WATERTOWN, Mass. — Before Saturday night, Bentley’s last win was November 27 against Canisius.
Over the almost-two months since, the Falcons coughed up third-period leads to Air Force, RIT, and Robert Morris. They fell behind early and lost a mad-dash finish to Air Force, and they bottomed out on Friday, when a six-goal second period paced Mercyhurst to an 8-2 drubbing.
Lady Momentum has officially shifted course.
Buoyed by a blue collar effort on the offensive and defensive ends, Bentley rallied and persevered through the Mercyhurst Lakers, 3-2, on Saturday night at the John A. Ryan Skating Arena.
“We’re a blue collar team, and that was a gutsy win,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “We played some good games but came up short, but tonight we worked hard. I’m proud of our effort, and we earned this win.”
After a scoreless first period that saw Bentley outshoot Mercyhurst by a 20-6 margin, the Falcons struck first blood in the second frame, as Joe Campanelli potted a rebound from the inside slot, beating Ryan Zapolski glove side to take a 1-0 lead.
Less than 30 seconds later, Zapolski misplayed a puck behind his own net right to the tape of Brett Hartung, who whistled one into the empty twine from the right wing faceoff circle.
Mercyhurst persevered, cutting the lead to one with just two seconds remaining in the second, as Dan O’Donoghue punched a rebound by Joe Calvi to make it 2-1. The third period began equally as wild as the second ended, when Scott Pitt tied the game with a wide-open, back door wrist shot just two minutes in.
Less than a minute later though, Dan Koudys scored an identical, wide-open, back-door backhand shot to make it a 3-2 game. Mercyhurst peppered Calvi the rest of the way with shots, but a Bentley defense anchored by Mike Switzer held the fort and denied the second and third chance opportunities that characterized the night before.
“We play that blue collar style,” said Switzer, who didn’t tally a point but played a tremendous game on the blue line, including two to three shots that left him banged up. “Our offense got three goals from different scorers and our D-core did our jobs.”
With the winless streak broken, Bentley (6-12-4, 5-9-3 Atlantic Hockey) clawed back into the eastern scheduling pod race for first, now less than six points behind first place Connecticut. The Falcons will play UConn twice down the stretch and will play at least one home game every weekend the rest of the way.
“There are going to be a lot of changes in the standings over the next month,” said Soderquist. “We just have to play our game and hope that the third and fourth place spots are still up for grabs. We play in a small building, and we play a blue collar style that we have something to prove.”
“We like our schedule,” added Switzer. “We’ve seen Holy Cross and UConn plenty of times. If we can take some points, we have a good shot (in the east).”
For Mercyhurst, the loss dropped them to 11-12-2 (9-9 Atlantic Hockey).
“We knew this game would be hard,” said Lakers coach Rick Gotkin. “We knew Bentley would come out hard after (Friday’s game). We had our best moments in the end of the second and the third period, but when you only get 12 shots on net in the first two periods, it doesn’t put you in a position to score many goals.
“This does not take away from Bentley’s efforts, though,” said Gotkin. “They deserve the credit, they earned this win, and they responded so great (last night). The better team won this game.”
For the Lakers, they return to the ice next weekend for a one-game tilt at RIT. It begins a stretch run where they will play every opponent in the western scheduling pod. As the fourth place team in the pod, they have a chance to move into the top three of the league.
Bentley, meanwhile, has a nonconference tilt with Massachusetts-Lowell at Tsongas Arena on Tuesday before returning home for two against Army on Friday and Saturday.
“It’ll be good to see UMass-Lowell coming off a win,” said Soderquist. “We’ll play relaxed and enjoy the event. I told the team to have some fun.”
“We have a chance to beat a quality team,” said Switzer. “It’s going to be very exciting to play (UML).”
Faceoff for Bentley and Mass.-Lowell is at 7 p.m., while Mercyhurst-RIT is at 7:05. Bentley-Army will be Friday night at 7:05, as well.