COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Sophomore forward and captain Grant Cruikshank recorded his first career hat trick to lead Colorado College to a 4-2 victory over cross-town rival Air Force Monday night in the Faceoff at Falcon Stadium, held at Air Force’s football stadium. It was CC’s second-ever outdoor game and first win outdoors, after falling to Denver in the ‘Battle on Blake’ at Coors Field back in 2016. With the win, the Tigers (10-16-2) completed a sweep of the Falcons (8-17-5) after a 6-2 victory indoors on Friday that secured the Pikes Peak Trophy for CC for a second straight season.
After failing to capitalize on their first power play midway through the opening period, the Tigers broke a scoreless deadlock by striking on their second power play chance of the period. With 6:42 left in the first frame, sophomore defenseman Bryan Yoon hit Cruikshank with a diagonal cross-ice pass on the back door, where Cruikshank redirected the puck into the back of the net to make it 1-0. The score remained that way after the first frame, in which CC held a slight, 10-8 edge in shots.
Colorado College then doubled its lead with 8:11 left in the second stanza when Cruikshank scored his second goal of the game. Yoon fed a streaking Cruikshank down the right side, and while Cruikshank’s initial shot was stopped, he snuck in his own rebound from a sharp angle along the goal line to make it a 2-0 Tiger lead.
The Falcons closed within one in the final minute of the middle period with a power play goal of their own. CC freshman goalie Matt Vernon made the initial stop on a shot from close range, but the rebound popped up and was knocked in by defenseman Brandon Koch to make it a 2-1 game after 40 minutes.
CC restored its two-goal cushion only 3:21 into the final frame when freshman forward Josiah Slavin carried the puck in the zone and left a drop pass for senior forward Chris Wilkie, who one-timed a blast from the right side to make it 3-1. The Falcons answered right back less than two minutes later, however, as Luke Rowe knocked in a loose puck in front of net after Vernon’s initial save led to a rebound and a goal-mouth scramble.
With a minute to play in regulation and Air Force still down 3-2, the Falcons pulled goalie Alex Schilling for an extra attacker. However, soon after, Cruikshank gathered a loose puck and fired it from nearly his own zone into the empty net to complete his hat trick and seal the 4-2 win with 37 seconds left.
The Tigers narrowly outshot the Falcons, 30-29, in the win, including 14-7 in the second period. Vernon finished with 27 saves in net for CC, while Yoon tallied two assists in the victory.
The game was also the NCHC’s final non-conference game of the regular season. NCHC teams finished with a combined record of 49-26-12 in non-conference play this season, with the .632 win percentage tops among the six Division I men’s hockey conferences.
Colorado College is back in action this weekend when they head to Omaha for a pair of conference games. Other NCHC action this weekend includes No. 4/4 Minnesota Duluth at No. 19 Western Michigan, No. 1/1 North Dakota at St. Cloud State and Miami at No. 7/7 Denver. Seven of eight games this weekend can be seen on NCHC.tv, while Friday’s UMD at WMU game is only on CBS Sports Network.