It took more than 180 minutes for the AHA quarterfinal series between the Air Force Falcons and the Niagara Eagles to be decided. And it ended with an overtime goal by Eagles defenseman Matt Williams, giving the visitors a 4-3 victory and silencing the rowdy crowd that packed Clune Arena for Sunday's rubber match, ending the season for the Falcons.
The game opened up with an offensive onslaught that saw the Eagles strike first. Forward Michael Benedict found the back of the net 5:23 into the game to give Niagara a quick 1-0 lead. An interference call three minutes later gave Air Force a power-play opportunity that it converted in 13 seconds. Each team would add another goal before the end of the period, making it the second time in this series that the two teams combined for four goals, but the Falcons could never seem to come away with the lead.
"Credit Niagara for coming out on the road and obviously when you're in playoff hockey you want to play with the lead," coach Frank Serratore said. "We had been chasing the scoreboard for the last two games."
The second period would be a much different story. Despite a flurry of chances for the Falcons, they were held scoreless in the period. Defensively they held strong before Eagles forward Patrick Conte was able to take advantage of an open net.
Williams had just made his way on to the ice when the puck trickled his way, allowing him to rip a slap shot toward the Air Force goal. The shot was blocked but the puck squirted out to Torf's left side, leaving him out of position, foreshadowing what would become the game-winner in overtime.
"I don't want to chalk it up to bad bounces because we could have finished it earlier on," goaltender Jason Torf said. "It's tough for it to end that way, especially kind of on a play where I look back and I'm not sure if there's anything I could've done."
But early in the third period the Falcons would score another game-tying goal on a similar play. A series of shots were knocked away by Niagara goaltender Jackson Teichroeb, but one of them popped out to Ryan Timar who had an open net and no defender in front of him.
With the game tied, momentum had shifted into the Falcons' favor. They turned up the pressure on the Eagles' defense, even catching them in the middle of a line change, but were unable to score before time ran out in regulation.
"The game we won, we got the lead on Friday and we held it to win 2-1," Serratore said. "Credit Niagara, they found a way to get the lead and we showed the spirit we had all year, coming from behind. We couldn't get the lead, and when we did get it, the goal was disallowed."
From the time the third period ended and overtime began, the Eagles turned the tables and began putting pressure on Torf. The Eagles had three solid looks at the Falcons' net before Williams scored the game-winner.
Serratore addressed both teams and the crowd after the game, congratulating Niagara on a hard-fought series.