WEST POINT, N.Y. – In a tight rivalry game, Air Force came from behind and defeated Army, 4-2, thanks to Tony Thomas’ game-winning goal.
The first period between the two rivals was action packed, with physical play coming from both sides. Air Force recorded 16 shots on goal, but Army goaltender Rob Tadazak came up with some gigantic saves and denied Air Force from scoring in the period.
“I thought ‘Taz’ kept us in there once again,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “I thought our effort tonight as a whole was much better. We had more jump in our skates tonight and competed for loose pucks, so I was pleased with our effort.”
Army did a good job of blocking shots, stopping 14 in the game. After one particular block, the Black Knights transitioned into a fast break. Joe Kozlak started it off by skating up the right side boards and drawing an Air Force defenseman toward him. Before the defender closed in, Kozlak sent a great pass to C.J. Reuschlein in the high slot, who took a quick wrist shot that beat Air Force goaltender Chris Truehl stick side to give Army the first lead of the game at 18:34.
“The biggest thing I told the guys was we were playing well but we had to play smart,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We dropped the bomb and you can’t drop the bomb. A bomb is a major mistake, and they capitalized on it and even though we outshot them and outplayed them, we were down a goal after the first period.”
Although down a man in the beginning of the second period, Army did not let up. Clint Carlise and Kozlak caused a turnover on Air Force’s blue line that gave Carlise a breakaway. Carlise made a beautiful deke to beat Truehl and put Army ahead 2-0 just 49 seconds into the period.
Air Force did not skip a beat, putting pressure on Army and notching its first goal from a nifty pass from behind the net by Ryan Timar. Mitch Torrel received the pass at the left circle and fired a quick snap shot that went through Tadazak’s five-hole at 3:16 in the period.
Army then took a penalty, adding to Air Force’s momentum. After some creative passing by the Falcons, Scott Holm found defenseman Alex Halloran gliding toward the left hash mark. Halloran one-timed it through the five-hole, tying the game up at 15:00 in the period.
“Its nice playing ‘D’ on our power play because they allow us to sneak in,” said Halloran. “So basically what happened was the puck went from McKenzie down to Demers and he passed to Scotty and they lost me in coverage and I snuck into the middle and just one-timed it five-hole in the net.”
Just seconds later, Air Force went on the attack again. After the Falcons’ George Michalke’s shot was blocked by Tadazak, Thomas was able to slide the rebound under the off-balance Tadazak at 15:16, giving the Falcon’s a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission.
The third period was scoreless except for an empty-net goal by Air Force’s Cole Gunner at 18:49.
However, it was Air Force’s solid defensive play in the third that kept Army off the board. Although there were a couple of tense moments during Army’s pressure, Air Force’s Truehl made some big stops down the stretch to give Air Force the sweep. Tonight’s win improved the Falcons’ record to 4-1 in the past five games.
“We’ve been resilient all year and have come back in several occasions to win,” said Serratore. “If you aspire to be a champion, there are two attributes you have to have: You have to have the ability to come from behind and you have to have to ability to win on the road, and we did both of those things this weekend.”