WATERTOWN, Mass. — 2010 went out with a bang for Air Force and Bentley.
For the second consecutive night, the teams battled for a last-second victory. On Thursday, Air Force won on a last second goal and overtime rebound. On Friday, the Falcons survived a Bentley mad dash, squandering a 3-0 lead and escaping with a 3-2 victory.
“This one’s real hard to swallow after the way last night went,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “But we can at least walk out with our heads held high. We didn’t give up, and we kept fighting.”
Air Force struck first in the first period when Kyle De Laurell scored on a power-play rebound off of a Jacques Lamoureux shot. De Laurell was left open on the left wing, and after Bentley freshman Brandon Komm made the initial stop, De Laurell slammed it into the net to give the visiting Falcons a 1-0 lead.
As the game progressed, Air Force struck again, this time on a second-period short-handed rush. After Sean Bertsch was whistled for a trip, Air Force gained a two-on-one advantage on a breakout into the Bentley zone. Adam McKenzie came up the right wing and dangled the puck on the defender, choosing to shoot instead of pass. McKenzie went top shelf, glove side to put Air Force on top 2-0.
The roof seemingly caved in on Bentley, as Brett Hartung absorbed a boarding call that resulted in a power-play goal. The goal itself was a ricochet off Jordy Trottier’s stick. When it hit his tape, the puck popped up in the air and over Komm. It landed in the crease and slipped over the goal line for a dominant 3-0 lead.
“That’s one of those goals where it’s just a case of bad luck,” Soderquist said. “Sometimes those breaks go your way. Sometimes they go the other team’s way, and that just didn’t go our way.”
As Air Force took its commanding lead, with advantages also in the faceoff circle and the shot totals, the Falcons were looking for something to spark them.
That something came late in the frame, when Ryan Kayfes, a defenseman, left the blue line and set up in the crease. He found himself with the puck and managed to squeak one by goalie Jason Torf to cut the lead to 3-1.
“Going into the break down 3-1 instead of 3-0 was huge,” Soderquist said. “That gave us all the energy, and it made us really want to get out and play that third period.”
Bentley let that energy spill over into the third period. Torf held the fort until the 6:42 mark, when Justin Breton found himself on the receiving end of a juicy rebound. He got it on his forehand from the stick side faceoff dot, and he elevated it past Torf to make it a 3-2 game.
Then, as it did the night before, things got out of control.
With just over 12 minutes remaining, Air Force defenseman Mike Walsh delivered a crushing hit to Bentley forward Erik Peterson. Referees whistled Walsh for a major and game misconduct, giving Bentley a five-minute advantage. The advantage was furthered to 5-on-3 when Brad Sellers received a minor for charging 2:45 later. With a full two-minute, two-man advantage, both teams dug in for a grueling stretch.
The Air Force trio of Paul Weisgarber, Tim Kirby and Scott Mathis stayed on the ice for the entire shift, and with the exception of a Joe Campanelli slapper rattling off the inside post, they held Bentley to limited quality opportunities.
“To kill that major was huge,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “Those three guys didn’t allow any screened shots, no back-door shots. They absorbed hits and fronted shots, and other than that shot off the pipe, they really were great.”
Air Force then killed off the remaining eight of minutes of game time, aided by a Bentley minor with three minutes remaining, to escape with the 3-2 victory.
“I have a lot of respect for Ryan [Soderquist],” Serratore said. “He’s a solid guy, and he called our wins ‘character’ wins. We found a way to overcome the deficit [on Thursday], and we overcame their comeback tonight. It’s a great sweep for us over an extremely tough team.”
Air Force improved to 8-7-2 (6-3-2 in Atlantic Hockey), while Bentley fell to 5-10-2 (4-7-1 in Atlantic Hockey).