre Dame in a set of CCHA games.