ERIE, Pa. Billy Christopoulos made 34 saves and four different Falcons scored to lead Air Force to a 4-2 win over Mercyhurst in an Atlantic Hockey Conference game Saturday, Feb. 23, in Erie, Pa. Air Force took three points in the series and moved into a tie for third place with RIT with 30 points.
Air Force (15-12-5, 13-9-4 AHC) drew first blood as Brady Tomlak walked in front and lifted a backhand, top-shelf, for a 1-0 lead at 12:04. Kyle Haak assisted on Tomlak’s second of the series and seventh of the season. After a major penalty was called on Evan Feno, Dan Bailey drew a tripping call on Laker James Anderson and the teams were 4-on-4. Evan Giesler drew an interference call on Laker Tyler Best and the Falcons had a 4-on-3 power play. Haak, Zach Mirageas and Matt Koch played catch out front before Koch snapped a wrister from the center point for a 2-0 lead at 16:03. With Feno still in the box, a penalty on Bailey gave the Lakers 1:35 of a 5-on-3. Four saves by Christopoulos killed the penalties. A Falcon turnover in the neutral zone led to a rush by the Lakers in the final minute. Dalton Hunter’s shot was saved by Best put back the rebound with 22 seconds left in the period.
After a scoreless second period, the Falcons went on the power play early in the third period after Joseph Duszak ran into Billy Christopoulos. The Falcons capitalized as Alex Mehnert’s point shot was saved, but Walker Sommer put back the rebound on the backdoor at 4:16. Jake Levin also assisted on Sommer’s seventh of the season. The Lakers quickly answered, 57 seconds later. After a Falcon turnover in the neutral zone, Duszak set up Tommaso Bucci coming down the slot at 5:13.
Late in the third, a five-minute major for kneeing was called on Laker Brendan Riley. However, the Falcons had just two shots on goal and held the one-goal lead late in the third. With 1:18 left, the Lakers pulled the goalie. With time running down, Evan Giesler ran down a loose puck on the boards and Evan Feno found the open net from deep in his own end with five seconds remaining.
Mercyhurst outshot Air Force, 36-29, in the game. Air Force was 2-for-4 on the power play. The Falcon penalty kill, ranked second in the nation, killed all five of the Laker power plays. Garrett Metcalf started in goal for the Lakers and stopped four of the six shots he faced. Stefano Cantali played the final 40 minutes and made 21 saves.
“Mission accomplished,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Mercyhurst was better tonight than last night. They came at us hard. We were fortunate to be up 2-0 in the first. Then we gave up that goal late in the first period. That was disappointing. It was great to come in here and get three points. Now, if we take care of business at home, we will get home ice in the quarterfinals. That is our goal every year.”
Air Force returns home for the final regular-season series, Friday-Saturday, March 1-2, as Holy at the Cadet Ice Arena. The Falcons will honor the seven seniors before Saturday’s game.