COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In a wild, back-and-forth game, the Air Force Falcons twice rallied from a deficit to beat the Holy Cross Crusaders, 4-3, in overtime, splitting the weekend series.
Tim Kirby scored with .6 seconds left in overtime to secure the win, blasting a shot from the right circle past Holy Cross netminder Thomas Tysowsky. Kirby got the puck on the right side from a pass by Brad Sellers as Holy Cross attempted to complete an ill-advised change. It was the second time this season the Falcons won a game in OT with less than a second left on the clock.
“Our competitive spirt was night-and-day, and you could see it in our faceoff intensity,” said Falcons’ coach Frank Serratore. “I pat them on the back, but I also have to kick them in the butt. We had 12 turnovers in the neutral zone in the second period alone, and we’re not going to be able to win with consistency until we start to learn how to manage the puck better.”
“It was one game of 34, but obviously it was a dramatic end,” said a subdued Crusaders’ coach Paul Pearl. “We played so well the whole weekend and then just made an absolutely stupid mistake, and you just can’t do that. I don’t know exactly what happened there and why they came, and it’s just unfortunate. We got two points out here, which is the way we have to look at it.”
Holy Cross carried the early action, generating sustained pressure and finally capitalizing at the 4:37 mark when they intercepted the puck at the Falcons’ blue line and broke in three-on-one. Andrew Cox carried the puck down the right side boards and fed a perfect pass to Ryan Driscoll at the left circle hashmarks, and Driscoll buried the puck short side to give the Crusaders the early lead.
Holy Cross had an opportunity to increase the lead at the midway point, getting the first power play, but Andrew Volkening made a couple of big stops.
Air Force then got a power play opportunity of their own right after, but Tysowsky stood strong in the net for Holy Cross, despite some very good puck movement by the Falcons.
“We’ve killed penalties well all year, and I thought tonight we did also,” said Pearl.
Later in the period, a big potential turning point in the game came when J.P. Martignetti of Holy Cross took a checking-from-behind penalty, negating a Crusaders’ power play 42 seconds in. Right after that, the Crusaders’ Luke Miller took a checking-from-behind penalty, and when the penalty to Air Force’s Matt Becker expired, the Falcons had over a minute of five-on-three time. Kirby had a good one-time shot from the left circle, but Tysowsky made the save, and he followed that up with a stop on Scott Matthis’s wrist shot through traffic from the right point.
Early in the second, strong play by the Holy Cross forecheck paid off when Driscoll got the puck during a scramble behind the net and threw it out to Cox at the left side of the crease. Cox quickly buried it top corner stick side at 2:35.
After the goal, the Falcons finally started to get their legs under them, and their forecheck generated sustained pressure for several shifts. It finally paid off when Derrick Burnett got a pass from Stephen Carew and skated up the left side, then cut hard to the middle and ripped a wrist shot high glove side past Tysowsky at 7:01.
The rest of the period was dominated by Air Force. Kyle De Laurell tipped a shot wide left, and Sellers made a great rush up the right side, ripping a shot from the right circle that Tysowsky just stopped.
Two consecutive Air Force power plays late in the period made the difference, tiring out the Crusaders’ penalty killers. On the first one, the Falcons had several good chances, including one where John Kruse had an open shooting lane from the left circle with Tysowsky moving, but was unable to corral the pass.
On the second straight Falcons’ power play, Jacques Lamoureux got the tying goal when he tipped a Scott Matthis shot from the point past Tysowsky at 17:10.
“We came out with a lot more intensity tonight,” said Lamoureux. “We had to battle through. They’re a great defensive team. We really had to work for our goals. It’s a great win for us. I think it shows our competitive spirit.”
The Falcons looked to have all the momentum, but Holy Cross grabbed it back at 19:26 when Rob Forshner picked up the puck behind the goal line and stepped out and jammed a shot on Volkening. The rebound sat in the crease, and Forshner picked it up and slipped it along the ice into the far corner to restore the Crusaders’ lead.
Holy Cross generated a lot of pressure early in the third, and had a golden chance to extend their lead at the midway point of period. With Paul Weisgarber already off for hooking, Matt Fairchild got called for tripping, giving Holy Cross 56 seconds of five-on-three. Volkening kept the Falcons in it, robbing Mike Daly on a bullet from the point and stopping a great tip try by Erik Vos from the slot.
“I think we killed the entire thing in the zone,” said Serratore. “Again, that competitive spirit. That was huge; that’s game over.”
Air Force even had a chance while short-handed, breaking in two-on-one, but Daly made a sliding play to break up the pass.
Having weathered the storm, Air Force capitalized on their own power play at 13:35 when Lamoureux, standing near the right corner, slid a pass to Fairchild in the slot, who tipped it low past Tysowsky.
“We have to score on those opportunities,” said Lamoureux. “I think we had the momentum from there and kept pressure.”
Air Force had a golden chance to win the game in regulation when Rob Linsmayer got called for hooking at 17:58. However, the Falcons’ power play never really got untracked, and Holy Cross got a good short-handed chance when Martignetti fought off a Falcons’ defender in the offensive zone, stealing the puck and getting a quick shot on Volkening.
“I thought J.P. was one of our best players all weekend,” said Pearl. “He made the right move and Volkening made the save. That just happens.”
Before Kirby’s heroics, Volkening was forced to make two point-blank stops on Matt Gordon from the right side of the crease to keep the Falcons tied.