COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — The Wayne State Warriors outplayed Air Force for 40 minutes Saturday night, but had to stave off a third-period Falcon rally to claim their third win of the season in front of 1,267 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena on the grounds of the United State Air Force Academy. Wayne State improved to 3-3-0 (2-0-0 CHA) and Air Force fell to 3-7-0 (0-4-0 CHA).
“I thought tonight was a complete reversal of last night,” said Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkinson. “Yesterday, they played two great periods of hockey and fell apart in third. Today, we played a great first two periods, but were outplayed in the third. Yesterday, their penalties caused them problems in the third and tonight, ours did.”
“I give a lot of credit to Air Force,” said Wilkinson. “Those kids never gave up. They kept working and started getting the bounces. They are a hard-working team and are very tough to play against.”
Wayne State opened the scoring at 4:29 of the first period when defenseman Marc St. Jean beat Air Force goalie Zach Sikich high on the stick side with a wrist shot for his first goal of the season. The goal came with the Warriors on a 4-on-3 advantage. Nick Shrader and Nick Stodgell both tallied assists on the opening goal.
The Warriors extended their lead at 16:03 of the first period when Brent Renfrow scored a shorthanded goal. With Jack Redwood in the penalty box on a slashing call, Renfrow picked up the puck after an Air Force miscue just inside the Wayne State blueline. He skated it up the ice and ripped a slapshot past Sikich from the top of the left face-off circle.
Air Force got back within one with just 17 seconds remaining in the period. The goal came just five seconds into a Falcon power-play, as St. Jean was called for a slashing penalty. Brian Reeney got the puck back at the point and sent a wrister on net. Wayne State goalie Dave Guerrera made the initial save and thought he had covered up the puck, but Derek Olsen’s stick beat Guerrera’s glove to the puck, and slid it into the net.
Wayne State regained the two-goal advantage at 14:15 of the second period. Dusty Kingston picked up a loose puck in the right corner, behind the goal line. He quickly fired the puck towards the net and took advantage of a bounce as the puck deflected off of Sikich and into the net.
The Warriors added another goal 1:18 later on their second power-play goal of the night, as Falcon forward Tom Starkley was sent to the box on a high-sticking call. St. Jean intercepted a clearing attempt at the Air Force blueline. Nathan Rosychuk picked it up and passed to Shrader coming across the ice. Schrader let go of a wrist shot right in between the circles, beating Sikich high on the glove side.
Air Force closed the lead to 4-2 early in the third period while playing with a two-man advantage. Spanky Leonard carried the puck over the blueline and was hauled down by a Wayne State defender. While falling, he dropped the puck back to Scott Zwiers, who sent a wrist shot past Guerrera.
“The penalties wore us down,” said Wilkinson. “We run a cycle of four or five guys and eventually if you keep having to send them out there, it’s going to catch up with you.”
The Falcons made it a one-goal game at 4:22 of the third on only the second even-strength goal of the game. Derek Olson fed Jace Anders at the point. Anders carried it in and took a wrist shot through a screen that found its way past Guerrera.
John Grubb of Wayne State added an empty-net goal with five seconds remaining.
Guerrera made 34 saves to record his third win of the season, while Sikich stopped 31 shots and dropped to 0-2-0 on the season.
Wayne State resumes action next weekend when the Warriors travel to Ohio State for a pair of games. Game time is set for 7:35 pm on Friday and 7:05 pm on Saturday.
Air Force next plays in a series of exhibition games in England. They will play Coventry on November 19, Milton Keynes on November 20, Peterborough on November 21, and Hull on November 22.