Whatever you do, don’t leave your seat with 8:37 to play in a period at Cadet Arena.
Air Force took its first lead Friday night at that juncture of the second period (thanks to Evan Giesler‘s goal), and it took the lead for good at the exact same point in the third period (Erik Baskin‘s power-play strike). The result was a hard-fought, 4-3 Atlantic Hockey Conference victory over one of the league’s top teams, RIT.
The victory was the Falcons’ first in six games, stretching back to Oct. 27 at Canisius.
It appeared for a while that the Falcons (6-5-2, 2-4-1 AHC) were in danger of adding another chapter to a frustrating book entitled chase the game. After a brief surge to start the game, the Falcons watched the Tigers (5-4-1, 5-2 AHC) build a 1-0 lead Liam Kierns‘ rebound goal with 8:29 to go while outshooting AFA 13-6 in the period.
The Falcons evened it up when Jordan Himley scored on a power play. Phil Boje received a draw, sent the puck D to D to Alex Mehnert, who found Himley open on the back door.
RIT went back ahead in the first minute of the second when Gabe Valenzuela redirected Erik Brown‘s shot. But AFA countered again in short order when sophomore defenseman turned forward Joe Tyran scored his first NCAA goal from the center point after Matt Koch intercepted a pass and found Tyran ahead.
The Falcons appeared to take a 3-2 lead midway through the period, but Marshall Bowery‘s goal was overturned because of what was deemed goaltender interference. But 19 seconds later Giesler put the Falcons up for the first time. He entered the zone with a full head of steam, took a pass from Matt Serratore on the left wing and beat Logan Drackett (24 saves).
The Tigers tied it midway through the third on Brown’s power-play goal (his eighth overall), but Matt Pulver drew a penalty, and Baskin redirected Mehnert’s point shot on the ensuing power play.
“We out-worked them and Billy (Christopoulos, 24 saves) was better than their goalie,” AFA coach Frank Serratore said. “I really liked our compete level. We have to out-work them because we can’t out-experience them. We weathered the storm in the first period as they had some shots. They are a good team.”
The Falcons had 10 of their 28 shots on the power play, and scored multiple man-advantage goals for the third time in 13 games, but the first time since the win at Canisius.
And then there were none
The Falcons’ injuries at center have been well documented; the top three – Kyle Haak, Tyler Ledford and Evan Feno – all are out with knee injuries, Feno for the season. AFA was without its fourth center, Brady Tomlak, who was suspended for indefinite period due to a violation of team rules.
That factored into junior defenseman Dan Bailey moving up to center a line with Tyran and freshman wing Walker Sommer. Senior wing Ben Kucera also shifted into the middle to play between Serratore and Giesler. Erich Jaeger was between Pierce Pluemer and Bowery, while Pulver centered seniors Himley and Baskin.
Senior captain Dylan Abood missed his third consecutive game due to a lower-body injury. The Falcons played three freshmen among the six – Mehnert, Jake Levin, who also had an assist and Zach Mirageas.
AFA’s three stars
- Alex Mehnert. Two primary assists for the freshman – the first two of his NCAA career – in just his third game for AFA
- Evan Giesler. He drew penalties, provided energy and gave the Falcons their first lead.
- Joe Tyran. Another energizer, the one-time defenseman scored his first NCAA goal … in his second game at forward.
The teams wrap up their series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Cadet Arena.