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Kyle Haak shoots and scores as the Falcons took a 2-0 lead against Canisius during the second period at Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs on Friday, Feb. 15. (photo by Liz Copan)

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Air Force is seeking a spark from any source with the end of the regular season quickly approaching. A legal hit that rippled the boards and sent the recipient slowly toward the bench is one way to light up Cadet Ice Arena.

“One of our keys on the board was to inspire others, so I was like, ‘All right, I’m a little guy, I’ll try and hit somebody,” 5-foot-8 sophomore Walker Sommer said.

Sommer also tried to inspire the traditional way, scoring 35 seconds into the game. The quickest goal of the season was all Air Force wound up needing, as Billy Christopoulos earned every bit of a 22-save shutout in a 3-0 home win over Canisius on Friday night.

The first period has been the Falcons’ weakest statistically, the only one where they’ve been outscored (20-11). After a week off, though, Sommer said they were “chomping at the bit.”

On the Falcons’ first shift, Zach Mirageas brought the puck into the zone on an odd-man rush and fed Kyle Haak. Haak’s shot bounced off the shinguard of a Golden Griffin and straight to Sommer, who beat goaltender Matt Ladd low glove side.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it go in,” Sommer said. “I just saw a little black thing in front of my stick so I hit it as hard as I could.”

The back-breaking goal came in the third period. Sophomore defenseman Alex Mehnert’s first of the season came on an early power play. His initial shot was blocked, but the follow-up eked past Ladd’s skate.

“It’s 2-0, they get it, and and now all you are is a deflected puck ...or a power play away from tying the game,” coach Frank Serratore said. “It seemed to take a lot of wind out of their sails.”

Christopoulos made several big saves to keep the Griffins off the board. He came out of nowhere to deny Canisius off the rush and then threw a leg in the path of another attempt a second later.

“If we play even half as good as we did tonight, we should be able to win if he’s playing like that in the net,” Sommer said.

Haak was thwarted earlier, but right on target during a second-period penalty kill. Matt Pulver took the puck over the blue line and fumbled it, but recovered and fed Haak at the crease. He roofed it for his 12th goal of the season and third in five games.

The Falcons closed ranks to help Christopoulos secure his third shutout of the season.

“I know it means a lot to him and a lot to the boys in front of him,” Mehnert said.

The Falcons’ penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 even without the bonus offense.

Canisius (9-18-3, 6-16-2 Atlantic Hockey) may be in last place in the crowded conference, but finding the net hasn’t been the issue. The Griffins are in the upper half of Atlantic Hockey in scoring. The Falcons (14-11-4, 12-8-3) held them at bay, but never fully relaxed.

“You’re never fully comfortable in a game against them because they’ve got some guys that can be dangerous,” Serratore said.

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