DENVER, Colo. – In their second-straight NCAA first-round appearance the Falcons, with a final 2017 record of 12-6, fell to the University of Denver, 17-10, Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Grant Gould led the Falcons with a hat trick performance while freshmen Matthew Schwartz and Chet Dunstan tallied two apiece.
Freshman attack man Schwartz was the first to add his name to the NCAA first-round scorebook with rocket from Chris Walsch's assist at the 10:09 mark. Denver was quick to respond, rattling off three consecutive goals in five minutes. The Falcons displayed excellent passing ability in their first-period possessions; moving the ball precisely and patiently. It was Gould who would end the Pioneer's score-streak; shaking his defender with a hard dodge followed up with a laser beam into the Denver nylon for an unassisted goal. Denver led at the close of the first period, 3-2.
Denver continued to push the pace into the second period, netting two goals in the first two minutes. Cameron Carter responded with his 11th goal of the season in an unassisted attack with a rocket to the top shelf of Denver's cage. Denver's Ethan Walker punched in his first goal of the game at four minutes remaining to close the half with a six-to-three lead.
The Pioneers took the field in the third quarter looking to keep the Falcons against the ropes; however, both defenses appeared to slow as 11 goals were scored by both teams over the period. In the first face-off of the second half the leading face-off man in the nation, Trevor Baptiste, took a downfield stride after winning the face-off attempt and punched in his first goal of the game. He netted his second goal of the quarter in very similar fashion following Connor Cannizzaro's first goal for the Pioneers.
Gould responded with his second goal of the game in an unassisted attack, cutting the Pioneers' lead to five. Denver answered with a goal from Walker, his second of the game to re-extend to a six-point difference. In back-and-forth action, Schwartz netted his second goal in another unassisted attack on the Pio's cage. Trent Harper, the Falcons' face-off specialist who has the highest face-off win-percentage in the SoCon, won the ensuing face-off attempt and charged downfield to punch in his first goal of the game, cutting the Denver lead to four. The Pioneers responded with two consecutive goals to extend the lead, 12-6.
With 1:43 remaining in the third period, Gould registered a hat trick in his third unassisted goal of the game, finalizing his goal count at 27 for the season. Denver's Colton Jackson made the final strike of the period to extend the Pioneers' lead, 13-7.
The Pioneers continued the high-powered attack into the final period, netting three-straight goals to extend to a 16-7 lead with 7:21 remaining in the first-round matchup. Undeterred,Austin Smith cocked-back and fired off a rocket for his first goal of the game; the senior team captain finished the season with 13 goals, totaling 46 on his career slate. Denver's Max Planning punched in his hat trick goal in response to the Falcons' goal. The final two goals of the game were netted by Air Force's freshman attacker Chet Dunstan with feeds from Josh Radjenovich and Walsch. Dunstan concludes his freshman season with five goals; second-most of all freshmen behind teammate, Schwartz. The first-round NCAA game finalized at 17-10.
"I'm tremendously proud of this group of guys," exclaimed head coach Eric Seremet. "Especially this senior class; they were the most-winning class in program history and they have laid the foundation for something great."
Denver will head to the University of Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., to compete in the quarter-finals against the winner of Sunday's first round matchup between fourth-seeded Notre Dame and Marquette. The quarter-finals game will be played on Saturday, May 20, at noon and 2:00 p.m. ET.