WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — This season, opponents who scored first against American International College were essentially guaranteed a win. Entering Saturday, AIC was 0-17-1 when their opponent scored first.
Defenseman Mike Little changed that trend when he scored 3:51 into overtime on Saturday afternoon, lifting AIC over the Bentley Falcons, 3-2, at the Olympia Ice Center. It was the first come from behind win of the season, and the first overtime win for AIC since November 2008.
“We’ve had some third period struggles,” said AIC coach Gary Wright. “You saw a little bit of it last night (when AIC allowed three goals in the final period). So, that was a real positive, you know, that we came out with the game on the line and performed.”
The win capped a strong weekend of hockey for the Yellow Jackets. It was the first time they had swept a weekend series since February 2008, when they also swept Bentley.
“With the credit due to AIC, they outworked us and outplayed us all weekend,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “That’s why they got four points and we didn’t. Hopefully it was a lesson learned by our guys.”
Unlike Friday’s game, Bentley was the first team to strike on Saturday. Joe Campanelli got the Falcons on the board when he easily one-timed Erik Peterson’s cross-ice pass past AIC goalie Ben Meisner. The goal, which occurred less than two minutes into the game, seemed to forecast an easy night for Bentley.
The Falcons nearly doubled their lead at 9:30, when Peterson snuck the puck past Meisner. The goal was immediately disallowed, though, when the officiating crew determined Peterson directed the puck into the net with his skate. Neither team could get the puck across the goal line for the duration of the period.
While the first period only yielded one goal, each team made the most of their chances in the second stanza.
AIC got on the board first, capitalizing on its first power play of the game. Falcons’ netminder Joe Calvi stopped Steve McLeod’s slap shot from the point. Richard Leitner ,who was positioned in front of the crease, cradled the puck, spun and slid it between Calvi’s legs to tie the game at 1-1.
Six minutes later, AIC struck again. Jason Cohen and Nielsson Arcibal connected on a crisp give-and-go in the neutral zone, before dumping the puck off to Steve McLeod on the right side. McLeod’s shot blew past Calvi and gave AIC the 2-1 lead.
Bentley owned most of the scoring chances through the end of the period, but it wasn’t until less than a minute left in the period that they converted an opportunity. Dan Koudys took a pass from Aaron Stonacek and, from the right circle, slipped it through Meisner’s pads to tie the game.
The two teams traded chances in the third. AIC’s best opportunity came in the seventh minute on a McLeod breakaway, but his shot missed the target. Bentley’s Marc Menzione, meanwhile, nearly won the game as time expired, but his shot hit the post at the buzzer.
AIC clearly controlled the overtime period, with two point blank chances in the first two minutes. Little closed out the game when he took a pass from Tom Mele, slid across the blue line, and fired a shot through traffic past Calvi.
“I’m just trying to get the puck on net there,” said Little. “Any shot in overtime on net is a good shot, and it found it’s way home.”
Bentley outshot its hosts 37-33.
Both teams continue Atlantic Hockey league play next weekend. AIC (5-19-2, 5-15-2 in Atlantic Hockey) will play Sacred Heart in a home-and-home series. Meanwhile, Bentley’s (11-14-3, 9-11-2) home-and-home series will pit them against Holy Cross.