COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It’s not how long you lead, but when you lead that matters.
Despite trailing for most of the contest, Findlay rallied with four third-period goals to edge Air Force, 6-5, before 1,831 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena Friday night.
The victory snapped a six-game winless drought for the Oilers, who improved to 3-5-1. The Falcons lost their fourth straight contest and fell to 4-7-0.
The winning goal came with just 47 seconds left in regulation, as Falcons’ netminder Mike Polidor was screened on a wrister from inside the faceoff circle from senior Chris Wyzgowski.
“In order to win, we need to deserve to win. We can’t be afraid to succeed,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “We got four power-play goals and a goal from our fourth line. That should be enough to win.”
After failing to capitalize on two power-play opportunities, the Falcons struck halfway through the opening period. Senior Kyle Fransdal, playing his 100th career game, skated in on the left side, and his wrister from just outside the circle went over Oilers’ goaltender Jamie VandeSpyker’s left shoulder.
Findlay responded less than two minutes later, as junior Christian Olson gathered the puck from the corner and fired a shot that deflected off the inside of Polidor’s shin pad for an unassisted goal.
Air Force, however, wasted little time in regaining the lead, as the Falcons took advantage of Wyzgowski’s second penalty of the period. Just 55 seconds after Olson’s goal, Berg skated into the slot and fired a shot off the inside of the right post.
Sophomore Ryan Wiggins doubled the Falcons’ lead 2:05 into the second period, scoring from inside the faceoff circle into an open net. VandeSpyker complained after the goal that he was interfered with, to no avail.
The Oilers bounced back midway through the second period with a controversial goal of their own. After a scrum in front of the net, freshman Andrew Radzak flipped the puck towards Polidor, who made a glove save. However, after conferring with the goal judge, it was ruled that Polidor made the save after the puck crossed the goal line.
Findlay came out strong in the third period, tying the game 37 seconds into the final period as Wyzgowski atoned for his first-period penalties. His pass from the corner knifed through a pair of defenders to junior Brian Sherry, who scored from just outside the crease.
Air Force regained the lead six minutes later, scoring its third power-play goal of the contest. Sophomore Steve Mead fired a one-timer from the point that Wiggins redirected downward through the legs of VandeSpyker for his second goal of the game.
The Oilers knotted the scored midway through the final period, as Steve Traver took advantage of an Air Force turnover for a 4-on-4 tally. Findlay then took its first lead of the game with less than five minutes to play, as Lee Arnold, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., scored his third goal of the season.
After falling behind, the Falcons picked up the momentum, and capitalized on Findlay’s 10th penalty of the game to score their fourth goal with the man-advantage. Just 1:36 remained when Steve Mead’s shot from just inside the blue line beat a screened VandeSpyker.
That set the stage for Wyzgowski, who finished the game with three points, all in the final 20 minutes. The goal also made a winner of VandeSpyker, who stopped 26 shots. Polidor finished with 26 saves in the loss.
“When it was all said and done, our inability to communicate in our own zone killed us,” said Serratore. “This is a tough one to swallow.”