At the Inland Empire Classic the No. 16 ranked Air Force Falcons men's water polo team went 3-1, as expected, with their only loss coming in a 15-10 defeat by the hands of the No. 9 ranked Long Beach St. 49ers. The other three wins were conference games that came against Redlands, Chapman and Claremont-Mudd Scripps.
The opening game for Air Force was against Redlands who the Falcons easily defeated 13-8. In this game Air Force rushed out to a 5-2 lead after the first quarter and led 8-4 at the half, and never looked back. This game Air Force had just enough cushion to not let Redlands get back in this game.
Junior Andrew Hamilton led the Falcons in scoring with three goals on Saturday morning, but the scoring was evenly spread out as six other players had at least one goal. Goal keeper Mike Fish had a great weekend, and against Redlands he recorded 10 stops in just three periods of action.
Game 2 on Saturday was against Chapman with this result being near the same as the Falcons won 15-8. This was also a blowout from the start where Air Force scored five first quarter goals were up 8-4 at the half. Josh Stedman paced the Falcons with six goals in this game -- he would end up scoring 12 at the tournament.
The two games on Sunday were much closer as Air Force edged out Claremont-Mudd Scripps 8-7. This could have been a case of looking ahead to Long Beach State later in the day. Air Force struggled on their power play chances where they went 1-for-10 in the game, and had they even shot 40 percent the game would not have been close. Fish had another great game in the cage by stopping 11 shots in the narrow victory.
The gane that would challenge Air Force the most would be the final game of the tournament where they faced off against No. 9 Long Beach State out of the MPSF. Air Force fell behind very quickly from the get go where they trailed 4-1 after one period, and then were losing 7-3 at the half. The game was looking to be a blowout before Air Force made a huge run in the third quarter to get back in this game.
The Falcons converted both power play chances en route to scoring five goals in the quarter to only three for the 49ers. Air Force had a chance to score six goals in the quarter but they missed a huge opportunity when a 5-meter penalty shot was missed. Had Air Force made that early in the third quarter the game could have come down to the wire.
Heading into the fourth quarter Air Force trailed 10-8, but Long Beach State scored right away to push the lead back up to three goals. Stedman responded for Air Force to get back within two goals, but that is as close as Air Force would get. Long Beach State would outscore Air Force 4-1 over the last 5:31 in the game to defeat the Falcons 15-10.
Air Force was putting up a ton of shots against Long Beach State, but goalie Balint Meszaros came up huge and blocked 15 Falcons shots in their victory.
While it would have been good for Air Force to upset Long Beach State, the weekend tournament was a success as they are 3-0 in league play.
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