DURHAM, N.C. — An explosive fourth quarter propelled Air Force past No. 7 Duke, 14-13, in a Saturday afternoon nail-biter at Koskinen Stadium, marking the third victory for the Falcons in the last four meetings with the Blue Devils.
Freshman attacker Brandon Dodd left a lasting impression in his collegiate debut, registering eight points by way of four goals and four assists on the day. Junior teammate Quincy Peene also had a career day, notching a career-best five points with four goals and an assist. The Dodd-Peene feat marked the first time that Air Force has posted double-hat tricks against the ACC heavyweight.
Sophomore midfielder Brendan Crouse set a career-high mark with a pair of goals while teammates Jake Thornally, Ethan Grandolfo, Doc Szlachetka and Chase Douglas tallied a goal apiece.
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Air Force's offensive productivity was only half the battle. The fortitude of the Falcons' defense behind goal keeper and co-team captain Braden Host culminated in victory. Host, a native of Aurora, Colorado, recorded 17 saves on the day, posting a .567 save percentage. Host holds up to his tendency of stepping up in the big games — the last time Host had 17 saves was against No. 8 Denver in last year's season-opener. His career-high mark is 19 saves, registered against 2018 national champs, Yale, who were ranked second in the nation when they played Air Force last year.
Preseason All-SoCon defender Quentin Carlile anchored the Air Force defense along with senior defender Daniel Pagano. Carlile and Pagano scooped up four and three ground balls, respectively, and registered two caused turnovers each.
Sophomore face off man Brian Michael had his work cut out for him in his debut at the face off dot, winning seven of 19 attempts, including a victory in the final face off of the game to prevent the Blue Devils' from a final offensive opportunity.
The Blue Devils put the Falcons on their heels early behind CJ Carpenter, who scored two of Duke's first five goals, propelling the perennial powerhouse to a 5-0 lead by the 7-minute mark. Peene, a 6'4'' junior midfielder, took charge and put an end to the run with a goal on the five-minute mark assisted by Dodd. Duke hastily responded with their sixth goal but was met with a pair of Air Force goals soon after, made possible by Dodd, who was proving to be a key facilitator. The freshman out of Logan, Utah, assisted Peene with a smooth behind-the-back feed for the second goal, then assisted Brendan Crouse for Air Force's third goal, cutting the Blue Devils' lead to 6-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Crouse rolled the momentum into the second quarter with a goal at the 12:42 mark, this time behind Peene's assist for the Falcons' fourth goal, coming within two goals of the lead. Duke settled in and slung two goals by junior keeper Host — Owen Caputo scoring his first, followed by Joey Manown's second at the 6:42 mark. Undeterred, Peene went back on the attack, notching his third goal for his first career hat trick, assisted by sophomore midfielder Douglas. The Blue Devils went on to score one more goal before the halftime horn, hitting the locker room with a 9-5 lead.
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The Falcons took the field with fire in their eyes in the second half, netting three straight goals to cut Duke's lead to one, 9-8. Air Force's Dodd was the first to strike out of the break, netting his first collegiate goal and tallying his fourth point of the game, assisted by junior midfielder Matthew O'Rourk. Dodd, running on JP-8 jet fuel, needed no assistance punching in his second goal at the 10:28 mark. Freshman teammate Ethan Grandolfo, who clearly believed it was his time to shine, punched in his first collegiate goal in an unassisted attack at the 10:03 mark.
All the while, Host was brick-walling the cage, snagging six saves against 13 Blue Devil shots in the third quarter alone. Duke's Manown managed to squeak one by at the 8:25 mark to give the Blue Devils a two-goal cushion, 10-8.
With two-minutes remaining in the third quarter, frosh force multiplier Brandon Dodd, was back at it again, this time feeding Chase Douglas for Air Force's ninth goal, bringing the Falcons within one. Duke's Cameron Badour re-extended the lead with his second goal just under a minute later, sending the Falcons and Blue Devils into the final quarter at 11-9.
Dodd, now a man possessed, opened the fourth quarter with a feed from Air Force standout defender, Quentin Carlile, in which Dodd redirected the rubber to the nylon, notching his hat trick goal and seventh point of the game to bring the Falcons back within one, 11-10. Duke's Badour saw Dodd's hat trick and matched with one of his his own, lifting Duke to a two-goal lead. Staying close on the Blue Devils' pointy little tails, Colorado Springs product Jake Thornally scored an unassisted goal at the 10:09 mark.
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The long-awaited equalizer finally came at the 7:23 mark when the Falcons' veteran defender, Szlachetka, sent a high-bouncer past the Duke keeper, scoring his first career goal in style. The Falcons were electric and Duke was in trouble. Peene capitalized on the momentum and rocketed in his fourth goal of the day to assume the lead, 13-12, marking a career-best scoring performance for the native of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Dodd, with all of Utah standing behind him, willed his way to the cage and punched in the insurance goal with 48 seconds remaining in the game, lifting Air Force to two-goal lead, 14-12. In a frantic effort, Duke's Dyson Williams managed to score a goal with seven seconds left in regulation. With the game on the line and seven tics to go, sophomore face off man Brian Michael, with the help of Szlachetka, secured the face-off win along with the upset victory of the ACC heavyweight, 14-13.
Up next, Air Force hosts the perennial powerhouse and long-time rival, University of Denver, at 1 p.m. MT, Saturday (Feb. 8), at USAFA. The Falcons, who typically host opponents at the U.S. Air Force Academy's esteemed Falcon Stadium, will instead host the Pioneers at Cadet Lacrosse Stadium, leaving Falcon Stadium clear for the 2020 NHL Stadium Series, which is set to take place February 15, between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.