Falcons beat Wayne State, 2-1
U.S.A.F. ACADEMY, Colo. -- Freshman goaltender Ian Harper, in his first career start, stopped 29 of 30 shots and Air Force held off Wayne State for a 2-1 win in a College Hockey America game, Friday, Dec. 3, at the Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force won its fifth straight game, a school record against Division I teams. The Falcons improved to 7-4-2 overall and 3-2 in the CHA. The Falcons are tied for second with Bemidji State with six league points. Wayne State fell to 8-6-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the CHA.
Air Force played short-handed as several Falcons were suspended for a violation of team rules. Seniors Steve Mead, Ross Miller, Josh Priewe and Ryan Wiggins were suspended for one game. Peter Foster, Brandon Merkosky, Brian Reese, Josh Schaffer, Billy Devoney and Bryan Becker were benched for one period.
"We needed to just get past the first period since we played with just 13 skaters," head coach Frank Serratore said. "We felt very good to be tied after the first. We have a lot of faith in Ian Harper, but we weren't sure he was ready to start in the league game. He didn't disappoint us one bit."
After a scoreless first period, the Falcons struck first as Josh Print scored a power-play goal at 13:41 of the second period. Brandon Merkosky and Andrew Ramsey assisted as Print scored his third of the season from the top of the crease.
The Falcons clung to the one-goal lead until Will Zimmerman's first career goal gave the Falcons a 2-0 advantage at 11:45 of the third period. Brian Reese tipped the puck into the zone and Jay Medenwaldt took it down the right wing. His pass in front of the net was tipped in by Zimmerman.
Wayne State rallied late as the Warriors pulled the goaltender with 1:08 remaining and pressured the Falcons. With 51 seconds remaining, Tylor Michel scored on a rebound to make the score 2-1. Mike Forgie and Jason Bloomingburg assisted on the play. With four seconds left, the Warriors dug the puck out of the corner and created a flurry in front of the net. Harper made the save and froze the puck with one second remaining. On the faceoff to Harper's right, Bloomingburg won the draw, but the puck sailed behind the net and the game ended.
Air Force outshot Wayne State, 42-30, in the game. The Falcons were 1-for-9 on the power play while Wayne State was 0-for-5. The Falcons have now killed 18 straight opponent power plays. Harper made a career-best 29 saves, including 12 in the third period. Matt Kelly made 40 saves for the Warriors.
"I can't explain it, but we have something going right now," Serratore added. "Even though we have been playing a lot of one-goal games, there is a sense of calmness on the bench. We have a lot of guys that can play and some guys that got on opportunity stepped up tonight."
The same two teams conclude the series Saturday, Dec. 4, at 7:05 p.m. MST.