Colorado Springs The Sailors' season ended in a flurry of first-period penalties and Air Academy power play goals as the No. 2 seed Kadets eliminated No. 15 seed Steamboat Springs, 6-2, Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Air Academy (16-2-2) dominated the first period and took a 5-1 lead into intermission. The Kadets went 3 of 4 on the power play and cashed in a shorthanded, 5-on-3 opportunity with 20 seconds left.
Air Academy forward Nick Poynter won the faceoff near the Kadets zone and used his speed to split two Steamboat defenders. He beat them down the ice for the breakaway chance against goalie Jeff Dawes. He scored, making it 5-1.
"I feel very comfortable when we're shorthanded," said Kadets coach Dave Meisinger. "With our speed, we're dangerous when we're down."
It completed a three-goal spurt for the Kadets, who saw the Sailors get back within one, 2-1, with 6:05 left in the first period.
Billy Taylor scored five seconds into a power play off assists from James Stanford and Gregory Ingalls.
It looked like the Sailors (10-7-2) had weathered an early Kadets storm that saw Air Academy put the Steamboat players on their heels right away.
Two Kadet goals were waved off by early whistles before Air Academy even scored.
Taylor Henricks later knocked in a rebound for a 1-0 lead after Dan Gallagher's hard-angle shot ended up in front of Dawes with 11:05 left. Defenseman Blake Wittenberg converted the Kadets' first power play chance, beating Dawes with a high shot with 8:43 remaining.
But penalties and an efficient Kadets power play unit was too much for a flat Sailors squad.
Gallagher made it 3-1 on a power play score with the assist to Henricks (two goals, one assist) with 3:33 left.
Indicative of a game with 32 penalties combined, the Sailors were called for hooking as Gallagher scored, setting up Poynter's first goal and the team's third power play goal with 2:15 left.
"We lost the game in the first period," said Sailors coach Jeff Ruff said. "We told them to come out (for the second period) like they should have at the start."
Kadets goalie Charlie Ruzkowski made a couple big saves in the second period to keep the Sailors from chipping away at the lead and make a game of it. But Air Academy's Henricks scored an unassisted goal with 5:13 left in the second period to make it 6-1.
With 17 seconds left in the game, the Sailors' Cody Fritz was pulled down as he approached the Air Academy net. As players from both teams ended up on top of the Kadets goalie, some pushing and shoving and fisticuffs broke out. As a result, two Sailors - Stanford and Grant Ehrick - and Kadets defenseman Cam Maceau received game misconducts for fighting.
Fritz took a penalty shot and scored for the final 6-2 margin.
Ruff said the referee lost control of the game with inconsistent calls. He said players from both sides took bad penalties as a result.
"He called tight and then he'd let some things go," Ruff said. "The kids didn't know how to play."