Air Force hadn’t scored four goals in a game since Dec. 28. Friday, the Falcons ended their dubious streak in just one period.
A quartet of second-period markers helped Air Force erase a two-goal deficit, as well as an 11-game winless skid, as the Falcons defeated Quinnipiac, 5-4, in front of 1,009 fans at the Cadet Ice Arena on Saturday.
The win marks the Falcons’ biggest nonconference victory of the season, as Air Force improves to 9-18-2. The Bobcats, who allowed five goals in a game for just the second time this season, drop to 17-8-1.
“With the adversity we’ve dealt ourselves, to come back against a first-place team, that shows a lot,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “That tells you we have a good bunch of guys, and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Quinnipiac wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard, as the Bobcats converted just 31 seconds into the contest on their first shot. Sophomore Matt Froehlich took a pass from classmate Matt Craig and, from between the faceoff circles, wristed a shot over the outstretched glove of goaltender Matt Polidor.
The tally marked the 24th time this season Air Force has allowed a goal in the first or last minute of a period.
Just four minutes later, Quinnipiac doubled its lead. While on the power play, sophomore Chris White skated up the left side and fired a slapshot. The attempt deflected off the stick of Falcons’ defenseman Brian Reaney and fooled Polidor.
“They came out smoking the first five minutes,” said Serratore. “We can’t wait until the opponent punches us in the mouth before we fight back.”
From there, Air Force controlled the remainder of the period, peppering Quinnipiac goaltender Justin Eddy with 17 shots in the frame. However, Eddy stopped them all, including a pair on an Air Force breakaway with seven minutes left.
The Falcons finally got one past Eddy 1:24 into the second period. Junior Spanky Leonard intercepted a pass at center ice, skated across the blue line, and rifled a shot that sneaked under Eddy’s arm and tricked past the goal line.
The Bobcats wasted little time in regaining their two-goal cushion. White received the puck behind the net, skated out in front, and beat Polidor with a wraparound attempt for his second marker of the game.
Thanks to a superior individual effort by senior Kyle Fransdal, Air Force again pulled within one. After being denied on a superb stick save by Eddy, Fransdal gathered the puck in the corner, skated back in front, and notched his fifth goal of the season.
After applying pressure over the next eight minutes, the Falcons took the lead with a pair of goals in a 27-second span. Leonard tied the contest on a sparkling pass from fellow junior Shane Saum, and senior Scott Zwiers gave Air Force its first second-period lead of the calendar year as the puck trickled past the line.
“We’re working on simplifying stuff, mainly dumping it in and forechecking,” said Leonard. “Saum found me out in front, and it basically was an ‘in-the-net’ kind of goal.”
Wiggins scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the third period on a beautiful give-and-go with Zwiers. Wiggins faked a backhand attempt, then lifted a wrister over Eddy’s right shoulder.
After killing off two penalties in a 4:30 span midway through the frame, Quinnipiac cut its deficit in half with 6:24 remaining, as White completed his first hat trick of the season. However, the Bobcats could not score the equalizer, despite firing three shots at Polidor with an extra attacker in the final minute.
“I thought Air Force dominated the first period, and we were fortunate to have the lead,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “They were hungry, outworked us, and deserved to win.”
Polidor was outstanding over the final 40 minutes, stopping 31 of 33 shots. Eddy was just as busy, as he turned aside 38 shots, 32 of which came in the first two periods.