COLORADO SPRINGS — Twenty-one is typically known as a lucky number in gambling.
For the American International Yellow Jackets, that number ended up also being lucky as it took that amount of games it took to earn a victory over the Air Force Falcons. After going 0-19-1 in the previous 20 games, the Yellow Jackets finally broke through Friday night at Cadet Ice Arena, topping the Falcons 5-3, despite being outshot 44-21 in the contest.
“Obviously it was a big win for us on a pretty big road trip and I thought we battled pretty hard,” said AIC head coach Gary Wright. “They came pretty hard at us at the end and we withstood that pressure, maybe barely, but I was pretty happy with our effort all the way around.”
“They deserved the win,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “They were tough [and] they protected the front of the net.”
The Falcons struck first a little over halfway through the first period on a fluky play. AIC goaltender Ben Meisner tried to clear the puck up the left side boards and instead dished it right to Air Force freshman Jason Fabian. Fabian picked the puck up at the right dot and lofted it in the empty net for his first career goal.
Twenty-two seconds into the second period, the Falcons took a 2-0 lead when Kyle De Laurell fed Derrick Burnett from behind the line who knocked the puck in past Meisner (41 saves).
After that, though, Meisner settled into a groove and the rest of the period was all AIC. A little over six minutes later, Michael Penny put the Yellow Jackets on the board with a power play tally.
“[Meisner] came back from that sort of quasi-giveaway there and sometimes that can get on you a little bit and I thought the fact that he settled down after that, battled back; he exhibited real good competitiveness and mental toughness there,” said Wright.
Halfway through the period, Richard Leitner fought his way in front of the net, and beat Falcon forward Paul Weisgarber in a man-to-man battle in front of the net to poke the puck past both Weisberger and AFA netminder Jason Torf (16 saves).
Then, with just under three minutes to play in the frame, AIC took its first lead of the game, which it would never relinquish. Nielssen Arcibal dished the puck to Adam Pleskach who took advantage of traffic in front of the net to slam it home past Torf.
The Yellow Jackets extended their lead just under five minutes into the third when Tomas Benovic let a rocket fly from the top of the left circle that clanged off the top of the right goal post and in the net.
Air Force kept battling to try and get back in the game and succeeded in making it 4-3 with 94 seconds left. Thanks to a power play and Torf pulled for the extra attacker, Tim Kirby was able to wrist one from the point that beat Meisner high glove side.
Arcibal sealed the deal for the Yellow Jackets, though, with an empty net goal with 47.8 seconds remaining.
“We’re not a very well-coached team right now and my frustration right now is with me,” said Serratore. “I gotta get better and we gotta get better and no excuses, we are where we are.”
The two teams play each other again tomorrow night. Game time is at 7:05 p.m. Mountain.