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After failing to score on the power play in their first two games, the Bentley Falcons scored one in each of their next two, tallying extra-man goals against both Northeastern and Air Force. For one of the more prolific units in the nation since the start of the decade, it was a signal that the breakout was starting.
Then came the next six games and 19 opportunities. Failing to score any power-play goals, the team tumbled down the national rankings, causing them to enter Saturday’s game against Mercyhurst ranked 59th out of 60 teams.
So in a 2-1 victory over the Lakers, forgive the Falcons faithful for breathing a sigh of satisfaction that the game-winning goal came via a power play. Already leading 1-0 in the second period, a goal by Matt Riggleman caromed off defenseman Jeremy Wu’s skate into the back of the net. After a Mercyhurst goal with less than five seconds left cut the game back to one goal, Bentley held on with a third-period shutout.
“We’ve been struggling quite a bit on the power play the last five games,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said of the win, which snapped a five-game winless streak for the club. “To get that power-play goal and have it come up to be a game-winner was exciting for our team and our bench to get the monkey off our back. We needed a bounce, and we got one; sometimes a little luck can go a long way.”
For the second straight night, teams found goals hard to come by, making it even sweeter for the Falcons victory. Mercyhurst goalie Brandon Wildung and Bentley netminder Jayson Argue combined for 65 saves one night after they combined for 66.
“Jayson’s been great,” said Soderquist. “Over his last few games, he’s had a two-goal game, one-goal game, two-goal game, and now a one-goal game. He’s been the backbone of our team, and the team has great confidence playing behind him (when he’s been this solid).”
“I thought Brandon looked really good,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. “He played really, really well, and he gave us a chance (to win the game). That’s all you can ask from a goaltender.”
The game finished off a weekend split between two teams who brought intense compete levels to a weekend series.
“Last night was a hard-fought win that could’ve gone either way,” Gotkin said. “Tonight we had chances, and we had some really wide open nets, but we couldn’t put the puck in. It’s frustrating, but we also did some really good things. I thought we had some great chances in the third, but we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
With the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the teams will have different weeks scheduled. Bentley (3-5-3, 2-4-2 Atlantic Hockey) will head to Harvard on Saturday for a one-game series at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Mercyhurst (4-7, 4-4 Atlantic Hockey), meanwhile, will play RIT on Wednesday at home before taking on rival Canisius in a Friday road tilt sandwiched around the holiday.
Atlantic Hockey roundup
No. 18 Western Michigan 4, Air Force 1
Evan Giesler forced a 1-1 tie score after the first period, but the host Broncos received two goals from Matheson Iacopelli as they spoiled the Falcons’ bid for a road victory.
Niagara 4, Sacred Heart 0
The Purple Eagles scored 40 seconds into the first period, then tacked on three goals in the second half of the second to pull away from the host Pioneers. Johnny Curran scored twice, including the game-winner, lighting the lamp for the fifth and sixth times this season.
AIC 1, Canisius 1
The teams combined for 74 shots, including 40 from the Yellow Jackets, as goaltenders Zack Skog and Charles Williams shined through an offensive showcase. Skog stopped 16 shots in a first period shutout for AIC, while Williams held the fort for 26 saves in the second and third periods for the Golden Griffins. Hugo Reinhardt’s first of the year gave AIC a 1-0 lead in the second, but Nick Hutchison tallied the game-tying goal at the 6:29 mark of the third.
RIT 2, Army West Point 1
The Black Knights’ Zach Evancho scored late in the second to rally Army from a 1-0 deficit, but Myles Powell won the game for the Tigers just 20 seconds into overtime. The win marked RIT’s first one-goal win of the season after losing five previous games in that situation.