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Air Force hockey a hard team to keep down, beats Mercyhurst

By: Benn Farrell sports@gazette.com
February 7, 2014 Updated: February 7, 2014 at 10:36 pm
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photo - Air Force center George Michalke III tries to get past Mercyhurst right defender Tyler Shiplo to make a run at the goal as Air Force takes on Mercyhurst at Cadet Ice Arena Friday, February 7, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Air Force center George Michalke III tries to get past Mercyhurst right defender Tyler Shiplo to make a run at the goal as Air Force takes on Mercyhurst at Cadet Ice Arena Friday, February 7, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette  

With four series left in the regular season, Air Force might have earned a win Friday that will define its season.

The Falcons rallied from a two-goal deficit to top the Atlantic Hockey Association's top team.

Air Force beat Mercyhurst 5-3 after falling behind by two goals by the end of the first period.

"We could easily have said, 'It's not our night,'" Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. "But they just don't quit. They just kept coming, and kept coming. They had good chances and made some things happen."

Just over five minutes into the game, Mercyhurst (15-11-5, 13-3-4) was up 2-0 after goals by Tyler Shiplo and Kyle Dutra.

The Falcons (16-9-4, 11-6-3) created numerous quality shots on goal through the first period but its only puck to slip past Lakers goaltender Jordan Tibbett was cancelled by a penalty against junior defenseman Dan Weissenhofer.

Following 18 shots on goal, the Falcons finally snuck one past Tibbett, thanks to junior points-leader Chad Demers, assisted by Cole Gunner and Scott Holm.

Minutes later, Air Force had a quality chance to tie the score after Mercyhurst's Matthew Zay and Grant Gettinger both went into the penalty box, creating a 1 minute, 30 second five-on-three situation. The Lakers killed both power plays, however.

The Falcons continued to pound Tibbett through two periods with 35 shots on goal to Mercyhurst's 27 going into the final period.

Killing the remainder of the penalty, Air Force immediately tied the score with its second goal as soon as it returned to full strength, compliments of Gunner, a junior, who scored his 13th goal of the season. Holm assisted.

A mere 1:21 later and it was Holm, also a junior, who put the Falcons' ahead on a goal that was assisted by Gunner and Demers.

"We had a real positive tempo coming out of the second," Holm said. "We knew if we just kept going after it the pucks were going to bounce our way, and eventually they'd go in. And they did."

Mervyhurst's Kyle Cook, who had an assist in the first period, tied the score at 3.

Holm wouldn't stand for that score long. He drilled a one-timer past Tibbett's glove side to put the Falcons up 4-3. Gunner and Demers assisted once again.

"I can't remember in my 17 years here one line of AFA hockey that just dominated like that," Serratore said. "It was really special to witness. That being said, we really need to work on our secondary scoring."

The Falcons went up by two when junior wing Ben Persian blistered a wrist shot past Tibbett after intercepting a misguided Mercyhurst pass.

"It really speaks to the character of this team," Holm said. "We know we are always in the fight and have a chance until the end."

One and a half minutes left, the Lakers pulled Tibbett for the extra skater. The final seconds became a turkey shoot for the open goal until the 5-3 Falcons win.

Holm finished with two goals and two assists. Gunner scored one and assisted three, Demers had the first Air Force goal and two assists. Persian's goal was his third of the season.

Falcons freshman goalie Chris Truehl, who has started the last nine games, finished with 34 saves, while Tibbett had 48 saves.

Coming into the Friday matchup, Mercyhurst led the league with 30 points. Air Force was in a tie with Robert Morris at fourth with 23. Bentley and UConn sat between them in second and third respectively.

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