A year ago, the voices say, Bentley simply overachieved. Having finished in or near the cellar of the MAAC for three straight years, a fifth-place finish, a first-round upset of Sacred Heart and a berth in the MAAC final four was a dream come true.
Overachieving? Maybe, though not in the eyes of head coach Ryan Soderquist.
— Coach Ryan Soderquist, on Bentley’s stirring turnaround
“There’s no such thing as overachieving,” said Soderquist. “We achieved what we possibly could.”
A simple thought — almost too simple, if not too good to be true. But not in Soderquist’s mind. A rookie coach himself and the youngest benchman in D-I hockey last year, Soderquist wanted to instill one thing in his club early — confidence.
“The biggest thing for us last year was knowing that we can win games,” Soderquist said. “It changed the philosophy of going into games with the thought that we’re going to lose.”
The fact of the matter is that Soderquist and his staff changed how hockey is played at Bentley. Additional time in the weight room, a consistent practice schedule at normal times (the team used to practice as early as 6 a.m.), and the ability to stay overnight on long road trips were just a few modifications Soderquist worked out with athletic director Bob DeFelice.
Though those things may seem minor, what Soderquist did was create a Division I atmosphere in the program.
This season, the key will be to gain momentum.
“We didn’t graduate much but have four of five incoming guys who can help us,” said Soderquist, himself a four-year veteran of Bentley. “We think most importantly we have a good attitude. Our guys came back in the best shape I’ve seen our hockey team come in.”
Soderquist will look to improve a host of areas, starting with team defense. With Bentley never known as a strong defensive club, last year’s team was improved but still weak.
“Our defense was kind of a weaker point last year,” said Soderquist. “We didn’t graduate any there and added defensemen who we think can step in. That will be a major key for us.”
On the other side of the coin, Soderquist won’t overlook offense.
“We need to score goals. We’ve think we’ve added that offense to the team to win the 4-2 or 4-3 games. … We couldn’t do that last year because we didn’t put up those kind of numbers.”
In net, Bentley will once again depend on Simon St. Pierre, who had a breakthrough year last season for the Falcons. St. Pierre registered all but one decision for Bentley last season, something Soderquist might like to change.
“It’s tough to throw everything on him,” said Soderquist. “We’ll try to get away from that this year, but when the decision arrives it’s hard to take things away from him. You can hit your breaking point [as a goaltender] and that I think might have happened last year.”
Up front, Soderquist will look to Joe Lovell to pace the offense. The coach feels that at this point, Lovell hasn’t reached his potential.
“Joe Lovell is a 40-point kid who hasn’t gotten it done,” Soderquist said. “He led our team last year but missed so many opportunities.
“He’s really ready to go. He had a bad freshman year and got injured as a sophomore, so after last season we’re hoping he really stands out this year.”