WALTHAM, Mass. — Senior defenseman Brett Murphy fired a one-timer through the five-hole of Army goaltender Brad Roberts at 14:30 of the second overtime, ending the longest game in Atlantic Hockey tournament history and giving Bentley a 4-3 victory over the Black Knights Saturday night at John A. Ryan rink.
In a game that featured just about everything — controversy, great goaltending and a shorthanded game-tying goal in the final minutes — Murphy’s picture-perfect shot off a Dane Prewitt on an odd-man advantage sent Bentley and its fans into pandemonium.
“That’s probably the hardest shot I’ve seen him take in his four years here,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist of Murphy’s winner.
The goal finished off a three-on-two rush after Army was caught deep on a play that nearly gave the Black Knights the game-winner seconds earlier.
The game was filled with controversy on both sides. Three times, including once in the overtime, referee Jim Doyle disallowed goals.
In the closing minute of the first overtime Army’s Chris Bilec lifted what appeared to be the game-winning goal over Bentley goaltender Ray Jean (35 saves). At the same time, the net became dislodged and it was unclear whether or not the goal would stand.
Doyle originally signaled a goal, prompting the Army bench to empty onto the ice, but after discussing it with the goal judge he ruled no goal, sparking a lengthy argument and eventually a second overtime period.
“I saw the linesman point a goal. I saw Doyle point a goal,” said a frustrated Army coach Brian Riley. “If you’re going to wave a goal off, your first instinct should be no goal.”
The loss ruined a tournament-record performance in net for Roberts, who most impressively made 21 saves in the third period when Bentley outshot the Black Knights, 22-8.
“I felt sick when I saw Brad Roberts laying on the ice at the end of the game,” said Soderquist. “He’s such a competitor. I just wanted to go pick him up off the ice.”
Roberts finished his career the all-time save leader in Army history and Saturday eclipsed the 3,000-save plateau, finishing his career with 3,019. His 51 stops Saturday were just one off his career high.
A defensive first period saw just 10 shots between the two teams, with Army holding a slight lead, 6-4. Still, it was Bentley that drew first blood.
Junior right wing Marc Zwicky caught a home run pass at his offensive blue line, made a move to the inside to shake the Bentley defense and then pulled the puck around Roberts to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead at 15:26.
The tight-checking play continued early in the second period, with Army attempting to force the play. Nearing the halfway mark, the Black Knights finally pulled even. Luke Flicek’s shot from the left faceoff dot deflected off a Bentley defender and over the glove of Jean, knotting the game at 9:01.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Bentley nearly regained the lead. A shot from the left faceoff dot deflected right to Tom Dickhaut at the right post. It appeared that Roberts was down and out but somehow scrambled to recover and stop the Dickhaut bid to keep the game even at one.
The rest of the period, thanks in part to three Bentley penalties, belonged to Army. And in the final minute, the Black Knights took their first lead of the game.
Bilec finished off a Chris Colvin pass on a two-on-one rush, poking the puck between the legs of Jean with 42.5 seconds remaining to give Army the 2-1 lead heading to the third.
With new life in the third, it took just 91 seconds for Bentley to draw even. Dain Prewitt gathered an Anthony Canzoneri pass from the half-boards and wristed it over the glove of Roberts to tie things at two.
Though Bentley controlled the flow immediately after the goal, Army regained the lead at 3:48. Flicek netted his second of the night when he took a pass from behind the net, walked into the slot and fired a shot past Jean to give the Black Knights the 3-2 lead.
Though Flicek has just nine goals in two seasons, four have come in his three postseason games.
From there, regulation saw one of the craziest endings imaginable.
With 4:14 remaining, Bentley’s Ryan Lessnau was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. At the same time, Army’s Mark Tilch was given a two-minute slashing penalty, meaning the teams would skate four-on-four for two minutes before the Army power play kicked in.
Just 37 seconds later, though, Army was whistled for too many men on the ice, putting Bentley on a 1-minute, 21-second power play.
With the man-advantage, it appeared Mark Zwicky had evened the score but Doyle ruled the shot had hit the crossbar. Video later showed that the shot hit the metal bar in the rear of the goal and quickly bounced out.
Once Army killed the final seconds of the penalty and resumed its power play, it appeared that the Black Knights might be in the driver’s seat.
Prewitt, though, threw those thoughts out the window when, shorthanded, he collected a pass at center ice and, skating one-on-three against the Army defense, he cut to the right boards, made a move and roofed a backhand into the open net to even things at three with 1:22 left.
Soderquist called the goal an NHL move, and one he’d almost never expect from a rookie forward.
Army remained on the power play for the remainder of regulation but was unable even to muster a shot, sending the game to overtime. It was the fourth meeting out of five this year between the two clubs that went to the extra session, with the other three ending in ties.
This time, though, a winner was required, making many wonder exactly how long it would take before this game ended.
In the first overtime, both teams had solid scoring chances.
Bentley’s Zwicky fired a shot on a two-on-one that Roberts caught with his left shoulder at 1:52. At 14:38, Jeff Gumaer had a swat at a loose puck in the crease but buried it into Roberts.
After the controversial no-goal sent the game to a second overtime, Bentley continued to get the better of the scoring chances. Josh Thompson missed the net in close on Roberts at 9:10, and less than a minute later Ryan Mayhew fired a rebound off and over Roberts’ shoulder that rolled just wide.
Five minutes later, Zach McKelvie had Army’s best bid, firing a shot that eluded Jean. But Bentley’s ability to clear the puck set up the game-winning rush and Murphy’s heroics.
The win sends Bentley to the Atlantic Hockey final four for the second straight year, and the third time since elevating to Division I in 2000. The Falcons will face Mercyhurst, a 7-2 winner over Canisius on Saturday, in the 4 p.m. semifinal Friday.
Holy Cross, a 3-1 victor over American International, will face Connecticut, which upset Sacred Heart, 4-1, in Friday’s second semifinal.
Army ends its season at 12-18-7, a notable comeback after beginning the year winless in its first eight.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Riley. “It would’ve been very easy after the start we had to fold. But our guys hung in there and just kept getting better and better.”