STORRS, Conn. — After watching Massachusetts pepper shot after shot on net, it took Bentley just a fleeting window to make the Minutemen’s early offensive domination irrelevant.
Despite getting outshot 17-4 in the first period and 27-12 after two, the Falcons used two third period goals in a span of 24 seconds to topple No. 15 UMass, 4-1, in the championship game of the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
“I thought we came out and executed our plan,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “We allowed them to have a little space outside the dots and let them cycle the puck. They had a lot of shots on net, but they weren’t a lot of Grade ‘A’ chances.”
If any of the Minutemen’s shots found their way past the Falcons’ defense, they were stonewalled by Kyle Rank, who turned away 42 UMass shots. Rank turned away 65-of-67 shots in his two games, earning the tournament MVP honors.
“I just tried not to think too much,” Rank said of facing a volley of shots early on. “We did a great of not letting them have second or third chances. We cleared out the rebounds pretty well. It made my job a lot easier.”
After a scoreless opening period, it was UMass who struck first. James Marcou’s shot was denied from close in by Rank, but the puck bounced to Kevin Czepiel, who flicked it in from the left post at 10:52.
Marcou picked up his 24th assist on the play, tops in the nation.
However, the Falcons (8-7-3) managed to contain him and fellow playmaker Casey Wellman, who entered the contest second in the nation in goals.
“They’re an extremely dynamic line,” Soderquist said of Marcou and Wellman. “When they were out there, we were trying to put our best defensive pair out against them. If they touched the puck, we’d send two guys right on them and try not to give them time to make plays.”
While game planning for the pair might have given Soderquist fits, his goalie enjoyed facing duo.
“It was a lot of fun actually,” Rank said of facing Marcou and Wellman. “It’s not every day you get to face those guys. I played with Marcou; we’re both from Long Island. They kept you on your toes because they were so crafty and quick.”
The Minutemen’s fleeting lead lasted just under a minute and a half, as Brett Hartung tied the score after taking a pass from Aaron Stonacek and dumping it past Massachusetts’ goalie Paul Dainton at 12:18.
With 13 minutes left in regulation, the Falcons pounced on a brief five-on-three window. UMass’s Doug Kublin was whistled for interference and joined his teammate Bret Watson in the penalty box, giving Bentley a two-man advantage for 25 seconds.
Massachusetts (11-6) couldn’t clear the puck and just seconds after the first penalty expired, Bobby Preece wristed a shot from the point that found its way past Dainton. Just 24 seconds later, Jeremy Roberts collected a loose puck near the right faceoff circle and lined a backhander over Dainton’s glove.
After Massachusetts pulled Dainton with 2:35 left, the Falcons’ Dustin Cloutier grabbed the puck and streaked up the right wing, poking it into the empty net at 1:24 to seal the upset win for Bentley.
“I’m not happy at all with the third period,” UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon said. “I thought we played pretty well for two periods and had nothing to show for it. We just needed to stay with what we were doing, and we didn’t do that.
“We didn’t generate the same kind of opportunities in the third [period] that we did in the first two. The game was tied at that point and we needed to sustain the same type of effort, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Rank, Preece, Marcou, and Wellman, along with Bentley forward Mark Menzione and Union defender Greg Colburn, comprised the All-Tournament team.
“This meant a lot to us,” Rank said of the weekend. “We earned a lot of respect this weekend with winning this tournament. I think it’s the first tournament we’ve won since becoming Division I. Getting the two points from UConn was huge and beating UMass was just a bonus. We’re going to use this momentum going forward to hopefully get a home playoff spot, which is our goal.”