U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force had a 3-0 lead in the first period, but Mercyhurst came back for a 5-4 win over the Falcons in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Friday, Nov. 30, at the Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force fell to 3-7-3 overall and 2-4-1 in the AHA. Mercyhurst improved to 5-5-1 overall and 5-2 in the league.
In a wild first period, the two teams combined for five goals in the first 20 minutes. Air Force scored the first three goals of the game in a span of 2:39. Sophomore defenseman Mike McDonald got the Falcons on the board at the 2:40 mark with his first career goal. Stephen Carew won a faceoff in the offensive zone and McDonald fired a wrister from the right point. Less than a minute later, John Kruse gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead with his fourth of the season. Alex Halloran made a centering pass from the left side to Kruse in the slot. Chad Demers also assisted on the goal at the 3:38 mark. AFA took a 3-0 lead at the 5:19 mark on the rush. Cole Gunner skated the puck down the right side and passed to Kyle De Laurell on the goal line. De Laurell gave it back to Gunner in front for his first of the season. After the goal, Mercyhurst pulled goaltender Max Strang from the net. Mercyhurst then scored the next two goals of the game. Matthew Zay led the rush down the left side and found Chris Bodo in the slot for his fourth of the season. Less than a minute later, the Lakers capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone to cut the Falcon lead to 3-2 at the 12:45 mark. Randy Cure created the turnover and Kyle Just scored with a wrister from the right circle. Air Force had a 7-4 shot advantage in the first nine minutes, but the Falcons had just one shot on goal in the final 11 minutes. The Lakers outshot the Falcons, 14-8, in the period.
Mercyhurst scored two power-play goals in the final five minutes of the second period for a 4-3 lead after two periods. Zay tied the game at the 15:36 mark on the power play as he redirected a slap shot by Kyle Just. With 1:17 left in the period, the Lakers struck again on the power play. Tyler Shiplo's shot from the point was saved, but Bodo punched the puck out of the pile and Nardo Nagtzaam took it around the net. His wrap-around goal was his first of the season and gave the Lakers their first lead of the night.
Air Force tied the game early in the third period. Eric Artman sent the puck up the wall to McDonald who skated out of the zone. McDonald found Gunner skating down the right side. Gunner netted his second of the night at 5:24. Mercyhurst regained the lead at 9:52 of the third period on Grant Blakey's third of the season. Blakey's goal was the eventual game-winner as the Falcons could not find the equalizer.
"I really liked our spirit tonight," head coach Frank Serratore said. "Their goaltender, Tibbett was very, very good. We had a lot of chances and that was encouraging. We have to get better defensively. We are going through some adversity right now and trying to find a way to win a game. I know that tough times don't last but tough people do. We just have to keep fighting to get through these tough times."
Mercyhurst outshot Air Force, 39-31, in the game. AFA was 0-for-2 on the power play while Mercyhurst was 3-for-6. Max Strang started the game in goal for the Lakers and gave up three goals on six shots in five minutes. Tibbett came in and made 24 saves while allowing just one goal. Jason Torf made 34 saves for the Falcons.
Air Force hosts RIT (2-7-3 overall and 1-4-2 in the AHA) on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 6:05 p.m. at the Cadet Ice Arena