WALTHAM, Mass. — The Bentley Falcons jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it as they defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins, 4-2, Sunday night in game three of their Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series.
Captain Jeff Gumaer had a hat trick for the Falcons, who will travel to Rochester Friday to face Air Force in the semifinals.
“We were really excited about our performance tonight and we came ready to play,” Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist said. “It’s a great accomplishment to make it to the final four of the league. We had 19 wins this season, which is our most ever in the program, so we are pretty excited about the win.”
“It’s disappointing when you lose your last game,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said. “Bentley did a really good job. They got timely goals and played extremely hungry and hard. In the end I thought we showed a lot but just couldn’t get [goal] number three or four to tie it up.”
Bentley wasted no time getting the opening goal, putting a puck past Canisius goaltender Andrew Loewen just 14 seconds into the game. Anthony Canzoneri sent a shot from the slot that rebounded right to Gumaer, who was skating in. He fired it home for the goal.
The Griffins answered three minutes later when Adam Brace picked up a pass from Dave Kostuch. Kostuch carried the puck on the left wing into the Falcons’ zone but was knocked down by two Bentley defenders. He eventually recovered the puck in the left corner and sent it to Brace, who was standing alone in front of the net, for the score.
Bentley once again took the lead at 11:16 when Marc Menzione fired a shot from the left boards that beat Loewen past his glove.
In the second period, Bentley once again struck in the opening seconds. Canzoneri skated the puck into the Canisius zone along the right wing and sent a cross-ice pass to Gumaer on the left wing. With one motion, Gumaer put the puck into the open side of the net for the 3-1 lead nine seconds in.
“We got one quick in the first and one quick in the second, and that definitely helps,” Gumaer said. “It’s got to be demoralizing to them.”
Gumaer completed the hat trick on the power play at 7:51. He took a feed at the right of the net from Canzoneri in the left corner and fired it in for the 62nd goal of his career.
Dan Morrison then came into goal for the Griffins and made several key saves in the period, including a glove save on Gumaer before Canisius went back on the power play.
Scott Jenks’ shot from the point was blocked during a six second five-on-three opportunity before Josh Heidinger and Kostuch had a two-on-one in the Bentley zone. Heidinger held onto the puck and skated to the middle before sending a backhander from the slot, but the Falcons’ defense blocked it from getting through.
Brace got his second of the game for Canisius at 2:22 of the third period to give the Griffins hope. He took Heidinger’s pass from behind the Bentley net and stuffed it through Kyle Rank from the top of the crease for the goal.
Dave Cianfrini battled to keep the puck in the Falcons’ zone on the power play, making three attempts at the blue line before finally getting the puck deep. Canisius generated offensive pressure off the play but was unable to capitalize.
Canisius went zero-for-eight on the power play, including just over a minute of five-on-three play in the middle of the third period.
Rank ended the game with 29 saves including 16 in the final period. Loewen recorded 16 saves in his 27:51 of playing time while Morrison stopped 18 shots for the Griffins.
“It’s tough,” Canisius senior Spencer Churchill said. “We put in a lot for this and to come so close but we showed a lot of character. We didn’t quit right to the last second and there is not too much we would change out there.”