Pioneers Fall 5-3 in Series Finale to Air Force

Pioneers Fall 5-3 in Series Finale to Air Force

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—The Sacred Heart men's ice hockey team was unable to stop a five-goal run by Air Force, falling 5-3 in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.  The Pioneers (3-9-2, 1-6-2 AHA) held a 2-0 lead in the early minutes of the second period before the Falcons (7-6-3, 3-5-2 AHA) tallied five consecutive goals in the final two periods at Webster Bank Arena.

Sophomores Austin McIlmurray & Vito Bavaro along with freshman Matt Tugnutt scored for SHU on the afternoon. Four Pioneers recorded assists, led by sophomore Ruslan Rakhmatov with his second multi-assist game of the year. Senior Nathan Perry registered 26 saves against the Falcons attack 

Turning Point… 

SHU opened the scoring for the third straight game with McIlmurray's fourth goal of the season just under the halfway point in the opening period. The Pioneers strong puck movement continued into the second as Tugnutt recorded the second goal at 1:58 in the second.

That two-goal lead didn't last long as Air Force tied the game up with two goals in 39 seconds starting at 4:15 on the shorthanded goal by Jonathan Kopacka. Matt Serratore tied the game at 4:54 for the Falcons. The Air Force attack tallied three additional goals, one more in the second and two in the third to take the 5-2 lead.

Looking for a late comeback like yesterday, SHU picked up its third goal of the game at 12:19 in the third as Bavaro buried the open look from Zach Tsekos. The Pioneers were unable to get any momentum going thanks to a late penalty and registering just two shots on Billy Christopoulos over the remaining 7:21 to hold the final at 5-3.

How They Scored… 

9:24 - 1st Period: SHU 1, Air Force 0: The Pioneers went on the attack pushing into the Falcons zone. Captain Mike Crocock drove to the back wall down the right side. He dumped his pass back into the slot for McIlmurray who was wide open to bury the puck into the top left corner.  

1:58 - 2nd Period: SHU 2, Air Force 0: SHU continued to move the puck in the Air Force zone as Cotton worked the cross-ice pass to Rakmatov at the right point. The defenseman ripped a shot on goal as Tugnutt was net front looking for a screen. The rookie got his stick on the puck to tip-in his third goal of the season. 

4:15 - 2nd Period: SHU 2, Air Force 1: Sacred Heart earned the man advantage just under a minute after its second goal. The Pioneers kept working the puck along the perimeter before it was turned over by Jordan Himley. He fed the puck ahead to Kopacka breakaway trail for the goal.

4:54 - 2nd Period: SHU 2, Air Force 2: After the same penalty expired, Kyle Mackey raced out of the box as SHU was caught on a change. Serratore picked up the puck in the neutral zone and traded give and go passes with Mackey before burying the puck on the left side.

9:32 - 2nd Period: Air Force 3, SHU 2: The Falcons power play unit went to work on the tail end of a SHU cross-checking penalty. Ben Kucera drove in from the left side to behind the net. He sent a pass out to Matt Koch just outside the right circle. His shot was blocked by Perry but Evan Giesler was there for the rebound goal.

0:43 - 3rd Period: Air Force 4, SHU 2: Air Force picked up the puck after SHU won the opening draw as Koch drove into the SHU zone. He sent a shot in on goal from deep along the left side that was poked away by Perry. But Giesler crashed on the backside for the rebound and game winner at the doorstep.

11:45 3rd Period: Air Force 5, SHU 2 – The Falcons fifth unanswered goal came off the shot from the right point by Zack Mirageas. Perry got the left pad on the puck but it trickled out to the bottom left for Erich Jaeger to chip in the fifth goal.

12:19 - 3rd Period: Air Force 5, SHU 3 -  The Pioneers worked the numbers advantage on the three-on-two rush as Tsekos received the puck from Marcus Joseph in neutral ice. The sophomore hit his line mate on the trail in the middle of the slot to end the Falcons five-goal run.

Key Stats & Notes…

  • Tsekos has registered an assist in three straight games.
  • Bavaro also now owns a three-game point streak, picking up two goals in that span.
  • Rakhmatov is now tied with Marc Johnstone for the team lead with eight helpers on the season.
  • SHU committed six penalties for the second time this week with several coming in on mistakes in the offensive zone.

Up Next…

The Pioneers travel to Mercyhurst for the final road series of the fall semester. Game one will be Friday, December 1 at 7:05 p.m.