U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Chad Demers scored a power play goal with 3:40 left in the third period as Air Force came from behind for a 4-3 win over Niagara in an Atlantic Hockey Conference game Friday, Jan. 9, at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force snapped a six-game winless skid and improved to 6-13-3 overall and 5-6-2 in the league and tied for seventh place. Niagara fell to 3-14-2 overall and 3-10-2 in the AHC.
Air Force controlled play for the first 10 minutes, outshooting the Purple Eagles, 12-2. However, late in the period, the Purple Eagles struck first on a 2-on-1 rush. Brock Edwards fed Albin Karlsson for his second of the season at 16:30 of the first period.
In a wild second period with eight penalties and three goals, the two teams skated to the locker room tied at 2-2. Air Force tied the game at 7:18 on freshman Tyler Ledford’s first career goal. Johnny Hrabovsky chipped the puck to Ledford in the Air Force end and the freshman from Colorado Springs went coast-to-coast, scoring with a wrister from the high slot. Niagara again took the lead when Brock Edwards put back a rebound of Kevin Patterson’s shot at 10:32. The Falcons came back to tie the game on freshman Phil Boje’s fifth goal of the season. Chad Demers won the faceoff in the offensive zone and Gunner found Boje at the center point. His one-timer tied the game at 15:01. With 12 seconds left in the second period, a five-minute major for checking from behind, and a game disqualification, was called on Matt Dineen for a hit on Ben Kucera.
Air Force started the third period with 4:48 left on a power play, but did not get a shot on goal until the final 20 seconds. Niagara had two short-handed shots during the power play. In the waning seconds of the power play, Niagara had a 2-on-1 short-handed rush that led to a goal just after the penalty expired. Isaac Kohls and Dan Kolenda played catch and Kohls scored his fourth of the season for a 3-2 lead. The Falcon power play came through in the third to score the tying and winning goals. Scott Holm’s team-leading 10th of the season tied the game at the 6:13 mark on the power play from Demers and Gunner. After the Falcons killed a penalty, Ben Carey drew a tripping call on Phillip Nasca and the Falcons were back on the power play. Demers put back a rebound of Boje’s shot at 16:20 for a 4-3 lead. Holm assisted on the play as Demers netted his fifth of the season. With 1:35 left in the game, Niagara pulled its goaltender for the extra attacker but did not get a shot on goal.
The Falcons outshot the Purple Eagles, 34-29. The 34 shots were the third most by the Falcons this season and just the fifth time this season Air Force has had 30 or more shots on goal. AFA was 2-for-6 on the power play while Niagara was 0-for-5. Chris Truehl made 26 saves for the Falcons while Jackson Teichroeb made 30 for NU.
“This team is so strong internally,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “These guys have hung together through some adversity of not winning many games. The veterans have stepped up and the bench was positive. Neither of these teams is playing with a lot of confidence right now. There was a lot of chaos and very little poise out there. That happens when you are not winning many games. It came down to special teams and goaltending tonight. It looked like the power play might have demoralized us tonight by not getting anything with that five-minute major, but they came through at the end with the tying and winning goals. It was not pretty, but the guys worked hard and found a way to win.”
The same two teams conclude the two-game league series Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7:05 pm MT at the Cadet Ice Arena.