College Hockey:
Air Force tallies twice late, ekes past Bentley, 3-2

— For 57 minutes and 53 seconds, the Bentley Falcons held control over an Air Force Falcon team that just wouldn’t go away.  For 57 minutes and 53 seconds, Bentley held serve at home against an opponent who blitzed them 31 shots over the final two periods.

In an instant, that first 57:53 unraveled.

Derrick Burnett’s extra-attacker goal at 17:53 of the third and Blake Page’s even strength game winner just 13 seconds into the overtime frame finished a rally from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Bentley, 3-2, in the first of the team’s two meetings to round out 2010.

“This team is showing itself to be extremely resilient,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore.  “We were down by two to Holy Cross and won with .4 seconds left in the game.  We were down 3-0 to Yale and rallied to win 4-3.  This team just keeps fighting.”

Bentley dominated the first period by outshooting Air Force 9-3, but the first frame ended scoreless.  And although Air Force peppered Falcon goalie Joe Calvi in the second, Joe Campanelli broke through at 13:46, ramming a Ryan Kayfes backhand feed past Jason Torf to give the homers a 1-0 lead.

That lead held through the rest of the second, as Air Force outshot Bentley 19-10 over the period.  In the third, Dan Koudys went backhand, top-shelf, stick side on Torf at 4:05 to make it 2-0.  But eight minutes later, Tim Kirby gave Air Force their first tally, scoring on a rebound off Calvi’s body at 12:30 to make it 2-1.

Then all hell broke loose.

Trailing by that one goal, Casey Kleisinger was whistled for cross-checking at 17:12, giving Bentley a man advantage.  But during the power play, Air Force broke free for an odd-man rush. The exclamation point came when Calvi covered a shot as Paul Weisgarber crashed the net.

Weisgarber was met after the whistle by Koudys and Erik Peterson, who delivered obligatory shoves.

Referees whistled all three for roughing, negating the Bentley power play and evening the sides at 4-4 after the matching minors to Koudys and Weisgarber with the additional penalty to Peterson.  Serratore then pulled Torf for a shocking 5-on-4 that almost everybody didn’t notice.  This led to a Scott Mathis shot from the point, rebounded in from the slot by Burnett to tie the game.

The game went to the extra frame, where Air Force won the opening faceoff.  Mathis sent the puck off Calvi from the point, rebounded back to Page, who went past Calvi to win the game at the 0:13 mark.

“We always battle to the end,” said Page.  “It’s an attest to our locker room just how hard we want to play.  (Kleisinger) chipped it in deep and (Mathis) sent it in.  The puck bounced to me, and I was in the right place.  It’s a huge confidence boost, in a tough place to play, and now we know we have a chance to get a sweep.”

Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist was unavailable for comment after the game.

Air Force’s rally postmarked a game that saw a great crowd on hand.  The stands divided almost evenly amongst military supporters and Bentley hometown fans.

“We have about 10-15 alumni stationed in Massachusetts at Hanscom Air Force Base,” said Serratore.  “We get a lot of alumni and parents who want to come out and support our boys.  It’s great to see that military presence provide us with a little bit of a home game feel.”

“We love to see it,” said Page.  “We see some of the alumni that we played with in the stands, and we want to win for them.  We want to come out and impress our fans.  To see them is great, and it provides our team with a confidence boost.”

Air Force and Bentley will play again tomorrow afternoon for a 5:05 p.m. matinee.  Due to Atlantic Hockey scheduling, this will be the final meeting between the two teams as they get set for the January and February stretch runs.

“We have a chance to sweep,” said Serratore.  “The pressure is on the home team, so we get to come into the game in a position of power.  A sweep on the road in a tough rink is hard, so there’s no pressure.  We came in wanting a split, and now we have a chance to sweep.  We expect (Bentley) to come out tomorrow and play hard, so it should be a good game.”

With the win, Air Force improved to .500 at 7-7-2 overall (5-3-2 in Atlantic Hockey).  Bentley dropped to 5-9-2 overall (4-6-1).

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