Air Force Falls Short Against #15 Denver, 10-9, In Overtime
DENVER, Colo. -
Despite mounting a late rally to force overtime, the Air Force lacrosse team was unable to complete the upset, falling 10-9 to 15th-ranked Denver Saturday afternoon at a cold, snowy Barton Lacrosse Stadium. The Falcons conclude their season with a 4-8 overall ledger, 1-4 league mark, while the Pioneers move to 9-4, 4-0 in GWLL action.
Denver was first to get on the board, scoring at the 12:21 mark, but Air Force responded less than a minute and a half later as senior Jeffrey Jablonski (Cincinnati, Ohio) notched just his second career goal. However, the Pioneers scored twice more in the next two and a half minutes to go up 3-1. Sophomore Justin Kuchta (Ridgefield, Conn.) cut the deficit back to one goal at the 6:05 mark with his first goal of the contest, but neither team was able to score for the remainder of the period.
Air Force was able to tie the game up early in the second quarter, as Denver native Will Meister found freshman Kevin Crumrine (Edgewater, Md.) for the equalizer. Another score by Kuchta put the Falcons on top, 4-3, with 11:58 on the clock. Just seven seconds later, Air Force's advantage was stretched to two, as Crumrine scored a man-up goal off a perfect pass from senior co-captain D.J. Benzing (Severna Park, Md.), who scooped up the ground ball directly off the face-off. Denver scored once more as Michael Goltra found the net on an extra-man opportunity, but the Falcons were able to go into intermission with a 5-4 lead.
Just 44 seconds into the third period, Denver's leading scorer, Matt Brown, tied the game once more, but again, Air Force had an answer, this time from sophomore Conrad Lochocki (Chalfont, Pa.), who scored off the feed from Michael Weber (So., Wantagh, N.Y.). However, Denver's offense was relentless, firing shot after shot at Air Force goalkeeper Justin Pavoni (Jr., Park City, Utah). Pavoni did everything possible to keep the ball out of the net, using his body and his stick to fight off the Pioneers. But nearly midway through the period, Pavoni went out of the game with an injury to the head. Replacement Daniel Bellissimo (So., Glen Cove, N.Y.) was thrown into the fire and made an impressive save right away, but Denver still managed two quick goals to regain the lead before Pavoni re-entered the game at around the six-minute mark.
The Falcons tied the game once more when Kuchta found the back of the net with 3:22 on the clock, but Denver fired back with a goal of its own just 10 seconds later. The third period ended with the Pioneers holding on to an 8-7 advantage, which they would keep for most of the final quarter, as neither team was able to put the ball between the pipes. The fourth period remained scoreless until Denver's Ryan Zordani notched his only goal of the afternoon with just 3:24 left to play, putting the Pioneers up by two.
After winning the ensuing face-off, Air Force set up its offense, looking to make the most of its possession. The Falcons succeeded, cutting the deficit to one point at the 2:47 mark, when Lochocki scored off the assist from Meister. Down the stretch, both teams had problems taking care of the ball in the steadily increasing snow storm, but at the end of the game, it was the Falcons with the best shot to score. With just 18 ticks on the clock, Denver's Scott Davidson was called for holding, giving Air Force a man-up opportunity. Although the Falcons entered the contest ranked ninth in the nation in man-up offense, they had been unable to capitalize on three earlier chances in the fourth period. However, with the game on the line, Kuchta came through on the EMO, scoring off the assist from Meister with just six seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, the amazing comeback would be for naught. After Denver won the opening face-off in the extra period, an Air Force penalty gave the Pioneers an extra-man opportunity of their own. Just 26 seconds into overtime, Brett Koll slid the ball past Pavoni to give Denver the 10-9 Senior Day victory.
Leading the Falcons with four points each were Kuchta (four goals) and Meister (four assists). Meanwhile, Lochocki and Crumrine added two scores each for Air Force. Between the pipes, Pavoni was credited with seven saves and nine ground balls, while making numerous other defensive stops. Senior co-captain Tim Hade (Franklin Lake, N.J.) also ended his Falcon career in impressive fashion, picking up seven ground balls at the long-stick midfield position.
For the Pioneers, Zordani had a team-high four points on one goal and three assists, while Brown tallied three goals to lead the team.
Denver 10, Air Force 9 (OT)
Air Force Scoring: Goals: Justin Kuchta 4, Conrad Lochocki 2, Kevin Crumrine 2, Jeffrey Jablonski. Assists: Will Meister 4, D.J. Benzing, Michael Weber.
Denver Scoring: Goals: Matt Brown 3, Scott Davidson 2, Brett Koll 2, Ryan Zordani, Adam Swain, Michael Goltra. Assists: Ryan Zordani 3, Darren Sasaki-Scanlon, Ryan Shaugnessy.