NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Joe Lovell’s goal with less than five minutes to play in the third period lifted the Bentley Falcons to a 3-1 victory over the Iona Gaels at Skate Nation Arena.
“It was a typical game we’re looking to get from our guys,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “We’re not a very talented team, we’re hoping to outwork the other team. If we outwork the other team, maybe it will pay off like it did tonight.
“It was a great victory for us and our younger guys [because they] realize that when we are in a close game, we can finish and get it done. It was just hard work tonight [and] staying in our systems. I believe that is what we are going to have to do if we are going to contend.”
The loss left Iona 0-9-1 in their last 10 games — a streak that dates back to the final two games of the 2001-2002 season. The loss also left Gaels’ coach Frank Bretti wondering when his team would wake out of its doldrums.
“It’s pretty much the same story. We just couldn’t seem to get our offense working as a unit. It seemed that every time we came in on a rush, our third man was late getting into the play or our puck carrier wasn’t making the proper decision. It put us back in transition defense,” Bretti explained.
Are the Gaels’ problems the result of a lack of chemistry for such a young team, or is it a case of not getting the job done?
“At this point, it’s more the guys are not doing what they’re supposed to do,” answered Bretti. “We go over the repetitions in practice. I just addressed our team and I told them I really haven’t walked away from a week of practice yet feeling, that offensively, we have been in sync.”
The night started off on the right skate for Iona as the Gaels opened the scoring off a set play deep in Bentley’s zone. With the faceoff to the right of Falcons goaltender Simon St. Pierre, Chad Van Diemen jumped into the play to skate the puck down low into the left wing corner. Before the Bentley defense could rotate, he found Kelly Bararuk alone in front for the redirection at 13:09 of the first period.
That would be the extent of the Gaels’ offense on the night as the sophomore from Montreal, Que. shut the door.
“Simon is a guy that we know can get it done. He had a great first weekend and then a tough trip at Air Force. He bounced back tonight and we are ready to ride him ” he can take us far,” said Soderquist.
Bentley capitalized on an Iona turnover in the neutral zone to even the game midway through the second period. Marcus Willy converted on a rebound chance of a Jake Plattner shot at the 9:44 mark.
Soderquist spent the second intermission rallying his young troops.
“We’re a young team so when we came out for the third period, we really tried to refocus. We’re on the road [so] we have nothing to worry about. We’re going to lose games, so let’s stop worrying about losing and just worry about trying to win the game,” he said. “We got a couple of quick opportunities at the beginning of the third period and we rode that all the way through.”
The first of those chances occurred 90 seconds into the third period when Bryan Goodwin beat Iona goaltender Mike Fraser, but his shot rang off the inside of the right post and bounced away from the net.
A little more than four minutes later, Fraser slid right to left and stacked his pads to deny a Willy scoring chance from in front. Ten minutes later, Fraser would not be so fortunate going from his left to his right.
“The puck came out to the [defenseman]. I was coming around the net [and] the shot came off the goalie and I just got the rebound, spun around, and took a slapshot,” Lovell said of his game-winning goal from the left faceoff dot at 15:39.
“He didn’t produce as much as I thought he’d produce [in his freshman and sophomore years],” Soderquist said of his junior center. “Over the last two or three games, he’s really come into his own, he’s playing with a lot of confidence. [Lovell's] come a long way and he has stepped up as a leader this year.”
The Gaels pulled Fraser for an extra skater with 52 seconds remaining in the game, but the Falcons iced the game at 19:25 when Troy Wiebler scored an empty net goal from his own blue line on assists from Goodwin and Willy.
The victory means a lot to the young Bentley squad that started nine freshmen and seven sophomores.
“You come into games knowing they’re young, but once the puck drops you forget about them being young. You are expecting them to do things a junior or senior would do,” Soderquist said. “They have really anted up and gotten it done. I thought we stayed pretty composed and [you] probably couldn’t tell we were that young by the end of the game.”
Bretti was pleased with Fraser’s play as the senior returned to action after allowing eight of Providence’s 11 goals in the season opener.
“We needed to get Mike back [in goal]. Ian [Vigier] had been playing well. We are happy that Mike played a solid game. None of those goals were really his fault. He played strong tonight,? said Bretti.
Bentley (2-4-0, 1-1-0 MAAC) heads to West Point to play Army at Tate Rink in an 8 p.m. game. Iona (0-7-1, 0-4-0) finished up their two-game homestand when they host American International College in a 7:30 p.m. game.