COLORADO SPRINGS — On the surface, the standing room only crowd of 3269 at Cadet Ice Arena saw a great effort from their Air Force Academy Falcons. The Falcons downed the Army Black Knights, their service academy rival, 5-1 Friday night, in a nationally-televised contest.
“It’s a tough place to play. Every time we come out here, we know it’s a battle,” said Army head coach Brian Riley, who saw his team’s winless streak extend to seven games.
However, talk to his AFA counterpart Frank Serratore, and the Falcons got lucky.
“I would say we’re very fortunate Army didn’t capitalize on their opportunities because we dropped some bombs and we’ve got to play better,” he said.
As is typical when these two teams meet, the game started off with both teams establishing a physical tone. Among the hits, the teams also exchanged several good chances early on.
However, the home Falcons got on the board first 10:35 into the game on a 4-on-4 situation with a hard work goal around the net. Jason Fabian took the initial shot and a subsequent rebound before Tony Thomas got yet another rebound and was able to slide the puck past a sprawling Ryan Leets (36 saves).
Air Force went up 2-0 just under six minutes into the second period. Paul Weisgarber passed the puck out of the near corner to Ryan Timar in front of the net who one-timed it past Leets. Then, four minutes later, the Falcons added another tally when Jacques Lamoureux took a feed from Kyle De Laurell, walked in front and deked around Leets, backhanding the puck into the net.
Army came out firing in the third period though, and their tenaciousness paid off seven minutes into the third period, when Mike Hull’s power play blast from the point spoiled Air Force goaltender Jason Torf’s shutout bid (27 saves).
Even though the Black Knights kept pressuring, the Falcons were just too much and added two more goals late in the period. With three minutes remaining, Weisgarber won a battle in the near corner, walked the puck out in front and fired a shot past Leets. Then, with 17.7 seconds left, Brad Sellers added a shorthanded empty-net goal for insurance.
“Going into the third period, we still felt we were in the game and even when we made it 3-1, our guys, I thought, got their legs going a little bit,” said Riley. “Obviously that fourth goal was a killer.”
“I’m happy we won, but I’m hoping we learned some lessons tonight in a game that didn’t cost us two points,” said Serratore.
The two teams face-off again Saturday night. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. MST.