KEARNEY, Neb. — After a scoreless first period, the Wayne State Warriors rode power-play goals from senior defenseman Keith Stanich to defeat Air Force, 4-2, in the first round of the College Hockey America tournament in Kearney, Neb.
Air Force was on the short end of the shot margin, 7-11, in the first period, but they seemed to control the puck well and not allow many close-in shots to the Warriors. “They were flat the first period,” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore, “and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
The second period saw senior co-captain Jason Durbin score just 0:51 in when freshman Derek MacKay’s rush was kicked out by the Falcon defense, only to be saved by a flying Tyler Kindle who shot in. Senior co-captain Dusty Kingston found Durbin down low for a close-in shot on freshman goaltender David Goodley.
The Warriors scored less than four minutes later on the power play when Stanich’s shot from the point appeared to be redirected by a Falcon marking MacKay in the slot.
Senior Andy Berg took it back to a 2-1 deficit for the Falcons when goaltender David Guerrera and defenseman Tyler Kindle had a minor miscommunication, allowing a loose puck to be picked up by Berg and pushed past Guerrera for the Falcons’ first marker. Of the goal, Guerrera said, “I was going to freeze the rebound, and Tyler came in and touched it. We just miscommunicated. It happens.”
Kingston scored at 19:33 to take it to a 3-1 margin when Kindle found him on a cross-ice pass from the left point to the backdoor on the weak side while all four Falcon defensemen collapsed to the slot where MacKay had camped out.
Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson discussed the changes that the Warriors had made to the power play over the season. “Over the last month, we’ve made some adjustments on the power play, moving MacKay into the slot and letting Durbin and Kingston get him the puck from the edges. It’s worked out real well for us.”
MacKay tallied a goal of his own early in the third when Falcon defenseman Ross Miller turned the puck over in his offensive zone and was beaten down the ice by Durbin, who flung a shot at Goodley. Goodley went prone but didn’t control the rebound, and MacKay, trailing on the play, picked up the loose puck and lifted it over the freshman for a 4-1 lead.
Guerrera took a shot off the face mask about halfway into the period. The senior from St. Leonard, Quebec, seemed to appear shaken for a minute or two. “I was out of it there for just a little bit,” Guerrera said, “but I got back with it. I get used to it in practice.” MacKay chimed in quickly, “He’s certainly used to it from me in practice.”
Spanky Leonard finished the scoring with a power-play marker of his own, ripping a big shot from the point that bounced off a couple Warrior bodies and past Guerrera for a goal. The goal came with 1:04 left, and the Falcons proceeded to pull Goodley and try to score with the extra man. The Warriors killed off the time to hold on for the win.
The Warriors go on to face No. 2 seed Niagara at 4:05 p.m. at the Tri-City Arena in Kearney. The Falcons end their season with the loss.