Playing through a steady onslaught of wind and snow, the Air Force lacrosse team defeated conference rival Ohio State, 9-6, Saturday afternoon at the Cadet Lacrosse Stadium.
The game, which was postponed from Friday afternoon due to weather conditions, marked the first home contest of the season for the Falcons, who improve to 5-6 overall and 3-1 in the GWLL. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes drop to 6-6 overall and 2-1 in the league.
The win broke the Falcons’ 11-game losing streak against the Buckeyes, with their last victory over Ohio State coming in 1997. In addition, it marks just the second time that Air Force has won three Great Western League Lacrosse games in a single season. The last time was in 1995, the league’s second year of competition, when the Falcons finished with a 3-1 mark. Air Force is now guaranteed a spot in the GWLL Tournament, which will be held May 1 and 3.
The game appeared that it would be low-scoring from the start, with only one goal scored in the opening stanza, a tally from Air Force senior K.J. Landgraf (Cordova, Md.) with just over five minutes to play in the quarter. The Falcons certainly had plenty of opportunities, taking 12 shots in the period, but Ohio State goalkeeper Brandon Freeman made some solid plays, registering seven saves in the first 15 minutes of action.
Ohio State came back in the second period, taking the lead with a pair of goals from Doug Ruhnke and James Green, but a Landgraf-assisted goal from Ridge Flick (Jr., Plano, Texas) with 7:45 on the clock tied the game back up at 2-2. After a quality penalty kill by the Falcons, Flick and Landgraf connected once more to put Air Force back on top. The Falcons iced their halftime lead when senior captain Griffin Nevitt (Charlotte, N.C.) took a feed from Flick to score with five-tenths of a second remaining in the second quarter, giving Air Force a 4-2 advantage at the break.
The scoring came much more quickly in the third period, as the two teams combined for three goals in the opening five minutes. Following an OSU score with 11:37 on the clock, a face-off win by the Falcons translated into a score, as defender Bryan Gilbreath (So., Bainbridge Island, Wash.) assisted Flick’s third goal of the afternoon. The Buckeyes responded a minute later with a goal from Joel Dalgarno, one of the top scorers in the nation, before tying the game at 5-5 with 9:20 left to play in the period. However, another score from Nevitt nearly five minutes gave the Falcons the advantage once more.
The final period belonged to the Falcons, who rattled off three unanswered goals, including a pair from Landgraf, to grab their largest lead of the game at 9-4. Despite having several shots at the goal during a one-minute extra-man opportunity, Ohio State was unable to get back on the board until Dalgarno again found the back of the net with 3:20 remaining. Meanwhile, the Falcons’ were able to hang on for the 9-6 victory.
One of the biggest strengths for the Falcons was on the penalty kill, as they held the Buckeyes scoreless on five man-up attempts. Sophomore Zack Carroll (Freehold Township, N.J.) won 10-of-17 face-offs for Air Force, while Falcon goalkeeper Brian Wilson (So., Summit, N.J.) registered 10 saves on the afternoon. However, the weather certainly played a factor at times, particularly for the Falcons, who were just 18-of-27 on clear attempts, including 2-of-7 in the final period.
Landgraf and Flick each scored three goals and two assists to lead the Falcons’ offense. Nevitt added two goals, while freshman Adam Paranka (Denver, Colo.) registered a goal and his first career assist.
The Falcons are back in action tomorrow, Sunday, April 19, when they host Detroit in a non-conference match-up. The game, which marks the final home appearance for 12 Air Force seniors, is slated to begin at 12:00 p.m. at the Cadet Lacrosse Stadium.