Friday night’s game was an appropriate addition to the Air Force-Army canon — chippy, emotional, and as close a final score as you can get.
But the Falcons left this one with bad feelings as they let a two-goal lead slip away in the third period and settled for a 2-2 tie with Army at home.
“The refs kept their whistles in the pocket, which was nice, and let the guys play,” senior Kyle Haak said. “Some stuff after the whistle. Good Air Force-Army game, but we like it when we come out on top.”
It took Army the first 6:47 of the third period to knot the game. Tipper Higgins beat goaltender Billy Christopoulos glove side, then Ian Mansfield crossed the blue line and ripped a shot into the top corner that survived a review.
“We had some (defensive) zone breakdowns, the whole game — they just capitalized on them in the third. It finally caught up to us,” Haak said. “When we’ve got the lead like that, we’ve just got to play our D-zone.”
Air Force (11-8-2, 9-5-1 Atlantic Hockey) struck first, 4:05 into the second period. On an abbreviated man advantage, Kieran Durgan collected the puck along the boards and centered to Haak, who scored his team-leading sixth power-play goal. He has at least a point in seven straight games.
That may have been Haak’s most meaningful contribution, but his most popular one with the sold-out crowd came later in the period when he heard a Black Knight coming up behind him off a faceoff, ducked and dumped him to the ice.
Trevor Stone doubled the lead after a breakdown in the Army zone 4:46 later. Erich Jaeger’s rebound rocketed out to an Army defender, who bobbled it, and Stone’s long shot beat Jared Dempsey.
The game got sloppier after the Black Knights (8-11-2, 7-6-2 AHC) got back into it, but the score stayed put.
Air Force outshot Army 3-2 in the overtime but the latter half was a series of whistles and timeouts. There were questionable plays, but the referees declined to get involved.
The Falcons’ penalty kill, ranked second in the country (90.7 percent) going into the game, killed off two more to make it 17 straight.
“It actually at times felt more comfortable on the penalty kill than they did five-on-five,” coach Frank Serratore said.
Air Force has plenty to look at before it tries to get back into the win column Saturday night.
“I liked our energy, and you have to play hard, but you also have to play smart,” Serratore said.
“Our play away from our zone was horrendous.”