WEST POINT, N.Y. Five different Falcons scored as Air Force defeated Army, 5-3, in the first game of an Atlantic Hockey Conference quarterfinal series, Friday, March 9, at Tate Rink in West Point, N.Y. Air Force is the No. 5 seed in the tournament, while Army is No. 4.
Air Force (19-13-5) opened up the game by out-shooting Army, 10-1, through the first 13 minutes. After Ben Kucera drew a penalty, the Falcons drew first blood on the power play. Zack Mirageas’ shot from the right point was redirected by Evan Giesler at the bottom of the circle for the first goal of the game at 11:02. Army answered on a power-play of its own. Dalton MacAfee found Dominic Franco in the slot and the sophomore tied the game at 13:06.
Army (15-14-6) took its first lead of the game midway through the second period. Michael Wilson cleaned up a rebound of Conor Anderle’s shot for a 2-1 lead at 8:04. Air Force then scored the next two goals of the game.
Senior Jordan Himley gained the zone down the right side and snapped a wrister past Cole Bruns to tie the game at 10:21. Dan Bailey and Phil Boje assisted on the play. Junior Kyle Haak gave the Falcons a 3-2 lead at 13:29. Haak won the offensive zone faceoff and Matt Serratore dug the puck out of the circle to Mirageas at the point. His back-hander got through and Haak netted his third of the season.
Early in the third period, freshman Marshall Bowery gave the Falcons a 4-3 lead at 4:29 on the rush. Brady Tomlak gained the zone down the right wing and set up Bowery who was coming down the slot. Army capitalized on an Air Force turnover three minutes later. Brendan Soucie picked up the loose puck at the blue line and netted his seventh of the season. Army pulled its goalie with 1:40 left and had two shots on goal that were saved by Billy Christopoulos. With 40 seconds left, Tyler Ledford blocked a point shot and controlled the loose puck. His shot at the empty net from the red line was wide, but Erik Baskin put back the rebound to seal the win with 28 seconds left.
Air Force outshot Army, 25-20. Each team was 1-for-3 on the power play. Billy Christopoulos made 17 saves for the Falcons while Cole Bruns made 20 for the Black Knights.
The eight combined goals are the most by the two teams since a 5-4 Army win in 2011 (16 games).
“This was a game of two teams playing awfully hard and we just found a way to get it done,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We had to come from behind and we are on the road. Those are two hard things to do this time of year. They have a good team. We have one game in the rear-view mirror and tomorrow is going to be even more difficult”
Game two of the best of three series is set for Saturday, March 10, at 7 pm ET at Tate Rink.