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Air Force was flying from the drop of the puck Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena, and the Falcons used a quick start and a strong finish en route to a 6-2 victory over Robert Morris. Seizing the early momentum on goals by A.J. Reid and Jordan Himley, the Falcons were often first to the loose pucks, taking advantage of a Robert Morris team that was perhaps shaking off some rust from a weekend off the week prior.
However, the game was closer than the score indicated and saw several momentum swings from both sides.
“I thought it was a tale of three periods,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “In the first period, we were a little bit rusty a little bit behind and a step slow, and I thought in the second period we were outstanding, we out them and had a tremendous amount of chances. Then in the third, their pressure got to us and we melted down, it’s the first time we’ve done it all year. Hats off to them, they pushed the pace and had us under pressure and we weren’t ready for it.”
After the first period onslaught that saw the Falcons capitalize twice on 13 shots, the Colonials were the much better team in the middle frame. Senior forward Daniel Leavens got the Colonials on the board just 49 seconds into the period with his ninth goal to cut the Falcons’ lead in half.
Robert Morris then put forth a furious charge for the tying goal in the minutes thereafter, striking iron twice in rapid succession but it could not manage to capitalize on the opportunities before Falcons defenseman Dylan Abood was able to take advantage of his own opportunity as he beat Colonials netminder Francis Marotte at 3:39 for his first goal of the season.
Abood’s goal sent Marotte to the bench in favor of senior Dalton Izyk who made his first appearance in the net since November because of an injury. The team responded by allowing only three shots after the switch.
“I think you need a little kick start sometimes,” Schooley said. “We’d worked hard to get it back to 2-1 and we gave up one right off the bat and it worked, Dalton came in and made some saves right off the bat.”
Freshman Luke Lynch then pulled the Colonials closer just moments later on a power play when he deflected a Rob Mann shot past Starett to pull his team to a goal at 8:22 of the second period. The goal sparked the Colonials who out shot the Falcons 15-7 in the second period, but his teammates could not find a way to put any more scoring chances past Falcons goaltender Shane Starrett, who made the saves he had to make to keep his team ahead during the Colonial push.
“We definitely expected it to be a hard fought battle against them tonight, we know the way they play,” Lynch said. “I think we carried the play for most of the second period and showed that we can out play them and got distracted by some things here and there but that will happen over the course of a season. Tomorrow we definitely have to stay more composed as a team and we know what to expect, we have to come out and fight for every inch.”
As good as the Colonials looked in the second period, Air Force looked even better in the final period. Evan Feno’s power-play goal from the slot at 5: 45 seemed to kill the rally as the Falcons shut down the Colonials offense the rest of the way. Air Force managed two more goals, including an empty netter in a chippy final 15 minutes.
“I think for the most part we played the way we wanted to play tonight,” Air Force assistant coach Joe Doyle said. “We had really good legs tonight, we played through people, and we had a good push those first eight minutes and it kind of set the tone.
“They’re a good team, they can skate and make plays and if you let them get going it can be hard digging out. But the way you combat that is obviously to use your legs and to get to pucks first and then play as a group of five. We got good goaltending from Starrett and we had some timely goals. We had some adversity, some of it was self inflicted but we dealt with that and kind of settled things down.”
Atlantic Hockey Roundup
Mercyhurst 3, Holy Cross 3
The Crusaders used two goals in the second period from Kevin Darrar and Scott Pooley to erase a 2-1 deficit and give them the lead heading into the final 20 minutes. And in the final frame, Mercyhurst’s Taylor Best managed to beat Holy Cross goaltender Paul Berrafato on a power play at 11:01 for his second goal of the night mark to send the game to overtime. Lakers goaltender Brandon Wildung stopped 41 of 44 Crusader shots.
American International 6, Niagara 3
Yellow Jackets forward Dominik Florian’s two goals and Andrew Debincrat’s three assists paced American International at Niagara. Goaltender Zakarias Skog stopped 42 of 45 Niagara shots in the win, the team’s second conference win in a row. Jared Pike lead the way for Niagara with two goals in the loss.
Bentley 3, Sacred Heart 2
Kyle Schmidt’s two goals, including the game winner at 7:18 of the third, helped push the Falcons past Sacred Heart. Falcons goaltender Aidan Pelino turned away 37 of 39 Sacred Heart shots in the win while Pioneer netminder Brett Magnus stopped 26 of 29 shots.
Canisius 3, RIT 1
Canisius goaltender Charles Williams turned in an incredible performance, keeping out 45 of 46 shots while Ryan Schmelzer provided the winning goal at 7:13 of the second period as the Griffins defeated the Tigers at Rochester, N.Y. Schmelzer also set up Felix Chamberland’s insurance goal on the power play at 16:29 of the third period. RIT’s Mike Rotolo stopped 25 of 28 shots in the loss.