U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Niagara’s Nick Farmer scored two goals as the Purple Eagles defeated the Falcons, 5-2, in an Atlantic Hockey Conference game Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena. The Purple Eagles, receiving votes in the national poll, swept the Falcons and improved to 9-5-1 overall and 8-2-1 in the AHC. Air Force fell to 7-8-3 overall and 3-7-2 in the league.
On the first shift of the game, Niagara lit the lamp. Zach Mills attempted a centering pass from behind the net that hit an Air Force stick and landed on the back of Falcon goalie Billy Christopoulos. The puck fell into the crease and Christopoulos was unable to cover it up. Mills followed up his shot with another attempt that bounced off the leg of an Air Force defenseman and into the net just 24 seconds into the game.
Midway through the second period the Falcons tied the game. Tyler Ledford won an offensive zone faceoff and Alex Mehnert took a shot from the center point. The shot was saved, but Matt Serratore put back the rebound at 13:14. It took just over a minute for the Purple Eagles to regain the lead. Niagara scored its second short-handed goal of the series as Farmer knocked down a puck in the neutral zone and skated in uncontested on Billy Christopoulos. Farmer’s wrister went over the glove for his third goal of the season.
Early in the third period, Sean King ran down a loose puck and fed Tanner Lomsness in the center of the ice for a breakaway. Lomsness netted his league-leading 12th of the season for a 3-1 lead at 2:45. Air Force got back on the board on the rush. Erich Jaeger won a scrum on the boards and took the puck down the right side. Trevor Stone tipped in Jaeger’s centering pass at 13:08 to make the score 3-2. Air Force pulled its goalie with 2:25 left and had several flurries in front of the Niagara goal. With just over a minute left, Chris Harpur and Darian Plouffe chipped the puck out of the zone and Farmer skated in to score the empty-netter at 18:57. With the goalie still off the ice, Derek Brown scored in the empty net from the neutral zone at 19:11 to make the final score 5-2
Air Force outshot Niagara, 25-22, in the game. Air Force was 0-for-6 on the power play while Niagara was 0-for-3. Billy Christopoulos made 17 saves for the Falcons while Brian Wilson made 23 for the Purple Eagles.
“This is a tough pill to swallow,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Self-inflicted wounds. Last night they totally out-competed us. Tonight was different. They beat us last night. Tonight we beat ourselves. We chased the scoreboard all weekend and that is hard to do. I am optimistic in the second half as we will get a couple players back from injury. We have to find a way to turn this thing around in the second half of the season.”
Air Force is now off until Dec. 29 when the Falcons host Colorado College at the Cadet Ice Arena.