HOUSTON, Texas – Air Force sophomore midfielder Erik Smith won the opening face-off of overtime and scored the game-winning goal himself just seven seconds into the extra session as the Falcons rallied to a 9-8 win over Army on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Barnhart Stadium on the campus of The Kinkaid School.
Senior long stick midfielder Tim Henderson’s lazer with 2:14 to play in the game gave the Black Knights an 8-7 advantage, but Air Force (3-2) would force overtime with its eighth goal of the game thanks to Tommy McKee with just six seconds left in regulation. The teams broke before starting the overtime period and it was Air Force’s Smith coming up with the heroic finish in front of a crowd of more than 2,500 spectators on the collegiate preparatory school campus.
Junior attackman Garrett Thul and senior attackman Conor Hayes paced Army (3-4) with two goals apiece. Henderson, senior middie Devin Lynch, junior attackman Andrew Boyd and junior middie Pat Brennan each scored single goals in the setback. Senior goalkeeper Zach Palmieri made 10 saves.
Army controlled much of the first half from a statistical standpoint, but the Falcons responded with five of the final eight goals of the game to steal the victory. The Black Knights held a 38-30 edge in shots, which included a 22-13 halftime advantage. Army also won the ground ball battle, 28-25.
Senior midfielder Derek Sipperly won the lion’s share of the first half face-offs and finished 12-of-19 in the “x.” Air Force won the only face-off of overtime, which resulted in the Smith’s game-winning goal.
In a game that featured five ties throughout, the Black Knights got on the board with the first two goals of the game as both Hayes (9:33) and Thul (8:18) scored unassisted midway through the first quarter. Hayes converted a long Army possession into his 10th goal of the year, while Thul created for himself just over a minute later.
Air Force answered with three of the final four goals of the first frame to level the score at 3-3 after the first 15 minutes of play. Hayes netted his second goal of the day after scooping up the ground ball on an Army misfire and finding the back of the net at the 3:32 mark of the first half.
A hungry Black Knights team emerged from the locker room and broke the tie just 1:17 into the third quarter as Boyd came up with this sixth goal of the season with a point-blank shot. Freshman midfielder John Glesener fed Brennan for Army’s first of two man-up goals with 8:37 on the clock. Brennan’s second goal of the season gave the Black Knights a 5-3 advantage, which matched their largest lead of the day.
Air Force responded with two unanswered goals spanning the third and fourth quarters as the Falcons tied the score at 5-5 with 8:43 left in regulation. Army went man-up on its next possession and Lynch converted on a rebound shot with 7:42 on the clock as the Black Knights went back on top.
Army’s lead was short-lived, however, as Air Force leveled the game at 6-6 just 11 seconds later. That score would stand until midway through the fourth quarter when the Falcons took a 7-6 lead on Ryan De Pol’s goal with 6:47 on the clock. Thul netted his second goal of the day and 22nd of the season on a 15-yard shot with 3:46 to play. Sipperly won the next face-off and Henderson took the ball into the box. The Tully, N.Y., native launched a rocket past Air Force goalkeeper Austin Fox with 2:14 to play. Henderson’s goal gave Army its final lead, 8-7, of the game.
Saturday’s game marked Army’s final tune-up before Patriot League play begins next weekend. The Black Knights travel to No. 16/15 Lehigh for a St. Patrick’s Day showdown in Bethlehem, Pa.
Game Notes: Senior James MacGibbon carried out the American flag and earned the start in his home state … he is a native of Plano, Texas … Army leads the all-time series against Air Force, 16-2 … Garrett Thul extended his goal-scoring streak to 31 games … Army went 17-of-18 in the clearing game and converted two of its four EMO chances … Air Force, which had failed to convert just one man-up chance this season, went 2-of-8 when EMO.