Win No. 400 was in doubt, until it very much wasn’t.
A pinball-like first period gave way to target practice, as Air Force ruled a five-goal third and won 7-2. The bloated final score will go down as head coach Frank Serratore’s 400th victory at Air Force.
It was wildly uncharacteristic of this 2019-20 squad, which was has struggled to score, as expected.
“It’s nice I didn’t have to have a nervous breakdown in a 3-2 third game or some darn thing like that,” Serratore said. “It’s a number. What’s more important is that it’s (win) No. 5 for our team. Hopefully we get No. 6 tomorrow.
“I’m just the beneficiary of having some hard-working, determined, willing players and an outstanding, blue-chip coaching staff.”
It was an outlier for other reasons too, as four of the six goals were scored by defensemen. Two were first career goals from freshmen Brandon Koch and Andrew Kruse.
“I can’t ever remember - 40 years, 22 or whatever I’ve been here - four different defensemen scoring in a game?” Serratore recalled. “I don’t even remember three defensemen scoring in a game.”
The Falcons (5-8-2, 5-4-2 Atlantic Hockey) raced out of the second period break and never let up. Captain Matt Pulver sent in the game-winner a minute and a half into the third period. He put the initial shot on goal, then chased down the rebound and tried again.
Zach Mirageas, Air Force’s 3-on-3 overtime hero last Saturday, tied the game at 2 in the second period with a bomb from the point. It came two seconds too late to count for the Falcons’ power play, second-worst in the country (4 of 60) going into Friday’s game.
There was no arguing with Koch’s first goal at Air Force, which came from the point during a third-period man advantage to make it 4-2.
“It was pretty exciting,” Koch said. “I beat my big brother (former Air Force co-captain Matt) before he got his first goal, so I can’t complain.”
Marshall Bowery, Jake Levin and Brady Tomlak padded the lead. Alex Mehnert added three assists and Mirageas and Pulver tacked on two each. Alex Schilling made 18 saves.
“Just got to keep plugging away and maybe get a little help from the forwards tomorrow night,” Mirageas said.
As memorable as the third period was, the first was forgettable. Deflections contributed to all three goals, two of which went to Holy Cross.
Schilling was well out of the cage and got tangled up with a teammate. Alex Peterson sensed what was happening and sent a backhand into the empty net that went off an Air Force defender.
Right off a faceoff, Air Force threw it around and took a point shot through traffic. It glanced off at least one Crusader. Flailing goaltender Matt Radomsky (15 saves) couldn’t locate it as it creeped slowly toward the net and freshman Kruse was credited with his first.
Holy Cross (3-9-3, 2-8-1 Atlantic Hockey) went up 2-1 when a puck headed wide deflected off a Falcon. Pete Kessel roofed it.
“We used the bouncing pucks to our advantage come the third period,” Koch said.
“We realized pretty early on that they were packing five guys into the blue paint so we were trying to get pucks low to high, put them on net and hope for the best.”