Feverish comeback lifts Air Force hockey

by Neal Reid sports@gazette.com - Updated: November 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm • Published: October 25, 2013 | 11:20 pm 0
photo - Air Force's Ben Carey and George Michalke III chase down Canisius's Braedon Rigney during a Hockey game between the Air Force Falcons and the Canisius Golden Tigers at the Cadet Ice Arena in Air Force Academy, Colorado on Friday, October 25, 2013. The Falcons defeated the Golden Tigers 3-2. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette)
Air Force's Ben Carey and George Michalke III chase down Canisius's Braedon Rigney during a Hockey game between the Air Force Falcons and the Canisius Golden Tigers at the Cadet Ice Arena in Air Force Academy, Colorado on Friday, October 25, 2013. The Falcons defeated the Golden Tigers 3-2. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette)

A clutch penalty kill coupled with a three-goal explosion in less than three minutes was the recipe for success Friday for Air Force.

The Falcons overcame a two-goal second-period deficit with a trio of goals in a 2:28 stretch to upend Canisius 3-2 at Cadet Ice Arena in Air Force's conference opener. Adam McKenzie, Tony Thomas and Cole Gunner all scored for the Falcons (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Hockey Association), with Gunner's goal trickling in 11:25 into the second and holding up as the game-winner.

"(Chad) Demers made a great pass, I kicked it to my stick and a guy got a piece of my stick right as I shot," Gunner said. "I thought it had no chance of going in but it just squeaked in. I loved it."

Trailing 2-0 and with Canisius (0-2, 0-2) going on another power play, things didn't look good for the Falcons. But a crucial penalty kill kept it a two-goal game, and McKenzie brought life back into the building with a goal 8:57 into the period.

Just more than three minutes later, Air Force was leading.

"To be honest, when they got two (goals), I think everybody got a little scared," Gunner said. "Give credit to our (penalty) killers for a huge kill, and we scored right after that and took over the game from there. After that, they couldn't keep up."

The Griffs pulled goalie Capobianco with 1:05 remaining in favor of an extra attacker, but Air Force clamped down and limited Canisius' chances. The Falcons outshot the Griffs 15-5 in the third and 35-22 overall.

It was the fourth straight one-goal game between the two teams, and the Falcons were more than happy to be on the winning side of things when the final horn sounded.

"I'm just real proud of their spirit and perseverance," Serratore said. "If there's a team in our league you don't want to get behind 2-0, it's Canisius. When they scored that second goal, it sucked the life out of the building. If we let them bang another one in on that power play, it's 3-0 and is probably all over.

"We got through that, and it gave us a chance."

Thomas took a Dan Weissenhofer pass, tried to backhand it to a teammate and then banged home a ricochet for the game's equalizer after the pass attempt hit one of Capobianco's thigh pads.

"We work on those (rebounds) in practice all the time, so it's nice to get one in a game," Thomas said. "We got that first goal, and it just ignited the bench. This is just a good win for early in the season and shows that we can come from behind."

After an uneventful first period in which the teams combined for 10 shots, the second period included plenty of fireworks. Canisius dominated the first five minutes, building a 2-0 lead on goals from Cody Freeman and Ralph Cuddemi that came in a 1:43 span.

McKenzie's goal cut the deficit to one, and the Falcons evened the score with a Tony Thomas power-play goal just 2:41 later. A mere 37 seconds later, Gunner put Air Force up for good.

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