STORRS, Conn. — The Connecticut coaching staff might have been disappointed with the result of a 4-4 tie with Bentley, but the fans were certainly elated with the chance of watching a second shootout in as many games at the UConn Hockey Classic.
UConn won the shootout on the strength of two goals by Tim Olsen to advance to the tournament’s championship game against Air Force, who got there the same way after a tie with Sacred Heart.
With the contest scheduled as a league game, UConn and Bentley each collected a point in the Atlantic Hockey standings.
The Huskies amassed three one-goal leads and led 4-2 early in the third, but were unable to withstand a Bentley surge that resulted in the tie and shootout.
“If this was just a one-game deal we would be upset,” said Marshall, “but getting to play in the championship of your own tournament is something nice for us.
“They say that the shootout is the most exciting play in hockey, and the fans appreciated it, but I was only happy when our guys had the puck,” joked Marshall.
Although the result might have been bittersweet for both teams, the conference tie is certainly something that Bentley can build upon. Although winless in league, the Falcons notched their 5th point with a tie.
Down 4-2 with 12 minutes left to play, Carmen Posteraro was able to redirect a Brendan McCartin shot through Huskie goaltender Scott Tomes and into the empty net. Again, the Falcons believed that getting one would also get them the equalizer and that it did.
“We might not have the best size or speed, but our guys really work hard. There wasn’t a point where we really felt as if we could be counted out,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist.
Jake Plattner notched the equalizer five minutes later as Tomes dove headfirst to stop a loose puck sliding through the low slot. The netminder missed and Plattner deposited the puck into a yawning net.
The seesaw battle saw Bentley battle back on three different occasions, but the Huskies never backed down from the relentless underdog.
“That’s certainly one of the positives tonight,” said Marshall. “We were able to answer the call whenever Bentley battled back. While we need to cut down on those mistakes that can cost you a game, the work ethic and the effort is visible for us.”
Connecticut netted its first goal just 2:02 into the first period. Matt Scherer scored from the low slot with William Crum getting the lone assist. The rest of the first period featured up-and-down action and plenty of physical play, but the Falcons were unable to find the net.
Midway through the second frame, Bentley pulled even on the strength of a goal by McCartin. The fifth goal of the season from the junior transfer from Fairfield was set up by captain Joe Lovell on a nice feed down low.
Not to be outdone, UConn had a quick answer. Barely two minutes passed before the Huskies recaptured the lead on a powerplay tally from Tim Olsen. The goal came in a string of 4 consecutive man-advantages, including a 5-on-3 that the Falcons were able to kill.
Once again, Bentley returned serve, this time on the powerplay. Ryan Lessnau connected on loose rebound through traffic, beating the Huskies’ Tomes low to the glove side.
Ending the second and heading into the third, UConn upped the ante, sprinting ahead to a 4-2 lead on the strength of another power-play goal to open the final frame. This time Olsen added the helper as Trevor Stewart ended the scoring for the Huskies.
“Actually, today’s game was a fairly disciplined game for us,” said Soderquist. “We put ourselves in a position to compete because we weren’t jittery and worried about killing a penalty all the time.
The Falcons were only whistled for 6 minor penalties and 12 minutes of time — a departure from the 20+ penalty minutes a game that Bentley, the nation’s second most penalized team, averages.
Simon St. Pierre and Tomes both played very well in the OT frame and the shootout, but Olsen was having a career day. He added two tallies in the shootout to his goal and assist in regulation to make him the clear star of the day.
St. Pierre finished the game with 41 saves and Tomes with 26.
UConn moves on to the championship of its own tournament to face Air Force, who has never lost a game in the UConn Classic and owns a perfect 10-0 record against the Huskies. Bentley will meet Atlantic Hockey rival Sacred Heart in a nonleague game for third place in the Classic.