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Air Force hockey scores on 1st three shots, downs Colorado College to retain Pikes Peak Trophy

December 29, 2017 Updated: December 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm
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Air Force left wing Matt Serratore, left, and Colorado College right defense Zach Berzolla crash into the boards while fighting for control of the puck Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, during the first period at the Cadet Ice Arena at Air Force Academy, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Despite several disadvantages, Air Force wasn’t ready to give up the Pikes Peak Trophy just yet.

The Falcons scored on their first three shots of the game and Erik Baskin’s first career hat trick was the difference in Friday night’s 6-3 victory over crosstown rival Colorado College. The Falcons were the ones lifting the trophy at center ice for the fifth year in a row — the entire time the hardware has been awarded.
Tigers goaltender Alex Leclerc, looking for a better result this time around against Air Force, saw his night end just 4:44 into the game when the Falcons went up 3-0 on Jordan Himley’s power-play goal. Alec Calvaruso entered and made 19 saves in his second game action of the season.

The Falcons had been off since Dec. 2 and several veterans were reinserted into the lineup after missing lengthy stretches. They met this week in groups and discussed how to proceed.

“We wanted to reclaim our identity, no matter what happened,” Baskin said. “Flush (the first half), but still take the lessons. Stuff isn’t going to happen just because we have all those guys coming back from injury. It’s not going to be magic.”

It may not have been magic, but it was nearly instantaneous. Twenty-eight seconds into the game, Leclerc missed a poke check and Baskin was waiting on the other side of the net to chip in his first of the game. Just 1:45 later, Leclerc lost his stick behind the net and grabbed one from a defenseman, but wasn’t ready for Kyle Mackey on the doorstep.

“I thought we gave them goals,” Colorado College coach Mike Haviland said. “Three goals on three shots. We were chasing the rest of the night.”

Nick Halloran broke through for the Tigers before the period ended, skating around the perimeter and sending a quick wrister past Air Force goaltender Billy Christopoulos, who finished with 25 saves.

“They’ve improved a lot, but they’re a little top-heavy,” Serratore said. “That first line of theirs, it didn’t take us long before we said ... you might want to pay attention to them. They’re a legit first line.”

The Falcons struck again before fans had made it back to their seats with their period-break popcorn, 13 seconds into the second period. Tyler Ledford walked in alone and put moves on Calvaruso to make it 4-1.

The rest of the Tigers’ top line found the back of the net as Trey Bradley and Mason Bergh drew the visiting team within one midway through the second period, but Baskin added a cushion with his second of the night, wedging one underneath Calvaruso on the power play, then finished the hat trick late in the third period.

The Tigers (8-8-3) never pulled Calvaruso for the extra attacker and were on the team bus within minutes of the final horn. They’ll try to rebound against Merrimack on Saturday at The Broadmoor World
Arena.

“Hats off to them for playing well,” Bergh said. “I am really disappointed in our effort tonight from everyone.”

The Falcons, at .500 again, will head to No. 2 Denver, which lost to Merrimack 3-2 Friday night.

“We’ve never beat Denver at Denver,” Baskin said. “Tomorrow night’s another big night. We’re going to enjoy this one for a little bit and put it behind us.”

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