COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For 53 minutes, Air Force controlled Holy Cross and held a three-goal advantage. However, in the final seven minutes, a determined Crusader rally nearly turned the game around.
In the end, Air Force earned its third straight victory as the Falcons held off Holy Cross for a 4-3 victory in a non-conference college hockey game Friday at the Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force, 3-2 overall this season, was without head coach Frank Serratore due to a family emergency. The Crusader flurry at the end nearly spoiled the coaching debut of assistant coach Derek Schooley.
“Its always fun to win, but I wish it would have been 4-1,” Schooley said. “I give a lot of credit to our juniors and seniors. Their leadership got us ready to play.”
The Falcons got on the board first as Derek Olson tipped in a shot by Brian Reaney at 12:19. The goal was Olson’s third of the season and was also assisted by Brian Rodgers. Holy Cross’ Andrew McKay tied the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal at 19:37.
Air Force raised its intensity in the second period and netted a pair of goals. Andy Berg scored 16 seconds into the period from Tom Starkey. Berg scored his second of the season as he walked into the slot and fired a shot high, stick side. Shane Saum gave the Falcons a 3-1 lead at 17:12 with his fifth goal in five games this season.
A hard-working goal in the third period gave the Falcons a 4-1 lead. Justin Hamilton’s determined effort down the boards and behind the net started the play. The junior winger sent a pass in the slot to Scott Zwiers at 8:37. Just as Zwiers was getting hit, he spun around and fired a slap shot that beat Crusader goalie Rick Massey for his second goal of the season.
Shortly after, the wheels began to come off the bus for the Falcons. Holy Cross began to control the puck in the zone and fired a barrage of shots at Falcon goalie Mike Polidor. With 3:02 remaining, Crusader Patrick Rissmiller camped right in front of the net and took a pass from behind the cage, and scored. Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl then pulled the goalie with 1:55 remaining in favor of the extra skater.
Before the Crusaders could get a shot, the Falcons had a chance to put the game out of reach. With 1:30 remaining, Brian Rodgers’ attempt at the empty net from the top of the circle hit the post. Derek Olson then fired three shots that were blocked by the Crusader defense.
Holy Cross got the puck deep in the Falcon zone and with 49 seconds remaining and J.R. Walker scored to cut the Falcon lead to one goal. Zwiers won the ensuing faceoff, but the Falcons could not get the puck out of their own zone. After a flurry in front of the net, Falcon defenseman Brian Reaney was called for roughing with 17 seconds remaining. The Crusaders had a two-man advantage, with the extra skater, for the final 17 seconds. Jace Anders blocked two shots with the body and Rodgers blocked another in the final seconds to preserve the victory.
“We didn’t play very smart in the final seven minutes,” Schooley said. “We held on, but can’t afford to play like that in our conference. We lost our focus late in the game and that can’t happen. We had some veterans step up in the final 17 seconds and play like warriors.”
Air Force outshot Holy Cross, 22-16, in the first two periods. The Crusaders held a 15-4 shot advantage in the third period and outshot the Falcons, 31-26 in the game. The Falcons were 0-for-3 on the power play while Holy Cross was 1-for-5. Polidor made 28 saves for the Falcons.
The same two teams conclude the series, Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:05 p.m. (MT) at the Cadet Ice Arena.