NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Bentley goaltender Kevin Williams stopped 45 of 48 Iona shots, but none was bigger than the one he made on Nathan Lutz with 21 seconds remaining in regulation to preserve a 4-4 tie last night.
“I saw him coming in from the slot and I just wanted to get out and cut down the angle as much as I could. He shot it low and I got my stick on it just in time. After the game he wanted to know why I didn’t let him score,” Williams said.
Bentley coach Jim McAdam was quick to praise his junior goaltender. “Kevin Williams is probably the biggest surprise of our team. He played a great game against Army and he played a great game tonight and he came up with outstanding saves.”
Both teams entered the game looking to end the rough times of late. The Falcons were 0-7-1 in their last eight games and the Gaels were 2-9-0 in their last 11 games.
Bentley got the board first following a Tim Krueckl scoring chance. The Falcons broke back the other way and took a 1-0 lead as Jon Williams deflected Andy Peters’ centering pass over Mike Fraser’s shoulder at 6:19.
Peters nearly made it 2-0 when he rang a shot off the crossbar less than two minutes later. The next big scoring chance would go to Iona and senior sniper Ryan Carter drew Iona even at the 12:21 marks as he wristed a shot from the high slot between Williams’ pads. That goal was just the tip of iceberg as Carter tallied two goals and two assists on the night.
Bentley regained the lead with a little more than two minutes remaining as Matt Kowal scored off assists from Greg Labelle and Joe Lovell. Bentley nearly ended the first period with a two-goal lead, but Fraser stopped Tim Calabro on a breakaway with 30 seconds remaining gin the opening stanza.
McAdam believed Kowal’s tally was a big goal. “It was awesome and it was very important. If Iona got a goal there, it would have taken the wind out of our sails. That has been happening all year.”
On the other hand, Iona coach Frank Bretti was taking a different stance with his team in between periods. “We talked about being physical and we were really concerned with our transitions defense. Bentley was doing a great job of sending that late forward down the slot.”
Whatever Bretti said must have sunk in because the Gaels came out roaring to start the second period as they fired four shots on goal on their first shift. As has been the case of late, the opposing goaltender would shut the door.
Iona tied the game at 8:38 as some tough forechecking and cycling allowed Carter to set up defenseman Matt Whitehurst for a goal with the teams skating four-on-four.
The Gaels took their first lead of the game with just 40 seconds remaining in the period as Carter picked up a loose puck off a scramble in front and roofed it over a sprawling Williams. As you might expect, Bretti was pleased with his senior tri-captain’s play. “Carter was our best player tonight, no question. He was performing at a higher level than any of our other forwards.”
After the second period, McAdam realized he had two modify his game plan. “I had to make sure we had one man back … and (make sure) we picked up a man in the zone. We took care of the man in the slot because they are very capable of scoring goals from there.”
Iona extended their lead to two goals following a Bentley power play. A Falcons back pass came out of the zone and found Carter in the neutral zone. While Carter was unable to get off a shot, he did set up Michael LoCicero down low to give Iona a 4-2 lead at 1:55 of the third period.
Rather than fold, Bentley elevated their game and forechecked the Gaels back on to their heels. The Falcons cut the lead in half at the 5:19 mark as Steve Tobio picked up a loose puck and beat Fraser on the rebound shot.
Three and half minutes later, Iona’s lead vanished as Labelle poked home a rebound to tie the game at 4-4 and set the stage for Williams’ game-saving save on Lutz with 21 seconds remaining in regulation time.
While Williams was the star of the game for the Falcons, he was quick to give credit to his teammates. “I think everybody played really well. They let me see the puck and they got the guys out from in front of the net. I thought we had a really good game. We scored some goals (and) hopefully that will give us confidence for tomorrow night.”
Williams was not the only person praising Bentley’s effort. Both coaches recognized the effort the Falcons put out. “I thought we played an excellent game. We moved the puck well and hit well. I thought we played one of our best games all year,” McAdam said.
Bretti was even more impressed with Bentley’s effort. “I told our team at the end of the game, number one, let’s be happy that we didn’t lose. Number two, give Bentley credit. It is not like they stole this game. I was very impressed with Bentley and you can’t discount the fact that Bentley played very well.”
Bretti was left to lament his team’s inability to live up to their pre-season ranking of second in the MAAC. “Every scenario possible has come up for us lately. When you haven’t won in six games — granted we have played some tough games along that stretch — there is a collation of mistakes. I have been a little disappointed about making he same mistakes in the third period. The unnecessary icings and things of that nature are creating momentum swings for our opponents.”
Iona (6-9-2, 5-4-2) and Bentley (2-15-2, 2-9-2) finish their home-and-home series with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday night at the John A. Ryan Arena in Waltham, Massachusetts.