Billy Christopoulos, defending the net vs. Bemidji State on Dec. 29 at Cadet Ice Arena, has been stellar for the Falcons.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada • No. 17 Western Michigan scored two early goals and then held off Air Force for a 4-1 win late Saturday night in the championship game of the Ice Vegas Invitational at the T-Mobile Arena.

Western Michigan controlled play in the first period and had two breakaways in the first six minutes that were both saved by Billy Christopoulos. The Broncos took a 1-0 lead with 4:57 left in the first period as Luke Bafia scored with a wrister from the high slot.

Early in the second period, WMU took a 2-0 lead on the rush as Ethen Frank scored.

“We have to get better and we have to play faster,” coach Frank Serratore said. “We aren’t there yet.”

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Air Force cut the lead in half on the power play. Zach Mirageas drew a penalty and the Falcons capitalized. Kyle Haak won an offensive zone faceoff and Kieran Durgan slid the puck to Matt Koch at the center point. His one-timer at 14:11 was his first goal of the season.

The Falcons pulled the goalie with just over three minutes remaining and had several chances. Frank collected a loose puck and his shot from the top of the circle in his own end found the open net with 2:09 left. With the goalie out again, Lawton Courtnall’s shot from the red line slid into the empty net.

Christopoulos made 39 saves.

“They could have put us away early, but Billy wouldn’t allow it,” Serratore said. “They couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. I really thought we were going to tie it up.”

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