That “Whew!” sound you may have heard from northern Colorado Springs on Friday night was not the wind.
It was the 2,107 fans at Cadet Ice Arena letting out a collective sigh of relief.
Air Force hockey dominated in most every statistical category but had to rally to pull out a 2-2 tie against 11th-place American International, overcoming a 50-save performance by AIC senior goalie Ben Meisner.
“He gave us every opportunity to win,” said AIC coach Gary Wright, whose Yellow Jackets are 1-2-2 in their past five games. “We have been playing better with five good efforts in the past six games.”
It was almost enough to pull off the Atlantic Hockey Association win for the visiting Yellow Jackets (5-14-5, 2-11-5 AHA).
The Falcons’ Chad Demers spun and fired a hard wrister, the 50th shot of the game by Air Force, that beat Meisner with 2:51 left in regulation. Defenseman Dan Weissenhofer kept a clearing attempt in the AIC zone and made a quick pass forward to Demers, who spun and fired the puck.
“I didn’t look,” he said. “I knew I was in close and I had to get the puck up high to try to beat him top shelf. Luckily it went in.”
The tying goal came after Air Force (11-9-6, 9-5-4) dominated play but found itself trailing 2-1 late in the third.
AIC went ahead 2-1 just 75 seconds into the third when defenseman Chris Markiewicz fired a one-timer that went past AFA junior goalie Jason Torf’s glove and in off the juncture of the crossbar and right post.
The goal gave the visiting Yellow Jackets the cushion they needed to play a defensive game that Air Force could not capitalize against before Demers’ score.
“We didn’t get very many second-chance opportunities,” Weissenhofer said. “Their goalie played well. Their defense packed it in and sent the puck out along the boards. We need to do a better job penetrating (Saturday) night.”
Air Force outshot AIC 26-5 in the second period and only had a 1-1 tie to show it, which was especially frustrating for them considering the Falcons entered the middle frame with a 1-0 lead.
AIC leading scorer Adam Pleskach’s shot off a rebound first went off Falcons sophomore Ben Persian’s right skate and then the back of his left blade to end up just inside the far post to tie the game with 5:22 left in the second.
With 21 saves, Torf is only five stops away from becoming just the 10th Falcon to record 2,000 saves in program history. Mike Drake (1978-82) is ninth in career saves with 2,244.
Senior Kyle De Laurell scored off a good diagonal pass from sophomore Cole Gunner midway through the first period to give the Falcons, who remain in second in the AHA ahead of Bentley (21 points), a 1-0 lead.