COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Freshman Mike Phillipich’s goal with 1:30 remaining in overtime lifted Air Force to a 5-4 win over first-place Niagara in a College Hockey America game Friday night at the Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force improved to 5-11-1 overall and 3-4-0 in the CHA. Niagara fell to 10-10-1 overall and 5-3-1.
The Purple Eagles opened the scoring at the 11:20 mark of the first period as Ted Cook scored on the power play from Les Reaney and Sean Bentivoglio.
With nine seconds left in the first period, Josh Frider scored on a delayed penalty to tie the game. Brent Olson made a pass out from behind the net to Greg Flynn on the far boards. Flynn sent the pass into the slot and Frider buried his third of the season.
Niagara went ahead again as Reaney scored his fifth of the season and second of the game at 13:22 of the second period. After a Falcon turnover at the blue line, Reaney skated in on goaltender Peter Foster and beat him with a wrister to the short side.
Air Force opened the third period with a barrage of shots and goals to take a 4-2 lead. Josh Schaffer started the Falcon run just 42 seconds into the third period to tie the game. On a rush up ice, Schaffer and Josh Print worked a give-and-go and Schaffer sent a back-hander high to beat Jeff Van Nynatten.
Four minutes later, Matt Charbonneau gave the Falcons a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal. Eric Ehn won a faceoff and got the puck back to Brian Gineo. Gineo’s shot was saved, but Charbonneau put back the rebound for his first goal of the season at the 4:36 mark. Just 80 seconds later, the Falcons struck again as Theo Zacour scored for a 4-2 Falcon advantage. Print and Schaffer assisted as the Falcons created a flurry in front of the Niagara goal. After the goal, Van Nynatten, the goalie on the all-CHA preseason team, was pulled in favor of freshman Juliano Pagliero.
However, the game was far from over as Niagara scored two goals in the final five minutes of the third period to force overtime. Bentivoglio scored a power-play goal at 15:07 to make the score 4-3. Randy Harris sent a pass into the slot and Bentivoglio nothced his 10th of the season. Niagara pulled its goaltender with 1:46 remaining and kept the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the remainder of the game. Harris scored on a rebound right in front of Foster. Reaney and Cook assisted on the play.
The Falcons dominated the overtime period and the result was a game-winning goal by Phillipich. Phillipich started the play in his own end by blocking a shot and starting Air Force up ice. Greg Flynn took a shot that was blocked into the corner. Frider collected and made a pass into the slot. Ehn tipped the puck and Phillipich threw it into the open net for his fifth of the season.
“We came from behind for the first time all season and we did it against the first-place team,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We slipped a little in the third period, but we hung in there. Until we start to win with more regularity, it is going to shaky at the end. When we start to win a little more, we’ll be much better in those situations.”
Air Force out-shot Niagara, 38-31, in the game. Foster made 27 saves for the Falcons as he earned his third win of the season. Van Nynatten made 25 saves in 46 minutes. Pagliero took the loss as he allowed the game-winner and made eight saves in 18 minutes. Niagara was 2-for-4 on the power play while Air Force was 1-for-3.
The Falcons and Purple Eagles conclude their league series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. MST at the Cadet Ice Arena.