WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — American International College scored six goals for the first time in two seasons, then weathered a late Bentley storm on their way to securing a 6-5 victory at the Olympia Ice Center on Friday night.
Sophomore Mike Penny led the way for the Yellow Jackets, recording his first collegiate hat trick. It was the first time AIC had scored six goals since February 9, 2008, also against the Falcons.
“We’ve struggled at times to score goals; that was certainly a real positive tonight,” said AIC coach Gary Wright.
Meanwhile, Bentley’s performance was a let down from last Saturday’s win over league-leader RIT.
“I was extremely disappointed with our senior leadership tonight, not leading our team into battle and having us ready to go,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist.
AIC dominated the first period, playing some of its best hockey of the season. Two minutes hadn’t elapsed before Penny knocked in the rebound from a Charles LaChance shot to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, AIC capitalized on the power play. With Bobby Preece in the penalty box for hooking, Penny redirected a Jeff Ceccacci shot from the point.
AIC extended its lead to three goals at 13:16 when Mike McMillan chased down the puck and dropped it between his legs to Tom Mele. Mele danced around the last Falcons’ defender and, from the right side of the net, slipped it over the shoulder of Bentley goaltender Joe Calvi.
Technical difficulties temporarily halted the AIC surge. With just under two minutes in the period, the game clock malfunctioned. Bentley took advantage of the ensuing faceoff in AIC’s defensive zone. Herbie Kent tapped in a shot from Preece to get Bentley on the board.
With less than minute left to play, AIC regained its three-goal lead. Mike McMillan skated down the left side boards and roofed the puck over Calvi’s shoulder. The puck dropped onto the goal line and bounced into the net.
Bentley changed goaltenders to start the second period, but it didn’t simmer AIC’s attack. Just 13 seconds into the stanza, Adam Pleskach fired the puck past Bentley goaltender Kyle Rank.
Four minutes later, Penny completed his hat trick, sneaking the puck past Rank to earn AIC what seemed to be a commanding 6-1 lead. Chris Campanale and LaChance were credited with the assists.
Penny, who entered the game with just two goals this season, is the first Yellow Jacket to score a hat trick since Jereme Tendler did so in 2007. He, too, achieved the feat against Bentley.
“I have been struggling with production lately, and today I sat down with one of the coaches, Mike Field, and we had quite a discussion; I felt good going into the game and just got lucky, I guess,” added Penny after the game.
Midway through the period, the Falcons began to slowly chip away at the Yellow Jackets’ lead. Jamie Nudy contributed first, snapping a shot from the left circle over the shoulder of AIC goalie Dan Ramirez.
The Falcons again changed goalies to start the third period. Calvi replaced Rank when Rank appeared to be suffering from some concussion-like symptoms after a hit he sustained in the prior period.
Jordy Trottier added another goal for the Falcons at the 6:20 mark. He drove the net from the right circle, deked in front of the crease and slid the puck past Ramirez.
Over two minutes later, Kent scored his second goal of the game, taking a feed on the right post.
AIC was able to temper Bentley’s momentum for the next ten minutes, until Tomas Benovic was called for hooking in the 17th minute. Seconds later, Joe Campanelli fed senior captain Marc Menzione, who found the back of the net, closing the gap to one goal.
With the goal, Menzione has registered 100 points in his career. He is the 16th player at Bentley to reach that milestone.
“Marc Menzione has been an integral part of building this program and helping us build this program at the Division I level,” said Soderquist.
However, the Falcons could not net the equalizer, despite outshooting the home team 13-1 in the final period.
AIC (4-19-2, 4-15-2 in Atlantic Hockey) finished the night one-for-five on the power play, while Bentley (11-13-3, 9-9-2) went one-for-four.
The Atlantic Hockey league foes return to the Olympia Ice Center for the second game of their weekend doubleheader on Saturday at 3:05 p.m.