Air Force battles back for 6-4 win over Sacred Heart

By  | 

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force came from behind twice for a 6-4 win over Sacred Heart in an Atlantic Hockey Association game, Friday, Jan. 17, at the Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force extended its winning streak to four games as the Falcons improved 13-6-4 overall and 8-3-3 in the AHA. Sacred Heart fell to 6-17-0 and 5-11-0 in the league.

Sacred Heart opened the scoring at the 12:27 mark of the first period as the Pioneers capitalized on a Falcon turnover deep in their own end. Pioneer winger Jordan Minello created the turnover in the Air Force slot and Jeff Carroll collected the loose puck. His wrister from the bottom of the right circle was his fourth goal of the season. Air Force answered three minutes later on a highlight-style goal by junior Cole Gunner. Jacob Musselman started the rush in his own end and Chad Demers gave the puck to Gunner in the neutral zone. Gunner skated into the zone 1-on-2 and took the puck across the slot. As he was falling down after splitting the defensemen, his back-hander beat Pioneer goalie Andrew Bodnarchuk around the right pad for his ninth of the season.

Air Force took its first lead of the game early in the second period as Jason Fabian scored his sixth of the season. Fabian forced a turnover on the forecheck and Ryan Timar took a shot that was saved. Fabian cleaned up the rebound at 6:36 for a 2-1 lead. Sacred Heart answered with two goals in a span of 19 seconds. David Iacono scored with a slap shot from the center point on the power play at 9:32. Justin Danforth and Ben Lake assisted on the goal. Just after the ensuing faceoff, Drew George chipped a puck into the zone and Chad Filteau tipped it into the air. As the puck bounced off the ice, Evan Jaspar batted it in at 9:51 for a 3-2 lead. Late in the period, Sacred Heart took three straight penalties and Air Force capitalized on the third one. A.J. Reid sent the puck up the boards to Johnny Hrabovsky at the left point. Hrabovsky passed it across to Weissenhofer at the right point who skated around a defenseman and netted his first of the season to tie the game at 3-3 at 17:43.

In the third period, Air Force took a 4-3 lead at the 9:31 mark as sophomore Max Hartner scored his third of the season. Adam McKenzie created a turnover at the blue line and Max Birkinbine chipped it up to Hartner. Hartner skated in 2-on-1 and ripped a wrister past Bodnarchuk. The Pioneers battled back again as Carroll scored his second of the night to tie the game at 4-4 at 15:48. Mitch Nylen forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Carroll skated in 1-on-2. His first shot was saved, but he cleaned up own rebound for his fifth of the season. With less than two minutes remaining in a tie game, Fabian won a stick battle in the corner and Ryan Timar skated out from behind the net. His turn-around shot went off the skate of Tony Thomas and into the net with 1:30 remaining. His eighth of the season gave the Falcons a 5-4 lead. With 1:24 remaining, the Pioneers pulled their goaltender in favor of the extra attacker. In the Air Force end, Chad Demers sent the puck to McKenzie behind the net. McKenzie rimmed it to Gunner on the wall and Gunner's wrister from 180 feet found the back of the net with 46 seconds remaining. Air Force outshot Sacred Heart, 32-27, in the game. AFA was 1-for-4 on the power play while SHU was 1-for-2. Chris Truehl made a career high 23 saves for the Falcons. Bodnarchuk made 26 for the Pioneers.

"Sacred Heart played with more energy and more intensity than we did tonight and they deserved a better fate," head coach Frank Serratore said. "This is not the same Air Force team we have seen the last couple weeks. We had some guys that made some great individual efforts that led to our goals. But we did not play a very good team game. We need to come out tomorrow with more juice and play better as a team. We dodged a bullet tonight."

Air Force and Sacred Heart conclude the two-game league series on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 7:05 p.m. MT at the Cadet Ice Arena.