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Air Force Falcons forward Kieran Durgan (88) fights off Niagara Purple Eagles forward Alex Truscott (22) while skating down the ice Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, during the first period at the Cadet Ice Arena on Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Air Force Falcons surged in the third period with four goals to briefly lead Sacred Heart on Friday night, but gave up a quick goal on overtime to lose.

Air Force entered the game against the Pioneers short-handed after the school announced that three players faced sanctions for alleged violations of academy rules.

Kieran Durgan and Keegan Mantaro have been suspended and Carter Ekberg has been removed from the team for not adhering to school standards, according to an academy spokesman. All three are sophomores.

They are still enrolled at the academy.

The loss drops Air Force to 8-13-4 on the year despite getting goals from four different players and a stellar night for freshman Brandon Koch, who logged two assists for eight on the season.

The Falcons will miss Durgan, who is third on the team in scoring. He was Air Force’s Freshman of the Year last season after tying for the team lead with 12 goals. He ranked among the national leaders in goals (12) and game-winners (three) by a freshman. He remained a consistent contributor as a sophomore with six goals and seven assists in 24 games.

The St. John’s, Mich., native was named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week on Nov. 11.

Ekberg, a defenseman, has appeared in 21 games this season. The McMurray, Pa. native scored his first career goal in November.

Keegan Mantaro would have brought a year’s experience to the young Falcons, but according to an academy spokesman, he was a cadet not in good standing as of early January.

The sophomore blueliner out of Monument, whose father played at Air Force, hasn’t played this season. He appeared in 32 games as a freshman and had one assist.

The remaining Falcons had to contend with Sacred Heart sophomore Austin McIlmurray, who pulled off a hat trick including a tying power-play goal in the third and the game-winner in overtime to give him 17 on the season.

Falcons freshman Luke Rowe netted his first-ever goal.

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