Bentley’s magical carpet ride of a season continued to gain steam as the Falcons scored four unanswered goals in a 5-4 come-from-behind over Iona Friday night. A trio of third period goals capped the comeback in the space of 3:44.
“We’re a young team and this has been one of our best wins this year,” Falcon coach Ryan Soderquist said. “We’re down 4-1 and we come back and win the game. I think it’s a huge step for our guys and our program this year.”
Bentley’s win, combined with Holy Cross’ Friday night victory over Canisius, places the Falcons in a tie for third place in the MAAC with the Crusaders.
Co-captain Marcus Willy, only one of two seniors on the young Bentley squad, agreed with his coach and former teammate.
“We were down two goals going into the third and the win is a big lift for our team. It helps us out going into the playoff stretch,” the Marshfield, Mass. native said.
Conversely, the loss was a hard one for the Gaels to stomach given the fact they were unable to protect a two-goal third period lead against AIC two weeks ago.
“Bentley came out in the third period and put some pressure on us with their work ethic [and] we just couldn’t handle it,” a dejected Iona coach Frank Bretti said. “Give Bentley credit. They got us down in the third period and we folded.”
The Falcons opened the game looking to set a physical tone on the night. Bentley was looking to hit anything and everything in maroon and gold.
“We knew that Iona is one of the most talented squads in the league. We knew there was going to be physical play so we had to be ready for that,” commented Soderquist.
Just when it looked like the teams would be play a scoreless first period, Bentley capitalized on an Iona miscue on a Gaels power play. Defenseman Ryan Swanson was unable to corral a loose puck at the Bentley blue line and that enabled Jeremy Chase to score his first collegiate goal on an unassisted breakaway at 16:36.
An Iona carry-over power play provided the impetus for the Gaels best 10 minutes of hockey at the start of the second period. While Iona did not score on the power play, the momentum shifted in the opening minutes of the second period as they struck for three goals in less than 90 seconds.
Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre stopped a Jamie Carroll shot, but the Iona freshman tracked the puck down in the right corner and centered for Tim Krueckl who cashed in on the first of his two goals at 0:25.
On the very next shift, the Gaels took their first lead of the game when Brent Williams picked up a loose puck and roofed it over a prone St. Pierre just 14 seconds later.
The onslaught continued when Kelly Bararuk pounced on a rebound and backhanded it past a screened St. Pierre at 1:49.
The Gaels capped off their offensive outburst midway through the second period when Krueckl scored his second of the night, and eighth of the season, as he came from behind the net to deflect home a Jean-Paul Chaput shot from the point who was set up by Chad Van Diemen.
So what did Bretti tell his troops during the first intermission?
“We actually thought we played decently in the first period. We weren’t upset with our play,” responded Bretti. “We talked to our guys about wanting to forecheck Bentley and try to generate some pressure off the forecheck. We pinned them in their zone and we had our feet moving.”
After falling behind three goals, Soderquist used his timeout to settle down his beleaguered team.
Soderquist’s decision paid off as Bentley, not only weathered the Gaels’ storm, they managed to cut the deficit to two late in the second period when Andy Peters powered through the Gaels and beat goaltender Ian Vigier for his sixth goal at 17:12.
“It was an example of a great individual effort. That goal made it 4-2 and that basically turned the game around. He’s been doing that all season for us,” said Soderquist.
Bentley regained control of the game in the third period by returning to their physical play of the first period — something they were unable to do during Iona’s outburst. The Falcons did a little forechecking of their own and it produced their third goal of the game as Bryan Goodwin beat a screened Vigier at 4:03 to cut the lead to one.
About two and half minutes later, the fans in the John A. Ryan Arena were on their feet again as Bentley tied the game at four all. Vigier stopped Joe Lovell’s shot from the right faceoff dot, but freshman Ryan Mayhew banged home the rebound for his ninth goal of the year.
Chris Quinn ended the Falcons offensive outburst by scoring his first collegiate goal of the year at 7:47 of third period. Quinn deflected home Ryan Kelly’s shot from the right half-boards as Vigier tried to prevent the puck from trickling home.
The win was especially pleasing for Bentley given their circumstances. They were playing without three of their starting defenseman and were forced to use senior co-captain Marcus Willy, a forward, on defense.
“We haven’t won that many games at home this year. We’re actually winning more games on the road,” Soderquist explained. “We pulled it together [because] three of our starting defensemen, Seth Vinocur, Brett Murphy and Josh Chase were all out of the lineup.”
Bentley (12-13-0; 11-8-0 MAAC) and Iona (7-19-2; 7-12-1 MAAC) square off in the back end of their weekend series with a 7:30 p.m. start at the New Roc Ice Skating Center.