U.S AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Canisius’ Kyle Gibbons scored the game-winner with nine seconds left in the third period as the seventh-seeded Golden Griffins beat second-seeded Air Force, 4-3, in game one of the Atlantic Hockey Association best-of-three quarterfinal series, Friday, March 15, at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena. Canisius improved to 16-18-5 overall while Air Force fell to 17-12-7 overall.
Canisius opened the scoring midway through the first period after the Falcons turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Canisius forward Stephen Miller forced the turnover and Carl Larsson skated the puck into the zone. His shot was saved but the puck sat near the goal line as Jason Torf slid across the crease. Ryan Bohrer came in and poked the puck in the net for his fifth of the season.
Air Force tied the game early in the second period as senior Kyle De Laurell netted his team-leading 19th of the season. Cole Gunner skated the puck down the right side and his shot was saved by Tony Capobianco. De Laurell put back the rebound at 6:36 to tie the game. Canisius regained the lead at the 9:11 mark on Patrick Sullivan’s sixth of the season. Doug Jessey’s shot was saved and Sullivan put back the rebound. The Falcons again tied the game as senior Stephen Carew scored his 12th of the season. Gunner created a turnover and fed Carew in the neutral zone. Carew skated around two Griffs and in front of the net. His backhander went under the pads of Capobianco to tie the game at 2-2 at 14:45.
Early in the third period, the Griffs took a 3-2 lead on Sullivan’s second of the game. Mitch McCrank took a shot from the point that hit Sullivan in the slot and bounced off of a skate in front of the net. The puck hit an Air Force stick and went into the net at the 7:56 mark. Trailing 3-2, Air Force pulled its goalie with 2:23 remaining and had two shots on goal that were saved. As Canisius was skating out of the zone toward the empty-net, Chad Demers was called for a hooking penalty that prevented a breakaway attempt. The Falcons were short-handed, but pulled the goalie again and this time it worked. Dan Weissenhofer took a shot from the left point and Tony Thomas tipped it in with 1:08 remaining to tie the game at 3-3.
His 10th of the season was also assisted by Kyle De Laurell. The Griffs were still on the power play when Air Force attempted to clear the puck from behind its own net with 15 seconds remaining. The puck bounced off the wall and stayed in the zone as McCrank took a shot from the right point. Cody Freeman redirected it to the far side and Gibbons scored his 17th of the season on the back door.
Air Force outshot Canisius, 43-26, in the game. AFA was 0-for-2 on the power play while Canisius was 2-for-3. Capobianco made 40 saves for the Griffs while Jason Torf made 22.
“Canisius played a great defensive game,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Their goalie is really good. The fact is that we got out-special-teamed badly. They made plays on their power plays and we didn’t. We can’t dwell on this one. We have to put it in the rear-view mirror and move on. It ain’t over yet.”
Game two of the best-of-three series is Saturday, March 16, 7:05 p.m. MT at the Cadet Ice Arena. If a game three is necessary, the teams will play Sunday, March 17, at 7:05 p.m. MT.