COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Despite being the more dominating team for the majority of the game, the Air Force Academy Falcons fell, 2-1 in overtime, to the No. 2 University of Denver Saturday night.
The Pioneers’ Kyle Ostrow broke the tie and won the game with 57.8 seconds remaining in overtime when his attempted centering pass on a two-on-one bounced off of Falcons’ defenseman Brad Sellers’ back and past goaltender Andrew Volkening (33 saves).
“We couldn’t have played any harder; we couldn’t have played any better,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “Denver’s the number two team in the country and they’re the number two team in the country for a reason. They found ways to get it done all season
“Did they deserve to win tonight? Not in my book, I thought we were the better team. But you know what, they’re the number two team in the country and they found a way to win.”
The teams battled through a quiet first period, with both teams exchanging shots and hits, feeling each other out.
The Pioneers got the first main break of the game 37 seconds into the second period when Rhett Rakhshani drew a penalty on a partial breakaway try. The penalty to the Falcons was the first in a string that saw them on the penalty kill for 5:21. Air Force was able to keep the Pioneers off the board and almost got a short-handed tally from Sean Bertsch.
“There’s a reason they’ve got the second-best penalty kill in the country and they showed it tonight; they made us look foolish at times,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky “I got to a point where I was unhappy on the bench and said from now on, we’re just going to decline the penalty.”
However, the Pioneers were the first to break the scoreless tie 11:21 into the middle frame when Matt Donovan sent a wrist shot from near the Pioneers bench high over Falcons’ goaltender Andrew Volkening’s left shoulder and in the net.
Bertsch and his line had a few more chances later in the period, but it was teammate Jacques Lamoureux who finally put the Falcons on the board 29 seconds into the third period with a power-play goal. Lamoureux tipped a point shot from Stephen Carew past DU goaltender Marc Cheverie to tie the game at one in almost identical fashion to a goal that was called off for the Falcons the night before against Colorado College.
The goal could in theory have been overturned again tonight, as the DU bench believed Lamoureux tipped it in with a high stick, but the Falcons and Atlantic Hockey don’t have video review for the officials like the WCHA.
Three minutes later, things started to get ugly as the teams exchanged a few penalties and got into a few shoving matches. The Falcons ended up with a four-on-three advantage out of the mess, and ended up calling their time out to get organized, which inadvertently also calmed things down between the two teams.
The Falcons continued to pressure in the third, getting several more chances, including a Matt Becker shot that rang off of Cheverie’s facemask. However, the Falcons couldn’t get another goal past the goaltender, who tied his career-high with 45 saves, and the game went into overtime.
“Cheverie — how he got east-west — he got from Los Angeles to New York and New York to Los Angeles on several pucks,” said Serratore. “He played like an NHL goalkeeper and he probably will be.”
Despite being outworked for most of the game, the overtime period was almost all Denver. Pioneers’ defenseman John Ryder hit a post late in overtime and then Ostrow got the game-winning tally.
“In the last three or four minutes of regulation and overtime, I thought, [it's] probably going to be a tie and we’d be happy with it,” said Gwozdecky. “Depending on how you look at it, [it was] a fortunate bounce for us. With the way that game went, that was probably going to be the way it was going to wind up.
“That’s as good a team as we’ve played all year long.”
The Pioneers next host the University of Minnesota while the Falcons get a weekend off.