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The Falcons were flying from the opening face-off and had Army West Point on the defensive and relying heavily on its talented goalie Parker Gahagen as Air force scored once in each period to record a 3-1 Atlantic Hockey win Friday night.

Gahagen was called on early and often starting with a beautiful glove save on a quick wrist shot by Evan Giesler from the circle in the first half minute of play as the Falcons clearly had their skating legs while Army seemed to be searching for some energy early on.  After killing an early penalty, Army couldn’t hold off the line of Giesler, Evan Feno and Trevor Stone, whose constant buzzing around Gahagen’s net broke the ice with the game’s first goal for a 1-0 Falcons lead.

Army tied the score in the second period as Colorado native Ian Mansfield rang a shot through a screen off the far post past Shane Starrett, but that was all the offense the Black Knights would muster against a solid Falcons defense.

“We wanted to take it right to them,” said Falcons defenseman Phil Boje.  “We know they are at altitude and really wanted them to feel it by taking the game to them from the first face-off and right to the buzzer at the end of each period.”

Playing hard to the end was prophetic for the final minute of the second period, when Boje and Erik Baskin kept the offensive pressure on Army in the final minute with Jordan Himley being the final recipient of a back-door pass in front of a prone Gahagen. Himley made no mistake in sliding the puck under Gahagen’s arm for a 2-1 lead with less than a minute remaining on the clock.

“I did have a lot of time on that play as they left me alone on the side of the net and ‘Bask’ made a great pass,” said Himley.  “We weren’t getting frustrated by all the saves he was making or the chances they blocked with a leg or stick.  We just kept the pressure on and that goal was a big momentum lift going into the third period with the lead.”

Air Force kept the pressure on in the third period but it needed a shorthanded, empty-net goal from Tyler Ledford again in the final minute of play, to seal the win in the opening game of the two-game series.  Boje added his second assist of the night and Starrett, who stopped 17of 18 shots, picked up his first assist of the season.

“I really liked the effort tonight,” said coach Frank Serratore.  “I don’t recall giving up any odd-man rushes tonight so we played well with numbers and really held them to a few flurries of activity.  I would be very happy if we can repeat this tomorrow night and find a way to win both games this weekend.”

Atlantic Hockey roundup:

Canisius 4, American International 2

Dylan McLaughlin scored a pair of goals but the visitors needed a late goal from Jesse Pereira to clinch a hard-fought win over AIC.  Charles Williams made 28 saves to earn the win as the Yellow Jackets outshot the visitors 30-27.  With the win Canisius moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Hockey standings.

 Bentley 3, RIT 2

The visiting Falcons scored first on a goal by Patrick Desbiens but saw the lead evaporate quickly on Tigers goals by Caleb Cameron and Darren Brady in the opening four minutes of the second period.  Matt Sieckhaus tied the score at 2-2 for Bentley with just less than three minutes remaining in the middle period to set-up a winner take-all final period.  Falcons goalie Aidan Pelino made seven of his 34 saves in the final period and Drew Callin scored the game winner on a power play nine minutes into the third period.

Mercyhurst 3, Niagara 2

Wes Baker broke a 1-1 tie in the second period and Stephen Hrehoriak added the eventual game winner in the third period for the Lakers.  Brandon Wildung recorded 19 saves, surrendering Vinny Muto’s power-play goal in the second period and a goal by Nick Farmer in the final two minutes for the Purple Eagles.

 Holy Cross 4, Robert Morris 3

The Crusaders started fast and built a 4-1 lead in the first period on goals by Mike Barrett, Michael Laffin, Danny Lopez and Ryan Ferrill.  The Colonials battled back in the second period closing the gap to 4-3 as Brady Ferguson and Timmy Moore scored just five minutes apart. Paul Berrafato made 12 third-period saves and 32 for the game to record the win.