WORCESTER, Mass. — Despite notching just one win in its last six games, Bentley’s special teams were just that Wednesday night. The Falcons converted on the game’s only two power plays of the game, scoring on a man-advantage and the penalty kill, and they downed Holy Cross 2-0 and improved to 4-4 in the MAAC.
“This was the hardest these guys have worked all year,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “We played incredible in our defensive zone, goaltender out. Tonight was a group effort and a big win especially after coming off of a tough weekend against Findlay. This puts us at .500 heading into the break which
is exactly where we want to be.”
Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre recorded his second shutout of the season after turning away all 24 Crusader shots. His previous shutout came in the team’s last victory, a 4-0 romp over Canisius.
“Our offense and defense played well tonight,” said St. Pierre. “We worked well on both sides of the ice and cut down on the Holy Cross opportunities.”
The Crusaders and Falcons battled through a scoreless first period and Bentley controlled play in the early going and outshot Holy Cross 14-8. The Falcons were relentless in their attack on Crusader goaltender Tony Quesada; however, the freshman was equal to the task.
Holy Cross was held to just one shot in the first six minutes of play. The best opportunity came with just over 14 minutes in the first. Tim Bernstein burst down the right wing boards before head-manning a pass to Andrew Weber. Weber skated in nearly uncontested but was stuffed by the left pad of St. Pierre.
“We were so into it tonight,” said St. Pierre. “I could see the shots and kept my focus tonight. The lack of shots was not a problem.”
Bentley had numerous opportunities, including a foot race in the final minute that saw R.J. Irving chasing after Falcon Andy Peters and the loose puck. It would be Quesada who stormed out of the crease, diving to the top of the faceoff circle to knock the puck away.
“Tony Quesada played great for them,” said Soderquist. “He came up big and made us work extra hard on the offensive end.”
It appeared the Crusaders would turn the tide in the opening two minutes of the second period, but Bentley was able to thwart the Holy Cross offensive. The Falcons drew blood on the game’s first power play when Holy Cross’ Tyler McGregor was charged with a five-minute major for slashing. Bentley was able to set up its power play but only managed four shots on Quesada during the five-minute man advantage.
Quesada was the first goaltender to flinch when Bryan Goodwin wound up from the top of the left circle and blasted his third goal of the season past Quesada with 2:26 left on the power play.
Bentley held the Crusaders to a mere shot in the period’s first 15 minutes and 12 throughout two periods of play.
“Holy Cross has a team of all-around players that can put the puck in the net,” commented Soderquist. “Our goal was to keep shots down, clear the front of the net, and let Simon see the puck. That was key to our success tonight.”
The Falcons nearly added to their lead with seven seconds to play when Joe Lovell let go a rocket from the top of the left circle that handcuffed Quesada and nearly trickled into the net.
Holy Cross got its only power-play opportunity with 3:55 left to play in the match, when Bentley’s Jake Plattner went off for interference. But the Falcons were able to capitalize with a man down when Jon Williams led a two-on-one and rifled a shot on Quesada from the right circle. Unable to control the
rebound, Josh Thompson skated in from the slot and put the Falcons up 2-0 with 3:36 left to play.
“Our special teams were struggling coming into tonight. We worked on it all week, and tonight’s performance gave our guys a lot more confidence. Our team is very young, and we just stuck to our game plan tonight,” said Soderquist.
Thompson’s goal proved to be the game-winner as St. Pierre bolted the door shut on Holy Cross. The Crusaders had not been shutout since Jan. 11, 2000.
Heading into the winter break, the Falcons moved up to .500 after dealing Holy Cross its fifth straight loss. The second place Crusaders fall to 6-3 in the MAAC.