USAFA, Colo. – The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team eliminated a two-goal deficit early in the second period, but Air Force freshman forward Tony Thomas gave the Falcons the lead back with just 53 second remaining the frame, with the eventual game-winner of a 7-5 decision for AFA in game one of the Atlantic Hockey Association Quarterfinals.
The Pioneers grabbed the first lead of the evening on a score by freshman forward Torin Snydeman (Groton, Mass.). Delong set up the goal with a shot on goal that Snydeman picked up the rebound behind the net and sent it in off the back of Air Force freshman goaltender Jason Torf. Sophomore forward John Kruse answered immediately for the Falcons with his 10th goal of the season just 19 seconds later, with a backhander over the shoulder of SHU senior goalie Olivier St. Onge (Wickham, Que.).
Air Force built a two-goal lead with goals from freshman forward George Michalke and senior captain Jacques Lamoureux only 35 second apart from each other, chasing St. Onge from the game.
Midway through the period, junior forward Matt Gingera (Winnipeg, Man.) stole the puck at center ice and skated in two on one, looking for sophomore forward Tommy Castonguay (Rimouski, Que.), but his pass deflected into the goal for his 20th score of the season. Only 26 seconds later, the Falcons pushed the lead back to two when senior forward Sean Bertsch fired home a shot, off the rebound of a shot taken by freshman linemate Ryan Timar.
Late in the first, sophomore defenseman Mitchell Stretch (Saskatoon, Sask.) lineup up a shot from the blue line, on the power play, and classmate Kyle Verbeek (Bloomfield, Minn.) crashed to the net to pull the Pioneers within one going into the first intermission.
In the second period, Lamoureux tallied his second score of the game, on the man advantage, to give Air Force a 5-3 lead just 35 seconds into the frame. At the 3:18 mark of the period, senior captain Patrick Knowlton (Colorado Springs, Colo.) put a shot on goal that landed in front of junior linemate Anthony Yelovich (Little Falls, N.J.) who rifled the puck into the net to cut the lead in half. Less than three minutes later, Knowlton put another shot on net, this time it was Gingera waiting on the doorstep to knock in his second of the night and bring the two teams even at 5-5.
Leading 6-5 in the third period, Air Force controlled the tempo allowing just six shots on goal for SHU. With only 3:58 to play in the game, sophomore forward Kyle De Laurell sealed the victory for the Falcons with his 10th game of the year.
Sophomore netminder Steven Legatto (Kelowna, B.C.) came on in relief and provided 28 saves, while allowing four goals in 53:14. St. Onge totaled six saves and three goals allowed in his third straight start. For Air Force, Torf provided 11 saves and gave up all five goals in 26:09. Junior Steven Caple, who has not given up a goal to the Pioneers in over 65 minutes of play this season, was perfect in relief stopping all 12 shots he faced.
The Falcons dominated the shots on goal for the game 41-18, including 18-12 in their four-goal first period. On special teams, SHU converted on 2-3 power plays and held AFA to 1-4.
The Pioneers and Falcons take to the ice again tomorrow night at 7:05 pm MST for game two in this best-of-three series at Cadet Ice Rink.