Now a black sheep among Black Knights fans, Shawn Knowlton grew up in New York supporting Army. His father, former Air Force athletic director Jim Knowlton, played hockey at West Point, and several other family members served.
“I’m an Air Force guy now,” the Falcons’ sophomore forward said.
For a second straight night, the referees stepped back and let Air Force and Army scrap their way to a 2-2 draw on Saturday. It isn’t the weekend result either team wanted, but for one family, it will help keep the peace.
“This weekend definitely meant a little bit. They can be happy with a tie,” Knowlton said.
“I think that’s best for my dad and my uncles, but obviously I’m a little greedy and we want some more points.”
The Falcons (11-8-3, 9-5-2 Atlantic Hockey) never led. Defenseman Matt Koch scored last and jumped back into a tie for the team points lead 8:29 into the third period with a shot from just inside the blue line that beat screened Army goaltender Jared Dempsey.
“Last night was a bad tie, and this certainly wasn’t a bad tie,” coach Frank Serratore said. “Good for us, we took a step forward from last night.”
Air Force cleaned up Friday’s area of concern, the defensive zone play, but the country’s second-ranked penalty kill had a rough outing, allowing multiple goals for the first time since Nov. 2 - also against Army.
Army (8-11-3, 7-6-3 Atlantic Hockey) took the lead 5:16 into the first period as Colin Bilek scored from a bad angle. Knowlton blocked two chances as the Black Knights pinched in, looking to pull away.
“We’ve got to take care of the D-zone, and the offense will come,” Knowlton, still waiting on his first career goal, said. “I haven’t got the first one yet, but it’s all in the process.”
Brady Tomlak tied the game in the second as the puck came off the boards and right to him between the circles. Dalton MacAfee restored the Army lead before the end of the period, as the puck spit out of a disturbance behind the net and the Black Knights captain fired off a quick shot to the left of Christopoulos.
The Falcons controlled the third, outshooting Army 9-3. Dempsey made an eye-popping midair snag to deny Joe Tyran in the waning minutes and the game went to overtime for the second straight night.
The teams’ series in early November also featured matching scores, with Air Force winning 4-2 twice. Air Force won the regular-season series thanks to that, but gained no ground in the conference.
“I thought we played OK today,” Tomlak said. “Coach was a little happier than I was on that front. I thought we had more to give.”