When Bentley and Robert Morris last crossed paths, the circumstances were very different. The Colonials were in the process of ending the Falcons’ postseason dreams, defeating them two games to one in the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals. It’s a memory that surely lasted over the last eight months, especially for returning players like senior captain Max French.
French scored two third-period goals and added an assist on a third as the Falcons defeated the Colonials, 4-3, at John A. Ryan Arena on Friday night. The senior’s output was part of a huge night for Bentley’s top line, which went plus-2 on the night and contributed on three of the team’s goals. Kyle Schmidt added three assists, and Ryner Gorowsky scored a goal and an assist in the victory.
“I thought our guys played extremely well,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “It was a tough opponent, in our building, and I thought we got better as the game went along. I thought we were stuck in the mud in the first five minutes, but specifically in the third period, where we had 16 shots, I thought it was a good way to close out a win.”
After withstanding four shots in the game’s first few minutes, all of which peppered goalie Jayson Argue, the Falcons broke through on their second shot on goal. Gorowsky sent a puck in from the left wing circle, and it deflected off a skate by RMU goaltender Francis Marotte, putting Bentley up, 1-0, at the 3:51 mark.
They made it 2-0 later in the period. A puck bounced off of a save back to defenseman Mike Berry, who blasted a shot from the point by Marotte, ricocheting out of the net but turning the red light on with just under four minutes remaining in the period.
It stayed that way through the halfway point of the second period. With just over nine minutes remaining, Jacob Coleman found a streaking Matthew Graham heading toward the net on the left side. Graham found himself with the perfect shot, and he buried it past Argue to put the Colonials back within one.
The game remained that way through two periods of play before the third-period fireworks. It began with a power-play goal from the Falcons. With Eric Israel in the box for cross-checking for two minutes, which was segmented by the end of the period, the Falcons scored with less than a second left on the extra man opportunity. Alexey Solovyev unleashed a bomb from the point, and French deflected it by Marotte to put the Falcons back up by two.
“Max is starting to find the back of the net,” Soderquist said. “He went through a tough period there at the beginning of the season, but he’s really been stepping it up. We’re going to continue to need his senior leadership on the score sheet and in the locker room for the second half of the year.”
It was traded by a pretty goal by Brady Ferguson, who found a wide-open goal-mouth when Argue flopped down at the top of the crease. Sliding the puck across the goal line for his 13th goal of the season, Ferguson also cut the lead back to one.
That was when things turned surreal. French scored an empty-net goal, smashing it into the RMU net from center ice with 52 seconds remaining, but Alex Bontje drove one past Argue 21 seconds later. Though the Colonials remained with their net empty, they couldn’t score a tying goal, dropping a one-goal defeat.
“I thought we played hard and were good in the offensive zone,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said. “We just missed the net too many times on the power play when we had chances. We’ve got to hit the net, and we finally did (in the second period). But I can’t fault our hockey team at all. We played well, and we played hard. That’s not to take anything away from Bentley, who played extremely hard against us.”
It was a game that scored a measure of revenge for the Falcons after the Colonials eliminated them in last year’s postseason, though it will create a battle of a situation on Saturday.
“We went three hard games last year,” Schooley said. “Any time you end a team’s season, and they bring back guys from last year, you develop a little bit of a rivalry. I thought their top line was very good, and they had all the goals. At the end of the day, we didn’t hit the net enough, and we just had some bad bounces (against us).”
“Our expectation is now four points at home,” Soderquist said. “Where we are in the standings right now, we’re confident that’s not where we should be. So right now our focus has to be on getting four points.”
The teams will duel once more on Saturday at 4:05 p.m.
Atlantic Hockey roundup
Maine 5, AIC 3
The Yellow Jackets had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period but couldn’t hold on in a road game in Orono, Maine. The Black Bears scored all of their goals on the power play, using a three-goal third period to pad their lead as they held serve on home ice. Chase Pearson tallied a hat trick for the host squad, while Johno May recorded multiple assists for the visitors.
Army West Point 4, Holy Cross 2
A wild third period resulted in five goals for the two teams on 19 combined shots as the Black Knights won at home over the Crusaders. Leading 1-0 after the second, Dominic Franco scored less than 30 seconds into the period to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. The teams then combined for four goals in the final five minutes, with Army scoring two minutes apart and Holy Cross scoring twice in the game’s final 1:10.
Mercyhurst 5, Sacred Heart 3
The Lakers built a 3-0 thanks to one goal in the first period and two goals in the second. The Pioneers rallied to within one goal with a pair of power-play goals, but Mercyhurst scored 42 seconds after Sacred Heart’s second goal to retake a two-goal lead as part of a five-goal period. Coltyn Hansen added a Sacred Heart goal with less than a minute remaining after Taylor Best scored for the Lakers in the third.
Providence 5, RIT 1
The two teams combined for 81 shots as Providence peppered Mike Rotolo for 17 shots in the first and third periods apiece. The Tigers responded with 22 shots in the second, but couldn’t crack Hayden Hawkey until a third-period goal from Chase Norrish just over a minute into the third. Ryan Tait scored twice for the Friars, who finished with 44 shots on the night.