COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Last season, the Air Force Academy Fighting Falcons went 13 games before finally losing.
This year, it took four games before they finally won. The Falcons earned their first win of the season Friday night, gritting out a 5-4 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers.
Its great to get that 500-pound gorilla off your back. To win, you have to deserve to win, said Falcons coach Frank Serratore. It was a good win because we had to overcome some adversity.
RIT started off the period strong, outshooting the Falcons 16-5 in the frame. Despite the Tigers play, it looked as if the teams would enter the second period scoreless until Sean Murphy picked up a Dan Ringwald rebound with 54 seconds remaining. Murphy took the puck, walked around Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening and fired the puck into the virtually vacant net.
Our first period was very strong, said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. Anytime you can come in here and outshoot Air Force 16-5 in the first, its been a good period.
As opposed to the first period, the teams exploded for a six-goal second period, with Air Force coming out on top. The Falcons started it off 2:39 in, tying the score at one, thanks to their freshman fourth line. Danny Durham picked up a Kyle De Laurell backhand rebound and knocked it in past Tiger netminder Jared DeMichiel (33 saves).
I thought they (Durham, De Laurell and John Kruse) were outstanding, said Serratore. I thought they were our best even-strength line, no question.
Air Force took the lead about three minutes later on the power play. John Kruse fed Matt Fairchild from behind the net who in turn wristed the puck past DeMichiel.
The Falcons claimed their first two goal lead of the season with 6:48 left in the second when Brad Sellers fired a shot from the point that beat DeMichiel low stick side.
RIT narrowed the Falcons lead back within one three minutes later. Mark Cornacchia clanged a shot off the left post that bounced back in front and got picked up by Mike Janda who fired it past Volkening (37 saves).
The Falcons took back their two goal lead with a Stephen Carew shorthanded goal with 2:25 remaining but 18 seconds later, Chris Haltigin fired a power play blast from the point that beat Volkening five-hole to make it a 4-3 game.
Obviously the second period was wild and we finally won a period. The second period was the first period weve won all year, said Serratore.
You cant give up 21 shots in a period and expect to win the period, said Wilson. It came down to that period and four goals in one period; thats awful.
Still, the Tigers came back 2:35 into the third period with a shorthanded goal of their own when Andrew Favot blasted a shot from the high slot past Volkening to tie the game at four goals apiece.
The teams battled throughout the third trying to get the winning goal with the Falcons who came out on top when Tim Kirby snuck the puck between DeMichiels pads and the right post with 1:45 remaining in the game, causing a shower of the games free popcorn amongst the cadets.
We were just mentally soft on their winning goal, said Wilson. You cant give that up and that was an accumulation of all five players and the goaltending. They just dominated us on that shift.
I thought we had a good third period, but the second period put us behind the eight ball and that was I think the difference in the game.
The two teams face-off again Saturday night at Cadet Ice Arena. Game time is at 7:05 p.m. MST.