Two weeks ago, when Bentley struggled through two losses to RIT at home at the John A. Ryan Arena, the Falcons looked like a team trending downwards in the second half of Atlantic Hockey. They had lost four in a row and six out of seven games. They had gone from over .500 in league play, a team tied for third or fourth in the league, down to eighth.
Two weeks later, the Falcons are right back in the thick of it.
After taking three points from American International last week, Bentley earned three points the hard way against a Sacred Heart team that almost always plays tough against them. On Friday, Bentley jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Pioneers never really went away. Each time Bentley rallied for a two goal lead, SHU cut it in half.
Up 2-0, Sacred Heart scored 30 seconds later to make it 2-1. When Bentley led 3-1, the next goal came from the Pioneers. Bentley went up 4-2 early in the third but couldn’t hit an empty net goal late to ice the game. They had to play complete hockey on both ends of the ice to come away with two points.
On Saturday, the Falcons needed a rally after giving up the first two points of the game. Justin Danforth scored 3:52 into the game, and another early second period goal by Erlich Doerksen made it 2-0. Buoyed by goaltender Gabe Antoni, the Falcons fought back with a power play goal from Andrew Gladiuk and an early third period goal from Cody DePourcq. Although they took the lead and lost it in about a minute’s time late, it was another earned point for the Falcons.
For the Falcons, back-to-back three point weekends has them out of eighth place and right back in the fight.
Refuse To Lose
No team is better at staving off potential elimination like the RIT Tigers. The defending league champs sat on the verge of losing both games this weekend against Holy Cross. On Friday, they trailed 1-0 for the bulk of the first two periods before going down 2-0 with just over five minutes to go in the game.
With about 90 seconds left in the game, Wayne Wilson pulled goalie Christian Short for an extra attacker. That’s when Todd Skirving led an absolute charge into the Holy Cross zone. Goalie Paul Berrafato came up with the first save, but Caleb Cameron punched the rebound into the net to make it 2-1.
30 seconds later, still with the net empty, the Norrish brothers tied the game when Chase fed Brady for a one-time howitzer knotted the game at 2-2.
The next night, RIT held a 2-1 lead after one but gave up goals to Castan Sommer and Mike Barrett to fall behind 3-2. About a minute and a half after going down by a goal, Chase Norrish did it again, scoring the game-tying goal to tie the game at 3-3.
It wound up being a virtual weekend split since both teams walked away with two points, but the argument could be made that the Tigers truly went out and won the weekend by not dropping points in a huge matchup between teams standing near the top of the AHC.
Here We Go Again
The season’s last month kicks off this week, and pretty much everything is up for grabs. Robert Morris, who ran away with last year’s regular season championship, sat idle this week, allowing RIT and Holy Cross to make up ground thanks to their weekend “split.” While that was happening, Air Force took three points from Canisius, tying them for third place with the Crusaders.
As it stands right now , the top four teams in the league sit within two points of one another. That’s going to have a huge downstream impact, especially with fifth place Mercyhurst sitting three points back.
But it’s not that easy for the Lakers. They’re only two points up on Canisius for the final bye slot, with Bentley one point behind the Golden Griffins. Sacred Heart’s one point at Bentley keeps them in the fight, one point behind the Falcons in eighth place. Four points separate eighth from fifth, with Army three points behind that in ninth.
Further down, nobody’s been mathematically eliminated from home ice, but Niagara can be the first team locked into a first round road series as early as next week. It can happen to AIC as well since the Yellow Jackets are seven points back of Sacred Heart, but a couple of big weekends could claw them back into things.
Regardless, points are critical for more favorable matchups since everyone is within striking distance of someone else over a single weekend’s time. Best way to move ahead? As the late Al Davis would say, “Just win, baby.”