COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Trailing by one, Nathan Duchez (San Jose, Calif.) forced sudden-death with a goal with under a minute to play in overtime, but Air Force (8-3) converted a five-meter opportunity for the golden goal to edge No. 20 Navy (4-4), 13-12, to win the Freedom Vase on Thursday night in Cadet Natatorium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Credit: Navy Athletics

“Tonight was tough for us, but it was an incredible game,” head coach Luis Nicolao said. “The atmosphere was tremendous. Both teams respect each other greatly, but both want to win the Freedom Vase and have bragging rights. This game used to be played at a neutral site, but both teams decided to move the game back to the campuses. We had a great crowd last year, and Air Force had a great crowd tonight. We didn’t get the win we wanted, but games like this, in this type of atmosphere, make this sport and this rivalry so awesome.”

Offensively, nine different Midshipmen combined to score 12 goals. Rory Begin (Bakersfield, Calif.), Tommy McKnew (Tiburon, Calif.), and Connor Simpson (San Rafael, Calif.) led the way with two scores apiece. It was the fifth time McKnew scored two or more goals this season, while it was the second time for Simpson. It was the first multi-goal game of the freshman’s career for Begin.

Duchez, Jake Altmayer (Pasadena, Calif.), Will Clark (Laguna Beach, Calif.), Michael Heller (Menlo Park, Calif.), Chris Kim (Los Angeles, Calif.), and Ivan Pang (El Monte, Calif.) added a score apiece.

Caden Capobianco (Laguna Beach, Calif.) took the hard-luck loss, working a complete game between the posts. The goalkeeper posted 13 saves in the game while adding three steals and an assist.

In the first quarter, Heller opened the scoring to give Navy an early advantage. Air Force answered with a pair of scores to take a 2-1 lead into the first break.

The Falcons pushed their advantage to 3-1, but back-to-back scores by Kim and Begin knotted the game at three. The home team regained the lead with a goal, but Altmayer and Simpson found the back of the net to send the game into halftime with Navy in front, 5-4.

The third quarter saw Air Force rattle off three consecutive goals to retake a two-goal advantage, 7-5. Simpson stopped the run with his second goal of the contest, but the Falcons answered to push the edge back to a pair. Pang trimmed the margin to one, but the home team once again had an answer. Clark scored with one tick remaining on the clock to send the game to the fourth quarter with Navy within one, 9-8.

Air Force extended its advantage to 10-8 midway through the fourth quarter, but McKnew and Begin scored back-to-back goals in the final 90 seconds of regulation to knot the score at 10-10 and send the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Falcons were the first to score, but McKnew evened the game at 11-11. The home team regained the advantage, but Duchez knotted the score at 12-12 and forced sudden death.

With under two minutes to play in sudden-death overtime, Navy was whistled for a penalty, setting Air Force up for a five-meter opportunity. Senior Grant Snyder slipped the penalty shot past Capobianco to secure the Freedom Vase for the Falcons.

Navy continues its West Coast trip at the 2022 Aggie Roundup in Davis, Calif. The Midshipmen play No. 3 USC (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET), Occidental (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET), and No. 10 San Jose State (Sunday, 12:15 p.m. ET). Live video and stats will be available for each game of the tournament.

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