AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — In hockey, sometimes a game comes down to winning a period. In the case of Air Force and Rochester Institute of Technology on Sunday, the only period that ended up mattering was the third, as the Falcons scored three goals for a 4-3 victory at Cadet Ice Arena.
For the Tigers, who traveled to Colorado for the one game thanks to Atlantic Hockey’s new pod system, the trip ended up feeling like a waste of 3,200 total miles (round trip).
“We traveled a long way to do nothing,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “That’s my take on the whole thing. We traveled a lot of miles to get out here and I don’t know if we even played hard for five minutes.”
The Tigers started off the game with a bang, going up 2-0 within the first five minutes. One minute, 47 seconds in, already on the power play, Adam Hartley took a shot from the point that was deflected in front by Andrew Favot past Falcons goaltender David Bosner (two saves).
About three minutes later, Michael Colavecchia one-timed a pass from Scott Knowles behind the net past Bosner, chasing the sophomore in favor of junior Stephen Caple (21 saves). Falcons coach Frank Serratore also chose to use his team’s sole timeout as a way to calm his team down.
“Our big thing tonight was to be better defensively and play with more energy,” Serratore said, “and of course, Murphy’s Law intervenes and we get scored on two of the first three shots. … [I] had no choice but to make a goaltending change. I didn’t want to do that, but I thought we had no choice.
“It turned out to be the right move. Steve came in, made some big saves and we got the momentum.”
The Falcons were re-energized afterwards and were able to get on the board with 5:23 left in the first frame on a power play tally of their own. Jacques Lamoureux took a shot from the bottom of the right circle that was initially saved by RIT’s Jan Ropponen (36 saves). However, Matt Becker was right in front of the net to pick up the rebound and deke it around Ropponen and in the net.
Air Force continued its strong play into the second period, outshooting the Tigers 16-2. But Ropponen kept them from equalizing.
“He was the only bright spot, I thought, tonight,” Wilson said.
Ropponen couldn’t keep the Falcons (2-5, 2-3 Atlantic Hockey) down forever. On the power play less than eight minutes into the third period, Stephen Carew took a shot from the point that banked off the right post behind a screened Ropponen and in.
Just 38 seconds later, the Tigers (2-5-1, 1-1) got a potentially momentum-killing goal to retake the lead when Greg Noyes skated down the left side and took a quick shot that beat Caple short side.
Air Force kept battling, though, and tied it back up about three minutes later when Paul Weisgarber tipped a Mike Walsh shot past Ropponen.
“There are no moral victories [at this point],” Serratore said. “That’s where I snafued after they scored that third goal and I’m yelling at my guys, ‘There are no moral victories. There ain’t no moral victories!’”
With 3:20 remaining in the game, John Kruse kept hacking at his own rebound and finally snuck it past Ropponen to give the Falcons their first and only needed lead of the game.
“We got two goals and we quit,” Wilson said. “We got what we deserved.”