Bentley came into the weekend in need of a solid performance, and points in the standings. They got some of both against Robert Morris, taking three points in a hard-fought, physical two-game series that held a playoff atmosphere through 125 minutes.
Colonials forward Brady Ferguson’s third period goal helped Robert Morris salvage a tie and stave off a sweep. The point helped Robert Morris stay in good position to receive a first-round bye and a home series in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
Meanwhile, Bentley recovered from a sweep at the hands of Air Force to post back-to-back defensive gems, holding the Colonials to one goal on the weekend, thanks in part to freshman goaltender Adian Pelino, who stopped 32 of 33 shots Saturday night.
“I was very pleased with the 125 minutes that we put out there this weekend,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “We came off a disappointing weekend last weekend where we got five and six goals against us. We talked about playoff hockey is going to have to be where you hold teams to one or two goals or less.
“We had to be harder on the forecheck, harder on the back check and harder at the net front, and I think we did all those things this weekend, and our penalty killing and goaltending were phenomenal.”
The Colonials came out with an inspired first period that saw them generate a 13-5 shot advantage through 20 minutes. However, Pelino kept the puck out of the net and kept rebounds to a minimum all game and all weekend.
“He kept it extremely simple in terms of goaltending. He didn’t leave a lot of rebounds out there and not a lot of second-chance opportunities,” Soderquist said. ”I thought he did a really good job of managing the game. I thought he took a big stride this weekend.”
After surviving the Colonials’ onslaught, the Falcons went to work in a solid second period that saw them reverse the first period trend, outshooting the Colonials 14-4. Freshman forward Jake Kauppila took advantage of the momentum and opened the scoring with his third goal of the season at 6:34, beating Colonials goaltender Francis Marotte with a lone assist from Drew Callin.
The intensity and physicality went up a notch up for both sides in an evenly played third period that saw the Colonials coming closer and closer to taking back-to-back shutouts and a sweep at home. However, the Colonials’ top line of Brady Ferguson, Alex Tonge and Daniel Leavens figured in the goal from Ferguson at 5:24, when he beat Pelino from point-blank range.
“My line just got it deep and my linemates made two nice passes and I ended up in front alone and just slid it five hole,” Ferguson said. “I think the effort was there in the first and third period tonight. It’s nice to get a point but it’s also unacceptable. It’s the end of the year and we need to come away with four points.
“I think it’s a learning lesson for our young team. But also it’s pretty disappointing. I think we need to compete more and win battles and shoot the puck more, we just need to compete.”
The teams killed off one critical power play each in the waning moments of the third period and as overtime ensued, the Colonials had better chances. But Pelino stopped all seven Robert Morris shots in the final five minutes to preserve the tie for the Falcons. Marotte also turned in a solid weekend, allowing just three goals on 64 shots total in both games.
“How are we with four games left learning to be consistent?” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. ”That would have been a beginning of the year trait. We forget how hard it is to win. It’s hard to win and it’s easy to be average, and if you’re not working, you’re going to be average. And we need to make sure we’re working again.
“We’ll work on that this week. We have to work with the coaches and work as a group and make sure that we’re focused and determined. It’s not going to get any easier, and one point on the weekend isn’t good enough this time of year.”
The Colonials oppose Mercyhurt in a home-and-home series next Friday and Saturday, while Bentley plays a two-game home-and-home series with Sacred Heart.
Atlantic Hockey roundup:
No. 20 Air Force 3, American International 3
Falcons forward A.J. Reid started a three-goal onslaught in the final five minutes of the third period against the visiting Yellow Jackets, and defensemen Matt Koch and Phil Boje added the final two markers on the power play to give the Falcons a tie. Hugo Reinhardt, Joel Kocur and Austin Orszulak tallied for the Yellow Jackets. Zackarias Skog stopped 26 of 29 Falcon shots for American International, while Shane Starrett turned aside 20 of 23 for Air Force.
Canisius 6, Sacred Heart 5
The Golden Griffins used three-second period goals en route to a wild victory over the Pioneers at Bridgeport, Conn., that helped them regain first place in the conference. Felix Chamberland and Jimmy Mazza chipped in two points each for Canisius while Charles Williams turned aside 37 of 42 Pioneers shots in the victory.
Army West Point 5, Niagara 4, OT
Conor Andrle’s goal with 41 seconds left in overtime gave the Black Knights the victory over the visiting Purple Eagles. Army forwards CJ Reuschlein and Tyler Pham had two goals apiece to lead the Black Knights attack, while Tyler Tomberlin tallied two goals for Niagara. Parker Gahagen stopped 27 of 31 Niagara shots.
RIT 2, Holy Cross 1, OT
Adam Brubacher scored 1:08 into overtime to lift the Tigers to the win over the visiting Crusaders. RIT’s Erik Brown and Holy Cross forward Michael Lafkin scored in the first period. Tigers goaltender Mike Rotolo stopped 27 of 28 Crusader shots to help the Tigers staved off a sweep.