A strong second-half performance carried the third-seeded Air Force lacrosse team to a 14-7 victory over second-seed host Ohio State Thursday evening in the semifinals of the ECAC Tournament. With the win, the Falcons improve to 9-5 on the season, while the Buckeyes finish the year with a 6-8 mark.
Senior Mike Crampton (Kinnelon, N.J.), the 2014 ECAC Offensive Player of the Year, paced the Falcons with five goals, while junior Keith Dreyer (Malvern, Pa.) added a goal and a season-high four assists. In addition, sophomore Christopher Allen (Hillsborough, N.J.) registered his fourth hat trick of the season.
Air Force struck first, getting on the board just 45 seconds into the contest, as Crampton scored off a feed from Tommy McKee (Sr., Holt, Mich.). However, Ohio State tied the game at the 10:32 mark in the first period with a goal from leading scorer Jesse King and took the lead less than a minute later. The Falcons responded with two straight goals to regain the advantage midway through the period, but the Buckeyes scored closed out the quarter with two more goals of their own, including one with 3.2 seconds remaining, to take a 4-3 lead into the second period.
The Falcons tied it up 30 seconds into the second quarter with Crampton’s third goal of the game, while a fast break score by McKee gave Air Force a 5-4 advantage with 12:18 on the clock. Meanwhile, Erik Smith (Sr., Golden, Colo.) pushed the Falcons’ lead to 6-4 with a bouncer midway through the period. Ohio State was able to end its scoring drought with a goal at the 2:45 mark, as the Falcons went into the locker room with a 6-5 advantage.
After the break, the Falcons got another quick goal, getting a man-up score from Allen at the 14:36 mark. Air Force continued to extend its advantage, tallying four straight scores to take an 11-5 lead with 5:04 remaining in the third period. While Ohio State finally got back on the board with less than three minutes remaining in the quarter, the Falcons headed into the final stanza with an 11-6 lead.
Air Force didn’t let up in the fourth quarter, with Kyle Cassady (Sr., Upper Arlington, Ohio) scoring the first goal of the period to give the Falcons a 12-6 advantage. The Buckeyes got another goal from King less than two minutes later, but Dreyer pushed Air Force’s lead back to six goals with his lone score of the day. The final tally of the game came from Allen with just over four minutes to play, as the Falcons cruised to the seven-point victory.
The Falcons held a slight edge in both shots and ground balls, and won 15-of-22 face-offs, including 10-of-12 in the opening half. Smith, who finished the game with two goals and an assist, won 6-of-7 draws, while senior Bryan Price (Denver, Colo.) won 8-of-14 at the X. Air Force’s man-down defense was perfect, holding Ohio State scoreless on four extra-man opportunities. Additionally, sophomore netminder Doug Gouchoe (Concord, Mass.) had a stellar performance between the pipes in the second half, recording eight saves and allowing just two goals.
Air Force now advances to the ECAC Championship game, where it will face top-seed Fairfield, currently ranked 12th in the nation. The winner of the game, which is slated to begin at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 3, will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.