First-period flourish propels Air Force past Niagara 7-4

By: Neal Reid
October 27, 2013 Updated: October 29, 2013 at 10:06 pm

If there was a way to score, Air Force found it Sunday against Niagara.

Seven Falcons found the net in a multitude of ways en route to a 7-4 win over Niagara in front of a sizable and excited crowd at Cadet Ice Arena. Air Force (4-2, 2-0 Atlantic Hockey Association) scored even-strength, power-play and short-handed goals on its way to winning its fourth consecutive game.

"I thought it was a pretty dang even game," Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. "The difference was our goalie was better than their goalie, and our special teams were better than their special teams. It's nice to see that we're getting production from all four lines and a lot of different people."

Jason Fabian, Chad Demers, Scott Holm and Cole Gunner each had a goal and an assist, with Demers helping on two goals, to propel the Falcons' potent offensive attack. Niagara (1-4-1, 1-1-1) cut Air Force's lead to one goal in the second and third periods, but the Falcons had an answer every time.

A pair of power-play goals and a wraparound short-handed goal by Fabian in the second were the offensive difference-makers, and Air Force's penalty kill unit was masterful in quelling the Purple Eagles' 5-on-3 power play midway through the final period to preserve a two-goal advantage. Niagara cut Air Force's lead to 5-4 with 2:09 left on a Ryan Rashid goal, but Gunner popped in an empty-netter and Johnny Hrabovsky added a power-play goal with 13.5 seconds left to seal the win.

"We had two power-play goals and a shortie, and you add that unbelievable 5-on-3 kill by (Dan) Weissenhofer, (Mike) McDonald and Fabian," Serratore said.

Ten Falcons have scored goals this season, an exciting example of a team that lost 42 goals from last season to graduation effectively spreading around the offense.

"That's one of the big things we talked about before the season, and we said we had to make (the goals) up collectively," Demers said. "So far, that's exactly what we're doing. It's nice to know we can put the puck in the net that many times."

Fabian's "shortie" ended up being the eventual game-winner for Air Force.

"I just came in on the forecheck and tried to put a little pressure on the goalie," Fabian, a senior, said. "He was doing some fake passes and kind of faked out his own D, and so I just picked it up and rammed it in.

"We're rolling right now, and we're looking to continue that."

The first period was an entertaining and intense affair, with the teams combining for six goals and 31 shots. Ryan Timar got the scoring started at the 3:54 mark, but the Purple Eagles rebounded with back-to-back goals to take a 2-1 lead with 11:33 on the clock.

The Falcons dominated the second half of the opening period, with Ben Carey, Demers and Holm finding the net behind Niagara's freshman netminder Adrian Ignagni to give Air Force a 4-2 lead at the first intermission.

Hugo Turcotte pulled the Purple Eagles to within one, 4-3, with a goal nine minutes into the second, but Fabian thrilled the crowd with his short-handed strike 40 seconds later to help the Falcons regain a two-goal advantage they would take into the second intermission.

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