COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Air Force scored three goals in a 34-second span of the third period to rally past Alabama-Huntsville, 6-3, Friday night at the Cadet Ice Arena. With the win, the Falcons improved to 11-15-1 (2-10-1 CHA), while the Chargers fell to 13-15-1 (7-7-1 CHA).
“That was a funny game,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We just could not get into a rhythm early in this game. They’re an opportunistic team, and they got two on us late in the first and forced us to fight back. Then we evened it up in the second, but took a bad penalty to let them get the lead again.”
Entering the third period tied at two, Air Force forward Justin Hamilton took a penalty for roughing, and Alabama-Huntsville was able to capitalize as forward Steve Charlebois beat Air Force goaltender Zach Sikich to give the Chargers a 3-2 lead.
Air Force struck back just over three minutes later when forward Brian Gornick beat Charger goaltender Mark Byrne with a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle.
“You know, we’ve stressed all along the importance of just shooting,” said Serratore. “We got down there and just needed to get shots because that’s when things happen. We fought back, got some breaks and came away with a deserved win.”
The Falcons claimed the lead for the first time since the first period at 11:42 of the period on forward Shane Saum’s second goal of the night. Forward Spanky Leonard found Saum skating towards the net and fed him a pass that he redirected for his 11th goal of the season.
Nineteen seconds later, Air Force added an insurance goal when forward Tom Starkey stuffed a rebound past Byrne. Forward Derek Olson and defenseman Joe Locallo assisted on the goal. Fourteen seconds later, it was Olson’s turn, as he deflected a point shot by Gornick past Byrne. Starkey also assisted on the goal.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Serratore. “We won kind of ugly tonight, but we needed it, and a win’s a win. It’s the old adage, first team to four, wins. I was real happy to get those insurance goals. When you lose they way you have been, the pressure builds, and playing with a one goal lead would have been tough.”
Zach Sikich made 30 saves to earn his first conference win of the season. Not even slated to start, Sikich got the nod after starting goaltender Mike Polidor pulled his groin during warmups.
“Siki [Sikich] played a great game,” said Serratore. “Poli is our number-one guy, and he was supposed to play, but did something to his groin in warmups, so we put Siki in, and he did a great job to get his first league win. He wasn’t supposed to play, but he stepped up and made some big stops for us.”
Both teams return to action Saturday night as the series concludes at 7 p.m. MST at the Cadet Ice Arena.