WEST POINT, N.Y. – Tyler Ledford scored the game-winner and Billy Christopoulos stopped all 15 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime win over Army in game three of the Atlantic Hockey Conference quarterfinal series, Sunday, March 11, at Tate Rink in West Point, N.Y.
Air Force advances to the AHC Final Four in Rochester, N.Y., March 16-17, for the third straight year. The Falcons have the opportunity to defend their AHC Championship against second-seeded Canisius on Friday.
Air Force outshot Army, 9-5, in the first period and, 16-4, in the second. Air Force’s best chance in the second period came on a rush by the fourth line. Army goalie Cole Bruns made two saves on freshman Walker Sommer to keep the game scoreless.
In the third period, each team had a couple quality chances. Army had an early rush with a shot by Conor Anderle that was saved by Christopoulos. Going back the other way, freshman defenseman Zack Mirageas gained the zone and his shot from the top of the right circle caromed hard off the post. Later in the period, Christopoulos stopped Tucker DeYoung on a breakaway with seven minutes left and then stopped Anderle on a tip in right in front with under four minutes remaining.
Early in overtime, Erik Baskin stepped in front of an Army pass at the blue line and fed Ledford in the slot. Ledford spun around and fired a shot toward the net that deflected off of an Army defenseman and through the legs of goalie Cole Bruns at 6:38 of overtime for the game-winning goal.
“I knew this would be a tight series and one for the ages,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We had so many good chances and, when you don’t score, you start to wonder if it is your night. My biggest fear is that we were not going to get rewarded for all of our hard work. For me personally, this might be the greatest experience I have had as the Air Force coach. Coming in here against a good Army team and winning this series is special. These games against Army mean a lot to me. This is as big as it gets.”
“It was a surreal moment (scoring that goal),” Ledford said. “I just wanted to get every shot to the net. The puck came to me, I put it on the net and got a lucky bounce off their defenseman. I’ve never scored a goal that big so I didn’t really know what to do. I just waited for the guys to come celebrate. It was such a battle. We all worked so hard and we were all tired. This is such a great rivalry and we have so much respect for the Army players and wish their seniors well in their careers.”
Air Force outshot Army, 40-15, in the game. Air Force was 0-for-3 on the power play while Army was 0-for-2. Bruns made 39 saves for the Black Knights.