COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In a strange game, the Air Force Falcons escaped with a 3-2 overtime win over the RIT Tigers in front of 1,507 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena on Sunday. Stephen Carew got the game-winner for Air Force at 1:01 of the overtime.
“It wasn’t a great game; I don’t think either team had a great game,” said Carew. “I got the puck in the neutral zone and just wheeled around the net. I kind of ran into a guy in front of the net and then just threw it at the net and sometimes they just go in for you. We are glad we snuck a win out of the whole thing.”
“I thought we played pretty well,” said RIT goalie Josh Watson. “The guy came around the net. I went down to block it when he came on the wraparound. He kind of lost our ‘D’ or one of the guys who was on him and shot it and beat me five-hole. I’d like to have it back.”
The major story of the game was the penalty disparity. RIT was whistled for 42 minutes in penalties to just four for Air Force, including two five-minute majors and game misconducts.
“How am I supposed to answer that question without getting myself in trouble,” laughed RIT coach Wayne Wilson when asked about the officiating. “I was proud of our guys. We fought through it and gave ourselves a chance. We ran out of men and energy at the end of the game.”
“There’s a reason why they are in the standings where they are at, and there’s a reason we are in the standings where we are at,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We saw much of it out there tonight. You want my two cents on it? I’m not going to question the officiating. We got the short end of the calls on Friday, but I’m not going to cry and whine about it. To be honest with you, they called the penalties. They could have called some more on us, they could have called some more on them. They’re going to protect the players. You can state the facts; it was a one-sided game.”
Play was slow from both teams in the first half of the first period, with both looking tentative. Air Force got the first good opportunity when the Falcons got a minute of five-on-three power play, but Air Force’s Stephen Carew got called for slashing right after it started, turning it into a four-on-three, during which neither team could capitalize.
Instead, it was the Tigers who struck first when Andrew Miller’s shot from the left circle eluded Air Force netminder Jason Torf at 14:21.
Just 12 seconds into the second period, Mike Colavecchia was called for slashing. Barely had the announcer called it on the PA before RIT struck for a short-handed goal off a turnover at the blue line. Brad Reid and Matt Garbowsky broke in two-on-one off the turnover at the blue line, and Garbowsky fed a streaking Reid, who roofed it over Torf’s shoulder at 30 seconds.
At 1:15, Air Force got a golden chance when Alex Kuqali got a five-minute major for checking from behind. RIT did a good job of keeping Air Force to the outside on the ensuing minute of five-on-three, and the Falcons’ best chance came on a one-timer from Kyle De Laurell from the left circle.
“We got a short-handed goal out of it,” said Wilson. “I thought our penalty killers did a great job throughout the night.”
Just after Colavecchia got back on the ice, RIT got called for its aggressive play again, this time when Nolan Descoteaux got called for slashing, giving Air Force two full minutes of five-on-three. Again, RIT’s penalty kill stood up to the challenge, blocking shots with the body and keeping Air Force to the perimeter. Despite nearly six minutes of power play time, Air Force was unable to score.
“I think we have a good power-play system,” said Carew. “They’re an aggressive penalty-killing team. They kind of minimize our time in zone. I think we just need to work on getting more shots.”
Late in the second period, Air Force finally got on the board. Josh Watson made a save on a shot by Scott Helm, but the puck slid further into the crease off his pads. As Helm was sliding on the ice in the crease, he spun around and it appeared his skate knocked it in, but the goal counted at 14:47.
Right after the goal, Adam Hartley cross-checked an Air Force player in the corner. Initially, he was called for two minutes, but after conferencing, the refs changed it to a five-minute major and game misconduct for cross-checking. On the ensuing power play, Air Force tied it when Cole Gunner took the puck out from behind the net and spun a shot that Watson stopped, but Tony Thomas poked the rebound in between Watson’s pad and the post at 16:44.
“I think we got what we deserved,” said RIT captain Chris Saracino. “We took way too many penalties to deserve to win that game. Our penalty kill was outstanding.”
Early in the third period, Air Force almost took the lead when Gunner rang a shot off the crossbar from the left circle. RIT did get one power play but was unable to convert, and Air Force couldn’t convert on its final two power plays in the third, setting the stage for overtime.
“The team in blue out there, we have a lot of work to do,” said Serratore. “To me, that game, you want to talk about the officiating and the one-sided calls and that type of thing, it was just a plain ugly game. That didn’t look like RIT and Air Force. That looked like a nine against 10, or an eight against nine, you know what I mean? You can break it down any way you want, it was just a god-awful game with two teams that both have a long way to go. We’re fighting it now. The biggest thing is we found a way to win an ugly game.”