CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Before Saturday night’s game against Holy Cross, Bentley coach Jim McAdam said he hoped for an early Christmas present. Little did he know his Falcons would give him two.
With an 0-11-1 record entering the game, McAdam was obviously talking about a win as a Christmas present. That present he got, as the Falcons upset Holy Cross, 4-1.
On top, McAdam got a stellar performance from goaltender Ray DeVincent (30 saves) to end Bentley’s 18-game winless skid that dated back to Feb. 19 of last season.
“This is a real Christmas present,” McAdam said. “This will give us a good boost going the Christmas break.”
Talking to McAdam was like talking to a little kid on Christmas morning, with a gleam in his eye that has been missing for 10 months.
“It feels like I’ve never won before,” McAdam said. “All of the freshman, at least, can come back from break knowing they can win. They’ll have a lot more confidence.
“Going to practice every day this season at 7 o’clock in the morning gets harder and harder when you’re not winning. I kept telling the guys, ‘Once you break the goose egg, that feeling would be gone.’ Now that feeling will be gone.”
The only drawback to the game from Bentley’s point of view was that Saturday’s game, played on neutral ice at Boston College’s Conte Forum, was a non-league game. Bentley remained at the bottom of the MAAC with a 0-9-1 record, its only league point coming in a 2-2 tie at Canisius early in the year.
DeVincent entered the game with a 0-9-1 record and an inflated 6.06 goals against average, but made 16 big saves in the opening period and held the Falcons in the game.
“DeVincent played out of his mind tonight,” McAdam said. “He played fantastic in the first period. That’s the kind of game he needed. That will give him some momentum too.
“[Holy Cross] is a good team and they outshot us, 16-7, in the first period. But we hung around and scored a couple of big goals.”
Those goals, in fact, did put Bentley on cloud nine, as they scored twice in the final minutes to take a 2-0 lead to the locker rooms.
After DeVincent kept Bentley in the game early, making save after save, rookie sniper Joe Lovell got the Falcons on the board at 16:04. After Steve Tobio’s blast from the point on the rush into the zone, Lovell went hard to the net and banged the rebound past Derek Cunha to give Bentley a 1-0 lead.
After killing a Holy Cross power play late in the period, the Falcons struck again. Rookie Scott Trahan skated two-on-two into the offensive zone with John DiGennaro. After gaining the blue line, Trahan made a nifty cut-back move, freezing both defenders before feeding a wide-open DiGennaro, who pushed the puck into the empty net with 23.7 seconds left in the period.
The goal prompted Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl to pull starting goaltender Derek Cuhna (five saves) in favor of rookie Rick Massey.
After the game, an upset Pearl described Cuhna as “fighting the puck.”
“[Cunha] gave up two bad goals and we thought it was time to get Ricky Massey into the game.
“Derek’s a good goaltender, but he just didn’t have it tonight.”
The second period played out identical to the first, but this time it was Bentley holding most of the offensive momentum. Massey, though, kept the Crusaders in the game with key saves throughout, before the Crusaders struck late.
With 2:10 left in the frame, Bentley’s DeVincent decided to freeze a clearing pass that ended up on net, forcing a faceoff in the Bentley zone — a move that proved costly.
Even though the Falcons won the draw, they failed to clear the zone. After defenseman Tim Bernstein’s shot from the right point was blocked, rookie Tim Coskern fired the loose puck over DeVincent’s shoulder — just under the crossbar — to pull the Crusaders within a goal at 2-1.
In the closing seconds, Holy Cross missed a perfect opportunity to even the game when Pat Rissmiller gained a shorthanded breakaway on DeVincent. But trying to pick the upper corner, Rissmiller’s shot missed the net, preserving the one-goal lead for the Falcons through two.
The Crusaders had their chances early in the third period, most notably a two-on-one that forced DeVincent to stop a hard wrister from Tom Pawlak from 15 feet. Keeping the Crusaders off the board, Bentley capitalized halfway through.
Sophomore captain Marcus Willy was fortunate to find DiGennaro totally uncovered in the slot. After taking the pass, DiGennaro fired a shot just inside the left post for his second goal of the game, but more importantly giving Bentley breathing room with a 3-1 lead.
Pearl decided to take a chance with 3:15 to play, pulling Massey for the extra attackers, but the move didn’t pay off, as Willy found an opening and scored with 2:34 to play, accounting for the 4-1 final.
As much as the non-league status of the game worked against Bentley, it worked for the Crusaders, who currently stand above only Bentley in 10th place, but are just two points out of fifth place. That, though, was no consolation for Pearl.
“We didn’t play with enthusiasm or excitement,” Pearl said. “We acted as if it was a chore to come to the rink tonight.
“We didn’t bear down at all to get good shots, it was a total lack of mental preparation on our part.”
The win moved Bentley’s overall record to 1-11-1, while Holy Cross dropped to 3-10-1 (3-6-1 MAAC).
Both teams enter Christmas break. Holy Cross returns to action on Dec. 29 and 30, when it plays in the UConn Classic in Storrs, Conn. Bentley will not play in any holiday tournaments and will return to action on Jan. 6, when it travels to American International.