COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Saturday marked the final home game ever for Air Force’s four seniors, and a chance to avenge the bruised honor of Friday night’s 5-2 defeat. And though it was a freshman, Joe Locallo, who dominated the scoring with two goals, the seniors contributed with two assists and 21 saves as the Falcons edged Army 5-4.
“It’s a dream,” said senior captain Scott Bradley. “It’s what every senior wants to do, to take a win at home in their last game.”
As on Friday, Army got on the board first. Junior wingers Tim Fisher and Nathan Mayfield put the puck on net, but were stonewalled by the Air Force goaltender, senior Marc Kielkucki. However, freshman Black Knight Alex Rogosheske grabbed the rebound and sent it straight into the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Falcons answered just over a minute later when Bradley and junior Brian Rogers drew Army goalie Scott Hamilton out of the crease and flat on the ice to make the save. Sophomore defenseman Jake Tesar picked off the loose puck and tipped it into the goal.
As the period drew to an end, the Air Force squad capitalized on a power-play opportunity to take its first lead of the weekend. The Black Knights had just killed off 12 seconds of 5-on-3 by dumping the puck into the Air Force zone when Kielkucki passed it up to junior defenseman Jace Anders. Still with a one-man advantage to aid him, Anders fired on Hamilton, who made the save. However, Brian Rogers was able to snag the rebound and pop it high into the net to put the Air Force up, 2-1, and close out scoring for the period.
The Falcons had a fantastic chance to extend their lead early in the second stanza, putting five shots on net in 20 seconds of play. However, Hamilton played just as fantastically, denying all five attempts.
The Falcons kept up the pressure, though, to seize a 3-1 lead a few minutes later. Center Derek Olson won the faceoff and sent the puck to winger Brian Gornick. Gornick dropped it back to freshman defenseman Joe Locallo, who skated it into the circle, reloaded, and fired it high over Hamilton’s left shoulder.
The Black Knights closed the gap to 3-2 with a power-play goal at the 15:40 mark when junior Tim Fisher took the feed from senior K.C. Finnegan, wrapped around behind the net, and passed it to Nathan Mayfield, who was waiting in front to snap it in. Army then tied up the game on its very next man-advantage, when Finnegan redirected a wide slap shot by Rogosheske (from junior Tim Fisher — his third assist of the game) into the goal at 17:34.
Air Force was quick off the blocks into the third, scoring just 2:53 into the period to regain the lead. Sophomore Kyle Fransdal sent the puck to senior Billy O’Reilly, who hit Joe Locallo with the pass as he was breaking out. Locallo faked left, drawing Hamilton off, and sent the puck into the open net.
The Black Knights pulled their goalie but were unable to tie up the game with the extra skater, and the Air Force seniors got their final home victory.
“The game was well-played both ways,” said Army head coach Rob Riley. “We came back when it was 3-1, killed off some penalties, and Hamilton made some great saves to keep us in the game.”
“I think we got what we deserved both nights,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “Last night we came out thinking we should win and they came out wanting to win. Tonight we played fabulously and had a lot of great opportunities. It shows how hard you worked when you get out-goaltended and out-special-teamed and you still win and deserve to win.”
Kielkucki finished the game with 21 saves on 24 shots, while Hamilton stopped 29 of 33 attempts.
Air Force capitalized on one of its four power-play opportunities, but allowed two Army power-play goals on five chances. Locallo, who led the Air Force offense with his two goals, gave most of the credit to the team’s seniors.
“It was a silent thing, but everyone knew we wanted a win tonight for them,” he said. “They’ve been carrying the load all season, and they’re a great bunch of guys.”
Bradley commented on the rivalry between the two teams, saying that “it’s more than a hockey game.”
“What we have here are two great, proud military service academies and it’s about who wants it more,” he said.
The Black Knights finish in the No. 7 spot in the MAAC and face Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals. Air Force finished its regular season as the No. 5 seed in the CHA and will face Findlay on Thursday in Huntsville, Ala.