Slow starts have doomed Air Force in recent memory, and that was the case again Friday.

Visiting Holy Cross scored in the game’s first five minutes and held on for a 4-1 win. The Falcons are 0-4-1 in their last five outings.

“We can’t start games that way,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “I thought we played 50 pretty good minutes of hockey.”

Air Force got into trouble right after puck drop.

The Falcons turned the puck over in their defensive zone, leading to a handful of Holy Cross shots. While the Crusaders didn’t score on that possession, they did a few minutes later.

Mitchell Digby committed what Serratore called a “silly, avoidable” major penalty. And two minutes into their power play, the Crusaders scored.

To the Falcons credit, they didn’t let the early goal stymy their game plan. Air Force recorded more than 50 attempts in the first two periods.

The problem? The Crusaders were impenetrable in their d-zone.

Air Force had several promising chances, but none of them fell. The combination of Holy Cross’ stingy blocking and excellence from goalie Jason Grande made it hard for the Falcons to claw back.

“We were just getting our shots blocked,” senior defenseman Willie Reim said. “We were carrying the flow of the game, and we just have to take that, know that we’re there and capitalize on it next time.”

In addition to Holy Cross’ efficiency in the d-zone, the Falcons didn’t get any friendly bounces.

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“We need to get some puck luck. We need a puck to hit something and go in, and we didn’t get that,” Serratore said.

Holy Cross scored again in the third period on another power play. But once again, the Falcons didn’t give up.

Junior forward Will Gavin put Air Force on the board with 2:38 left in the game.

The Falcons pulled goaltender Guy Blessing with under two minutes remaining to give them an extra skater. Holy Cross scored two empty-net goals shortly after to seal its three-goal win.

Realistically, Serratore believes his team could’ve won handily if it started off better. The Falcons wouldn’t have been playing catch up and never would have been in an empty-net situation.

But that’s hockey and all hypothetical.

“We were dominant for 50 minutes, but as a result of the start, we were chasing the scoreboard,” Serratore said. “We did a lot of things well, but it was too little, too late.”

Air Force has won just one point in its last five games. The Falcons look to break their losing streak in game two of the Holy Cross series at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Between their recent struggles and a nearly month-long break after the HC series, Serratore sees Saturday as a must-win.

“Where do we go from here? We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Serratore said. “We have to come back tomorrow. It has to be 60 minutes, not 50.”

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