COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Facing a four game losing streak and games against national powers Denver and Colorado College next weekend, Air Force turned to a pair of seniors to snap the slide.
Andy Berg recorded his second hat trick of the season, and Jake Tesar’s first goal in two seasons broke a third period tie as the Falcons downed Findlay, 6-2, on Sunday to split their weekend series at the Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force improved to 5-7-0, 2-4-0 in conference play, while the Oilers fell to 3-6-1 and 1-2-1 in the CHA.
“We had lost four in a row, and were finding ways to lose,” said Falcons’ head coach Frank Serratore. “It was very important to win this game.”
Carrying the momentum from its four-goal third period on Friday, Findlay scored just 46 seconds into Sunday’s contest. Freshman Brandon Harker won a faceoff and found junior captain Nick Udovicic, who skated alone on the right side and flipped a shot off the back of the leg of Falcons’ goaltender Matt Polidor.
The Oilers took advantage of an Air Force hooking penalty to double their lead midway through the opening frame. Senior Steve Traver tallied the power-play goal, with Udovicic earning his second point of the afternoon with an assist.
Despite dominating the first period, Findlay could not add to its 2-0 cushion. The Oilers fired two shots off the post in the first 20 minutes, and Polidor’s 11 saves in the period kept Air Force in the game.
“Coach didn’t say much to us [after the first period],” said Berg, who now has 11 goals and eight assists this season. “He let us captains take care of it, and we told the team to not give up and see what happens.”
After weathering the storm, the Falcons tied the contest with a pair of second-period goals by Berg. The first came 6:23 into the frame, as Brian Reaney skated in on the left side and found Berg stationed just outside the crease.
“We weren’t very good the first period and the beginning of the second,” said Serratore. “That first goal turned things around.”
Berg’s second tally of the period came after he intercepted a puck at mid-ice. Sophomore Josh Priewe then rifled a shot from just inside the blue line, and Berg, once again just outside the crease, was there to stuff home the rebound.
“I’m getting a lot of good bounces, and guys are finding me in the right spots,” said Berg, whose previous hat trick came against Holy Cross Oct. 18.
Tesar gave the Falcons the lead for good 6:27 into the final period. Off the faceoff, Kyle Fransdal found Tesar, whose wrister went off the left shoulder of screened Oilers’ netminder Jamie VandeSpyker.
“That was a designed play,” said Serratore about the goal. “I’m really happy for Jake. He didn’t play at all last year for us due to injury.”
Less than two minutes later, Berg completed the hat trick, beating VandeSpyker top-shelf. A power-play goal by Reaney, his first of the season, and Justin Hamilton’s even-strength tally sealed the win for the Falcons.
Polidor finished with 29 saves in winning his 20th career contest, while VandeSpyker stopped 25 shots in the loss.