WEST POINT, N.Y. — The Cinderella season came to an end for Bentley on Friday — abruptly.
Sparked by a six-goal outburst by Mercyhurst in the second period, the Lakers knocked off the Falcons, 10-2, in game one of the MAAC Final Four to advance to the championship for the third straight year. Mercyhurst will take on the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Holy Cross and Quinnipiac.
For Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist, Friday realized his worst fear — that Mercyhurst would be able to use its speed and quickness to exploit the Falcon defense.
“We tried to contain [Mercyhurst's] speed,” said Soderquist, “but when we got down by two and three goals, we had the choice to either try to contain their speed or try to win the hockey game.”
“I’ve been at Mercyhurst for 15 years and I can tell you this is the best-skating, fastest team I’ve had,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin, who will look to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. “It’s something we’ve worked on all year — skating and getting guys to the net. [Army's Tate Rink] really suits us well.”
That speed was never more obvious than the opening of the second period that saw the Lakers score five goals in 6:24 — all in transition. The line of Adam Rivers, Dave Borelli and David Wrigley keyed the second period onslaught, scoring twice in 45 seconds to open the charge.
“It started last game against Iona [a 5-4 quarterfinal win],” said Borelli, who himself had never had a multiple-goal game but after Friday’s two-goal effort has two in back-to-back efforts. “Our line has turned it on and seems to be clicking so let’s hope we can keep it going through Sunday’s game.”
It appeared that the first period might end scoreless, as each team was unable to make the best of early scoring opportunities. In the opening period, each club saw two man advantages but neither threatened.
But in the closing seconds, Mercyhurst made the best of a Bentley turnover, sending the Lakers to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. Rivers’ poke check at center ice sent Wrigley and Borelli in on Bentley starter Simon St. Pierre (16 saves).
Wrigley cut the angle against the Falcons defender and fire a low shot on St. Pierre, with the rebound popping onto Borelli’s blade. He deposited the backhander underneath the fallen goalie with 47.3 seconds remaining to give Mercyhurst the lead.
That goal, according to Soderquist, had a negative effect on his club.
“It was probably the first time I saw our guys get down,” said Soderquist of the mood in the locker room during the intermission. “Last Saturday night we played Sacred Heart 0-0 in the first and the guys were fired up in the locker room.
“Mercyhurst definitely grabbed momentum there and squashed our guys’ confidence.”
The period ended with a 14-7 lead in shots in favor of Mercyhurst and one might have thought even down, 1-0, the Falcons had survived.
In the beginning of the second period, though, that survival was over.
Mercyhurst exploded for five goals in the opening seven and a half minutes to blow the game open.
The Lakers third line of Scott Reynolds, Mike Carter and Erik Johnson began the onslaught, combining for two markers 45 seconds apart. First it was Johnson burying a big rebound of a Reynolds shot, and less than a minute later, Carter finishing a two-on-one for the 3-0 lead.
At 3:40, the Lakers struck again, this time on the power play, with Borelli wide open at the right point for his second of the game.
As Bentley hoped to get momentum from a Mercyhurst penalty to Adam Tackaberry just seconds later, the tide went the other way. As Tackaberry’s penalty expired he took a perfect pass from Mike Muldoon and buried a shot between the legs of St. Pierre on a breakaway at 6:06.
Wrigley finished the scoring frenzy at 7:35, scoring on a weak wrist shot the beat St. Pierre between the legs and signaled the end of his night. Rookie Geordan Murphy (14 saves), making just his fourth career appearance, replaced him.
Before the second period was over, Marty Rychley scored his first of two goals, finishing a give-and-go with Adam Rivers for the 7-0 lead through two.
After Rychley was credited with his second goal of the night when a clearing pass went into the net the off his leg at 4:08, Bentley finally showed some signs of offensive light.
Despite being outshot, the Lakers had limited the Falcons to few grade ‘A’ attempts through two, but Bentley broke through offensively in the third. Goals by Troy Wiebler at 9:24 and Ryan Lessnau at 10:49 cut into the Laker lead.
P.J. Hiscock and Peter Rynshoven notched the final two markers of the night to account for the 10-2 final.
The outcome, particularly the lopsided score, wasn’t what Soderquist had hoped for. But with the strides Bentley took this season combined with the experience the team gained at the final four, the weekend proved invaluable.
“We needed this for our program,” said Soderquist. “We had a great year, but if we didn’t beat Sacred Heart last week and get to this point our guys would not have seen the whole picture.
“We wouldn’t have gotten the chance to go to the banquet, we wouldn’t have had the chance to see all the media. It’s a simple as wearing a credential around your neck. They got to see how big this league really is and what really goes on; that’s great for our program.”