COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For two periods, fans at the Cadet Ice Arena could not tell that the team picked to finish last was battling the team picked to win College Hockey America.
With the score tied at 3-3 entering the third period, Air Force, picked to finish last, had outshot defending tournament champions Wayne State 24-9. However, Wayne scored four third-period goals for a 7-4 win Friday night at the Air Force Academy.
Air Force, 3-6 overall and 0-3 in the CHA, was whistled for 30 penalty minutes in the third period and was forced to kill 12 minutes in penalties.
AFA’s Brian Rodgers was called for a five-minute spearing major and was also given a game disqualification at 3:38 of the third period. Wayne State capitalized as Jason Durbin gave the Warriors a 4-3 lead at 6:55.
The Falcons killed off the remainder of the power play and AFA answered with a pretty pass from Spanky Leonard to Andy Berg to tie the game. On the power play, Leonard’s pass through the slot to Berg on the right wing tied the game at 4-4 at 10:40 of the third period.
Wayne State, 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the CHA, scored three goals in the next four minutes for a 7-4 advantage. Dusty Kingston gave WSU a 5-4 lead at 12:42. Another five-minute major penalty on the Falcons, this one called on Derek Olson for checking from behind, led to Kingston’s third goal of the night. With 3:02 remaining, AFA pulled its goalie and Wayne State’s John Grubb found the wide-open net to ice the game.
“In the first two periods, we played as well as I’ve ever seen us play,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “When you play that well and you don’t get any points, it’s hard to feel good about it. We had the defending tournament champions in here and we gave it to them pretty good in the first two periods. We killed ourselves in the third period.”
The game went back and forth in the first period, with each team scoring twice in the first eight minutes. WSU’s Maxim Starchenko scored two minutes into the game. The Falcons answered with goals by Derek Olson and Joe Locallo. AFA’s last lead of the game came on Shane Saum’s goal at 12:29 of the second period. Kingston’s first goal of the game was a short-handed breakaway to tie the game at 3-3.
“Goaltending and special teams,” Serratore said. “It always comes down to that. Their goalie played well and they beat us on special teams.”
Warrior goalie David Guerrera stopped 28 of 32 shots for his second win of the year. AFA sophomore Mike Polidor allowed six goals on 18 shots. The Falcons were 2-for-5 on the power play. WSU was 2-for-4 with a shorthanded goal.
The Falcons and Warriors conclude the series Saturday at 7:05 p.m.