WEST POINT, N.Y. – It took overtime to settle the scoring battle between American International College and Army. In the end, it was AIC’s Jon Puskar who scored the game-winner for a 5-4 win.
It was Puskar’s 88th collegiate point, tying former Yellow Jackets captin Jereme Tendler on the team’s career scoring list.
“Starting off my college career, I always looked at the picture of the leaders in the locker room,” said Puskar. “I made it my goal to break it, and throughout my four years I have been paired with great linemates and it has been a fun four years so far and I look forward to the next games.”
The first period was controlled by Army. The Black Knights demonstrated some great passing that was rewarded when Andrew O’Leary made a great pass from the corner, finding a wide-open Josh Roberts in the high slot, who shot a low wrist shot that beat AIC’s goaltender Hunter Leisner at 7:16 for his first goal of the season.
The Black Knights did not let up their offensive pressure, which led to a goal by Willie Faust at 12:56. O’Leary made a great pass from the circle that found Faust in the high slot, who blasted a slap shot, beating Leisner through the five-hole.
The second period was a completely different story. AIC found its offense and was firing on all cylinders, scoring four goals in the period.
“I thought Army came out real strong and we got a couple of power-play goals in the second period, which we were pleased with and we sort of got ourselves back into it,” said AIC coach Gary Wright.
The first was scored when Nathan Sliwinski made a gorgeous drop pass to David Gandara, who fired a laser slap shot from the top of the right circle past Army goalie Parker Gahagen at 4:12 of the second.
The tying goal was scored on a power play when defenseman Carson Grolla blasted a low slap shot that was deflected by Chris Porter, beating Gahagen through the five-hole at 6:57.
Later in the period, Army was trying to get some momentum in the offensive zone when AIC’s Dan Clairmont caused a turnover that led to a two-on-one. Clairmont waited until Army’s lone defender committed to him and slid it to Austin Orszulak, who wristed a shot top shelf stick side at 12:04 to take the lead.
Not wasting much time, AIC scored another power-play goal when David Norris, the AHA freshman points leader, made a pass to find open defenseman Jake Williams on the point, who took a low slap shot the trickled though Gahagen’s five-hole at 14:33.
“Norris has great patience with the puck, as you can see,” said Wright. “He has a veteran type poise and is very imaginative. He can also slow the game down at times and has been playing very well, and obviously compliments his two linemates who are shooters.”
Army was able to stop the bleeding by scoring the last goal of the period at 15:34. Clint Carlisle caused a turnover behind AIC’s net and slid it to Joe Kozlak, who fired a wrist shot that beat Leisner low stick side, ending the period at 4-3 in favor of AIC.
In the third period, both goaltenders played extremely well. Army’s freshman goaltender Parker Gahagen, playing for injured started Robert Tadazak, stopped all seven shots in the period.
“We are down to our two freshman goalies because ‘Taz’ is out for the year,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “These guys will get opportunities that will hopefully help them grow. I think he would want a couple of the goals back tonight, but he also made a couple big saves too. I think the more games he plays he will grow as a player.”
Army tied the game with a rebound goal scored by Zak Zaremba at 11:45.
Just seconds into OT, Puskar wristed a shot from the left circle, just barely beating Gahagen’s glove, giving AIC the 5-4 overtime win.
“The play started off with a great faceoff by Alexander MacMillan,” explained Puskar. “The puck started sliding off to the side of the ice. I just turned and threw it at the net and luckily it bounced up off the glove and crossed the goal line.”