BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Sacred Heart scored two goals in the final 2:36 to overcome a two-goal deficit and force a 3-3 overtime tie with Air Force in an Atlantic Hockey Conference game, Saturday, Nov. 25, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
Just 1:12 into the game, a long Sacred Heart pass bounced off the back boards and came out past the goal line to the left of Billy Christopoulos. Pioneer Stephen Hladin was the first to get to it and stuffed it in, short side, for a 1-0 lead. The Falcons answered late in the period on the rush. Jordan Himley found Matt Koch at the top of the left circle. Koch made a pass to the bottom of the right circle to Erik Baskin, who netted his fifth of the season at 14:33.
Midway through the third period, the Falcons scored two goals in a span of 2:18 for a 3-1 lead. On the rush, Jonathan Kopacka’s shot was saved and Erich Jaeger put back the rebound at 10:24 for his first of the season. The Falcons took a 3-1 lead at 12:42 on Kopacka’s first of the season. On a 2-on-1 rush, Evan Giesler set up Kopacka in the left circle and the senior’s shot caromed off the far post and into the net. With under three minutes left in the game, the Falcons were on the power play and had a two-goal lead.
However, Sacred Heart had back-to-back offensive zone faceoffs. The Pioneers won the first one that led to a shot on goal. On the second one, the puck came out of the circle and into the slot. Marc Johnstone dove at the loose puck and tapped it in with 2:36 left to make the score 3-2. With just under a minute remaining, the Pioneers pulled the goalie for the extra attacker and a penalty on Air Force gave SHU a two-man advantage with 31 seconds left. The Pioneers won the ensuing faceoff and Vito Bavaro’s shot was knocked down in front, but Johnstone put back the rebound with 22 seconds left to tie the game.
Sacred Heart outshot Air Force, 4-1, in overtime, but neither team was able to score.
“This is a tough pill to swallow, but we have to take our medicine, put it behind us and move on,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We can’t afford to let this tie feel like a loss, and let it put us in a spiral. This is a great learning opportunity for our young team. I’m not making excuses at all, but our top four centers are all out and we needed a guy to win a faceoff. Our guys are trying so hard, but we have to play to the buzzer. We got better tonight as the game went on.”
Sacred Heart outshot Air Force, 31-23, in the game. Air Force was 0-for-4 on the power play while SHU was 1-for-5. Billy Christopoulos made 28 saves for the Falcons while Nathan Perry made 20 for the Pioneers.
The Falcons and Pioneers conclude the two-game series on Sunday, Nov. 26, at 12:35 pm ET in Bridgeport, Conn.