(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)
Tyler Ledferd’s two goals and Billy Christopoulous’ 39 save effort against the number one overall seed St. Cloud State Huskies was enough to provide the upset. Air Force used two empty net goals to make the final margin 4-1. Blake Lizotte provided the only tally for St. Cloud on a feed from Patrick Newell 17:09 into the third. Air Force struck for its first empty net goal from Jordan Himley 1:17 after the Lizotte goal. Kyle Haak added the final empty net tally to provide the 4-1 final score.
This was the second time in history that a number 16 overall seed has defeated the number one overall seed.The last time this happened, RIT defeated Minnesota State Mankato in the 2015 tournament.
Early on, this game was a defensive chess match. Both teams did not generate a lot of shots on the opposing netminder early on. The best early chance came from Evan Giesler early on for the Falcons. Neither team could score in the first period.
2:57 into the second period, Tyler Ledford swatted a puck out of mid air and past St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak to open up the scoring. The play would get reviewed for a high stick but ended up counting. The call was so close, even Ledford was not sure if it would count. Since the call on the ice was a good goal, it was not overturned since the evidence was not conclusive despite the long review time.
A few minutes later, Ledford would strike again. This time he redirected a Matt Koch pass past David Hrenak to make it a 2-0 game 6:29 into the second. From that point on, St. Cloud State generated the majority of its chances. They utilized their team speed to generate different looks from multiple angles.
It would not matter.
The Falcons played a defensively superb third period, and limited second and third chances. They also guarded the front of the net well, and eliminated a lot of the backdoor scoring plays St. Cloud State likes to utilize with its superb speed. The Falcons blocked 29 of the 78 attempted shots from St. Cloud State on the evening. They did just enough to limit the Huskies when it mattered, and capitalized on the rare St. Cloud State mistakes.
For Air Force to have a chance tomorrow, they will have to face a fast team in Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State Mankato once again and need to replicate the game they played today. If the Falcons can help their dialed in netminder Christopoulos see the puck well, who knows what could happen tomorrow. Since Air Force scores a lot by comitee, whomever it faces has to utilize its speed early, and generate traffic in front of Christopoulos. If they can do that, then they can score before the Falcons’ netminder settles in. If not, then the winner of game two tonight could be in for the same fate tomorrow as St. Cloud State was tonight.