Air Force needed a hero to step forward.
Two did, and they were not the usual suspects most of the 2,107 fans on hand expected to spark a stirring 3-2 comeback win over Canisius on Saturday night.
Sophomore Scott Holm scored twice in the third period, including banging home a rebound for the game-winner with 8:22 remaining, as the second-place Falcons swept the Golden Griffins at Cadet Ice Arena.
It was the third-liner’s sixth and seventh goals this season.
“No shot is a bad shot, especially when the goalie is scrambling,” said Holm, who said the game-winner ranked up there as a college highlight with a playoff score he had as a freshman. “I think it is important for a lot of people on our team to be stepping up and scoring goals. It is a good sign of a deep team.”
Holm tied the Atlantic Hockey Association game less than five minutes into the third period when he snapped off a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that flitted in under Canisius goalie Tony Capobianco’s glove arm and inside the opposite post.
“I was just looking for a rebound because we had two guys crashing the net,” Holm said. “Luckily it found the net.”
Luck had little to do with the Falcons’ comeback. Air Force (14-10-7, 12-6-5 AHA) stepped up its play as a group after another unlikely hero emerged.
Air Force fourth-liner Ben Persian scored midway through the second period to trim the 2-0 deficit in half and start a spurt of three unanswered even-strength goals against one of the best defensive teams in the AHA.
“We did it the hard way,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “Getting ahead plays right into their style, which is playing with four guys back, but Persian’s goal changed everything.”
The sophomore right wing redirected a slap shot by defenseman Mike McDonald with 10:18 left to make it 2-1 and spark the Falcons, who dominated play the rest of the game.
“After that everyone on the team took it up a notch, even the crowd stepped it up,” Persian said. “We spent the rest of the game in their zone.”
Until that momentum-turning score, seventh-place Canisius (11-16-5, 10-11-2) had a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead after it scored on its first two power plays on goals by Chris Rumble in the second period and by Doug Beck in the first period.
The comeback suggests Air Force has the makings of another AHA championship team. It took a big step by moving ahead of third-place Mercyhurst, which was swept this weekend, by three points in the AHA standings.
“It takes the ability to come from behind, and win on the road, to win championships,” Serratore said. “We showed we can do that tonight.”