Brent Williams’ second goal of the game at 1:10 of overtime lifted Iona to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Bentley as the Gaels salvaged a split of their weekend series with the Falcons.
Williams intercepted goaltender Simon St. Pierre’s clearance pass along the right mid-boards. The Prince George, British Columbia native then skated in on St. Pierre and buried his 10th goal of the season.
“Brent Williams, who I consider a true goal-scorer, showed great poise on both [of his] goals. Give Willy an opportunity and he is going to bury it for you. That is why we won the game,” Iona coach Frank Bretti proclaimed.
After rallying from a 4-1 deficit on Friday night, Bentley was unable to protect a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Falcons’ coach Ryan Soderquist was left to lament the scoring chances his team wasted.
“I thought we played a solid game for all three periods [and] even in the first minute of overtime,” he said. “We didn’t finish tonight. We had some great opportunities and some golden chances that we didn’t capitalize on.”
Despite the victory, Bretti believed his team was more impressive in defeat on Friday than in victory on Saturday.
“I thought we were a better team last night than we were tonight if you want to look at it shift by shift,” he explained. “It was a big win for our team because we had gone through a really [peeved]-off 24 hours considering we blew a 4-1 lead. It wasn’t a pleasant film session this morning.
The Gaels needed to regain the momentum they lost in the onslaught of Bentley’s four unanswered goals on Friday. Iona jumped out to the lead just minutes in, scoring on its first power-play opportunity of the game.
Chris Martini’s shot from the high slot sailed over the net, but defenseman Jean-Paul Chaput pinched down low to pick up the rebound and beat St. Pierre from the left post at 2:17. Chad Van Diemen also assisted on Chaput’s second goal of the season.
On Friday night, Soderquist felt Iona had the better of the play in the first period despite Bentley’s 1-0 lead. Bretti expressed the same sentiments about Saturday’s first period.
“You always want to get off to a quick start. I thought we were playing a little too conservatively in the first period. To Bentley’s credit, I thought they looked good in the first period,” he said. “The first goal was obviously important, but I wouldn’t say that it put us in a position to dominate the first period because we didn’t.”
Bentley tied the game early in the second period just as its first power-play chance of the game expired. Ryan Lessnau chased down Josh Thompson’s lead pass and corralled the puck in the right corner. Lessnau’s centering pass/shot hit goaltender Ian Vigier and bounced in at 5:22. Bryan Goodwin drew the secondary assist on Lessnau’s fourth goal of the season — which only started after the Christmas break.
Bentley took the lead midway through the second period as they took advantage of a double minor to Van Diemen. After being originally whistled for an obstruction-holding penalty, Van Diemen was also assessed a roughing penalty by referee Bob Ritchie.
While the Gaels killed off the first part of the power play, the Falcons struck for the go-ahead goal at 9:22 when Joe Lovell one-timed Paul Markarian’s centering past Vigier for his seventh of the season. Ryan Mayhew also recorded an assist on the goal.
After the goal, Bretti not only benched Van Diemen, but also he sent him to the locker room because of the undisciplined penalties.
“I wasn’t happy with the type of penalties he took,” Bretti stated.
The Gaels found themselves in a familiar position at home — tied or trailing at the start of the third period. With their playoff hopes slowly slip-sliding away, the Gaels needed someone to step up.
Iona tied the game when Williams took Ryan Manitowich’s pass on his forehand before switching to his backhand as he slid the puck past St. Pierre at 5:07 of the third period. Kelly Bararuk also assisted on the goal.
“What hurt us tonight was that we came out in the second period and took too many bad penalties and that created a momentum shift, and led to two Bentley goals,” said Bretti. “In the third period we talked about wanting to bounce back. We didn’t want to give these guys four points this weekend.”
That set the stage for Williams to keep the Gaels’ playoff hopes alive.
“It was a huge win for us. To score that goal and get some points for the team is an unreal feeling,” the sophomore center said. “It’s always a long season [with] lots of ups and downs. Our team is battling and has had some tough luck lots of time this year. Finally we got some breaks and it worked out.”
Soderquist was quick to defend St. Pierre.
“It’s an extremely tough way to lose. Not taking anything away from the way Iona played, to give up a goal like that in overtime is tough to swallow,” Soderquist said.
“In some aspect, the guy that kind of caused the goal (St. Pierre) has bailed us out many times this season. We can’t put the blame on his shoulders. We only produced two goals and it takes three, four or five goals to win in this league.”
Iona assistant coach Rich Dimondo summed up the state of the Gaels as they prepare for their final six games of the regular season. “Every game is like a playoff game for us,” Dimondo said.
Iona (8-19-2; 8-12-1 MAAC) hosts Mercyhurst on Friday night in a 7:30 p.m. game at the New Roc Ice Skating Canter. Bentley (11-14-0; 10-9-0 MAAC) visits Connecticut Friday in a 7:30 p.m. matchup at the UConn Ice Arena.