WORCESTER, Mass. — When a team is only able to score three goals on a weekend two-game series, typically they would be happy with one victory. However, Air Force, who knocked off Holy Cross 1-0 on Friday night, skated to a 2-2 with the Crusaders tonight and took three out of a possible four points on the road.
“Not only was this an extremely entertaining game, the entire series was fantastic,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “It was two really good teams going at one another and we’re happy to walk out of this tough building with three points.”
Andrew Volkening was once again outstanding and stretched his scoreless mark to 182:11 until Brandon Nunn scored the first goal of the game in the second period to put the Crusaders up 1-0. Nunn, who collected his first goal of the season, faked a slap shot at the opposing blue line, skated around the defenseman, and flicked one past Volkening.
“I knew I didn’t have the speed to beat the guy wide, so I faked the shot,” Nunn said. “Luckily, he bit, and I got just enough on the shot to get it by the goalie.”
The Falcons used their strong special teams’ play to take control in the third period.
With J.P. Martignetti off for hooking at 4:49, Matt Fairchild, the lone goal scorer from a night ago, collected a loose puck at the side of the Crusaders’ net and slid it past netminder Thomas Tysowsky. The goal was Fairchild’s fifth of the season.
Air Force went short-handed just a minute later as Brandon Johnson was called for interference. The Falcons penalty kill, which came into the night at just over 90 percent, didn’t let the penalty kill their momentum. Sean Bertsch deflected an Erik Vos shot in his own defensive zone and started a two-on-one short-handed break. After entering the Crusaders’ zone, he slid a pass across to a streaking Paul Weisgarber, who let a wrist shot fly past the left pad of Tysowsky.
“That was huge,” said Serratore. “To score not only on the power play, but to get one short-handed, was key to our comeback.”
On the other side, Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl saw a need for improvement from his team on the special teams.
“We need to get this power play going. We didn’t score with the man advantage this weekend and some of that was probably their penalty kill. But, it’s an area we definitely need to get better at.”
For the second night in a row, the Crusaders found themselves trailing by a goal late to Air Force.
Once again, they refused to give in and kept mounting the pressure against the Falcons. With just under four minutes left in regulation, Brodie Sheahan went hard to the net on the backhand and went high over the shoulder of Volkening to tie the game at two.
With the game seemingly destined for overtime, the Falcons got the final break of regulation when Kyle Fletcher was sent to the box for interference. It gave the Falcons a man advantage for the final two minutes of regulation, but they were unable to convert the opportunity.
“We’re not going to apologize for the three points here this weekend, but having a late power play like that and a lead late in the game, it’s disappointing not to get two points,” said Serratore. “We need to find a way to attack more and generate more offense.”
Overtime led to limited chances for both teams. The best opportunity came with eight seconds left when Fletcher had a goal disallowed because the net came off the moorings before the puck crossed the line.
“Those are two really good skating teams out there,” said Pearl. “Hopefully, we gain an identity out of this series. We’re improving every night, but theres still work to be done.”
Air Force remains atop the AHA standing with tie, improving to 12 points, while the Crusaders stand at eight.
The Falcons will travel east once again next weekend to take on Connecticut. Holy Cross heads out on the road as well to take on Mercyhurst.