For the first 13 minutes Friday night, the Air Force Falcons looked like the aggressive and disciplined hockey team that coach Frank Serratore had been looking for all season.
A strong Air Force squad raced out to a 2-0 lead and had an 8-0 shot advantage.
Yet three unanswered Holy Cross goals in the second period at Cadet Ice Arena changed everything, and the Crusaders (4-1, 3-1) capitalized off an undisciplined Air Force (1-3-3, 1-1-1) squad for a 3-2 Atlantic Hockey Association victory.
“We didn’t get our nose dirty,” Serratore said. “They imposed their will on us and we didn’t turn it around until we took five punches to the mouth and three body blows. We fought back in the third period, but for a period and a half Holy Cross took it to us, and it was too little too late.”
Air Force seemed poised for a breakout win after freshman Ben Carey scored his first collegiate goal on a 2-on-1 with John Kruse just 37 seconds into the game. Stephen Carew then chipped in his second goal of the season on a quick wrist shot following a redirected pass from Tony Thomas at 12:18.
But an undisciplined tripping penalty against Cole Gunner late in the first ignited the Crusaders before their three-goal, 21-shot, second-period onslaught.
It all started when Holy Cross captain Erik Vos scored his first of the year by blasting one past Jason Torf after a faceoff win by Kyle Fletcher in the offensive zone at 7:14.
Torf then took a slashing penalty after the whistle at 12:49, which led to Brandon Nunn’s game-tying, power-play goal.
Holy Cross capped off its second-period dominance when Adam Schmidt snagged a failed clearing attempt by Max Edson at the blue line and fired one past Torf for the go-ahead goal.
“Our discipline was not good,” Serratore said. “We took two reactive penalties. You can’t do that. Those are avoidable penalties.”
Torf tied a career-high with 40 saves — notching his fourth consecutive game with 30 or more saves — as the Falcons again struggled to limit their opponent’s shots on goal.
Kruse said the Falcons need to find a way to support their goaltender’s efforts.
“He’s keeping us in games,” Kruse said. “We have to help him out defensively and offensively by putting some in the net for him.”
Both Kruse and Carew believe the Falcons became too comfortable with their early 2-0 lead.
“We came out real strong, but we had a penalty (in the first period) that was kind of a momentum shift,” Carew said. “We started playing individual hockey for a bit there with a lot of turnovers.”