COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It was a battle for first place at Cadet Ice Arena Friday night as the Air Force Falcons held a two point lead over the Mercyhurst Lakers in the conference standings. An Air Force win or tie would separate them from RIT, while a Mercyhurst win would split the conference lead between three teams.
But behind great goaltending from two of Atlantic Hockeys best goaltenders, Andrew Volkening and Ryan Zapolski, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.
It was a defensive first period as both teams were held scoreless.
Air Forces defense was stifling as they only allowed one shot the entire period. The Falcons controlled play, peppering Zapolski (49 saves) with 16 shots. Zapolski showed why he was named the Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week as he turned away some quality chances.
He was able to keep the game scoreless with a nice pad save when a shot from the point was tipped. Air Force kept up the pressure, but were once again were denied by Zapolski as he made another save with Air Force on an odd-man rush.
We didnt play very well in the first period, said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin. You dont have to be a hockey expert to see that.
The second period saw an increase in action and chippy play as the teams combined for a total of seven penalties. Neither team could convert on their power-play opportunities, however, as both penalty kills stepped up and stopped the man advantages.
Our league is so competitive and the goaltenders are so good,” said Gotkin. The teams are so much better year after year that you dont many great looks whether its the power play or 5-on-5.
The Falcons finally got on the scoreboard with 6:50 remaining in the second as an Air Force faceoff win was taken in at the point by Tim Kirby. A low Kirby wrist shot was deflected by Stephen Carew past the outstretched leg of Zapolski.
The goal put a surge into the Air Force offense as they scored another goal two minutes later with some nice passing put together by the first line. It was a tic-tac-toe goal as Jacques Lamoureux brought the puck into the zone fired a puck across the ice to Derrick Burnett, who in turn passed to a trailing Matt Fairchild, tipping the puck into the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Lakers did not let these quick two goals phase them as they kept up the offensive pressure and were rewarded with a goal. When Falcon defender Brad Sellers whiffed on a pass in front of his own net, the puck was swiped away by Mercyhurst. A wide open Mike Gurtler slammed home a Dan Bremner pass cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Mercyhurst is a team that feeds off of offense, said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. They generate their energy when theyre scoring goals we had a blatant giveaway on that first goal and they get all kinds of energy.
Entering the third period the Lakers carried over the momentum, scoring early in the period to tie the game at two. In similar fashion to the first goal, a defensive breakdown allowed Lakers forward Derek Elliot free on the far side of the net.
A quick pass from Grant Blakey to Elliot and the game was tied.
Mercyhurst almost took the lead 3:10 into the period as a Cody Collins wrist shot from the slot got past Volkening (26 saves) and ricocheted off the crossbar.
The Lakers did take the lead a few minutes later. Scott Pitt picked up the puck weaving around a diving defender and placing a nice backhand behind Volkening.
The Cadets would end the scoring with 11:00 minutes to go in the third. Jeff Hajner picked up a loose puck and fired a wrist shot that made it through traffic and found the back of the net to tie the game at three.
Weve done that a lot this year, said Serratore. This team has come from behind a lot to salvage points.
After an end to end furry to finish the period, both teams looked as if they were happy with the tie as neither team put forth much offense in the overtime period.
The teams are back in action tomorrow night at Cadet Ice Arena, game time is 7:05 Mountain.