WORCESTER, Mass. — In a wild night at the Hart Center, Holy Cross had a 4-1 lead with 18:12 to play, only to see Air Force come roaring back, scoring five unanswered goals to ruin the evening for the Crusaders and steal a 6-4 victory.
Senior captain Adam Berg led the rally, netting two goals in the third to complete his hat trick. His partner in crime was senior Scott Zwiers who turned in a three-point night (1-2–3). The two seniors jumpstarted the dormant Falcon power play by taking advantage of four Holy Cross penalties in the third, which led to three of the team’s five goals in the final period.
The night seemed to be going the Crusaders’ way early, after they killed off two consecutive penalties, including one in the first 30 seconds of the game. Sophomore Jonas Tomiuk took advantage of a miscommunication behind the Air Force net and was able to jam a shot passed Falcon netminder Mike Polidor to draw first blood for the Crusaders.
“Holy Cross’ power play was great,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “They came at us with a new look and we knew we had to make adjustments.
With 24 seconds remaining on a carryover power play from the first period, Holy Cross was unable to make any use of it. Instead, it was Air Force that would get a chance to go to work with the man-advantage after squandering three first period chances. With freshman Blair Bartlett in the box for tripping, Berg walked to the center of the point where his low wrister found its way past a screened Matt Norton.
Holy Cross’ Greg Kealey, who had yet to score this season, got his opportunity with 8:11 to play in the second, banging in a rebound for a 2-1 lead after two.
Emerging for the third, it appeared Holy Cross would claim a decisive victory. Just 30 seconds into the final period, the Crusaders went back on the power play. Irving, poised at the center point yet again, wound up and blasted a shot that was tipped by Pierre Napert-Frenette, who was camped out on the doorstep for the easy redirection.
Holy Cross wasn’t finished. Just 59 seconds later Tim Coskren broke down the right side with a quick two-on-one advantage with Tomiuk. Getting the defenseman to miss, Coskren criss-crossed with Tomiuk and backhanded a shot over Polidor to put the Crusaders up 4-1.
Air Force never let up, however.
“We didn’t give up or get flustered,” said Berg. “We played as a five-man unit.”
The Falcons were the beneficiaries of four third-period power plays, scoring three. The comeback started at 4:39 of the period, with Berg’s second goal of the game.
“That second goal was big,” said Berg. “We just tried moving the puck around as much as possible and get guys to the net. Eventually, it worked out.”
Zwiers scored on a wraparound that saw him walk to center and wrist a shot past Norton with 11:59 to play and a delayed penalty coming on the Crusaders.
Back on the power play yet again, Berg clinched the hat trick and his fifth goal of the season when he wound up from the right point and put one top shelf over the glove of Norton, tying the game.
“Berg is bona fide,” said Serratore. “He is dangerous and could play on the top two lines of any D-I team in the country.”
With time dwindling in the third and the game appearing to be headed for an extra session, Wiggins was thinking otherwise. The sophomore walked out in front to beat Norton to give Air Force its first lead of the game. It proved to be a lead it would not relinquish.
Just 41 seconds later, Tom Starkey used a burst of speed over the blue line to create a two-on-one opportunity. Starkey blasted a shot, and then jammed in the rebound for his first goal of the season.
Holy Cross had an opportunity late thanks to a Zwiers tripping penalty. Yet, with Norton pulled and a six-on-four, the Crusaders were unable to convert.
“[Mike] Polidor was good for us late,” said Serratore. “He was good when he had to be. They could have scored in those last two minutes, but he enabled us to maintain the lead.”
Air Force (1-2) and Holy Cross (1-2) will square off once again in Worcester on Saturday at 7 p.m.