WATERTOWN, Mass. — Sacred Heart entered Friday night’s game against Bentley 0-11-3 on the road, 0-13 when losing after the first period, and winless since Jan. 8. They entered on the heels of a sweep to American International, losses that placed them alone in last place in the 12-team Atlantic Hockey Association.
All of that changed in a period and a half of hockey.
Bentley raced out to a 3-1, second period lead, but Sacred Heart rallied for five unanswered goals to beat a lethargic Falcon team, 6-3, in conference play Friday night.
The Pioneers improved to 4-18-5, 4-11-5 in AHA play, while Bentley fell to 7-14-5, 6-10-4 in AHA play.
“We scored two points on the road against a Bentley team that was playing very well,” said Sacred Heart head coach CJ Marottolo. “We haven’t been happy with our record so far, but we showed we can be resilient. Hopefully we can take this game and build on it.”
Bentley opened up the scoring with a Joe Campanelli wrist shot that Sacred Heart goalie Olivier St. Onge misplayed, giving the Falcons an early 1-0 lead just over two minutes into the game. The Pioneers tied it, however, on a Matt Gingera score a minute later.
Later in the period, a Pioneer penalty kill unit ranked last with a 68% kill rate went head-to-head with the nation’s worst power play on a 5-on-3. Bentley’s 6% man-advantage unit scored at 17:01 when Mike Switzer found himself alone in the slot with enough time to forehand a wrist shot by St. Onge, giving the Falcons a 2-1 lead after one.
Sacred Heart hit rock bottom five minutes into the second period, as Bentley forward Erik Peterson snuck behind the defense for a breakaway while the Falcons killed off a Jeremy Robert penalty. He beat St. Onge off the post to give Bentley a 3-1 lead, putting distance between the two squads.
At that point, the game turned on its axis and completely changed shape.
David Berube, Anthony Yelovich, and Ben Ketchum all scored to put Sacred Heart up by a 4-3 score late in the second period, the last coming on the power play to send Bentley goalie Brandom Komm to the bench in favor of Joe Calvi. When the third period began, the play got sloppy and the Pioneers held serve. As the game wore on, they wore out the Falcons.
“I was proud of how we competed,” said Marottolo. “We were down 3-1 and battled back. Our goaltending had been a little bit inconsistent this year, but St. Onge made the big saves and our team fed off it. We’ve been waiting for him to make those saves.”
St. Onge finished with 31 saves as Sacred Heart added two late third-period goals against a Bentley team that clearly wanted to end the game and head to the showers.
“To be up 3-1 and give up five unanswered goals is an embarrassment,” said Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist. “This was one of the most embarrassing losses in our program’s history (due to our effort on the ice). You give all the credit to Sacred Heart for the way they took advantage, but our effort tonight was a disgrace.
“Our guys can’t worry about who’s putting points on the board and how many shifts they’re skating,” Soderquist continued. “Our approach to the game wasn’t good at all, and to have no energy in our own building is a disgrace. Again, Sacred Heart played well and they deserved that win, since they took advantage of their opportunities and did what they had to do to win that game.”
Bentley entered the game off a three-point weekend against Army that rocketed them back into the eastern division’s race for second. Entering Friday tied with both Army and UConn, a win would have kept them in the pace set by first place Holy Cross. Now, they remain two points back, looking up at both UConn (who defeated Army, 4-2) and Holy Cross (now five points ahead with their win over AIC).
Sacred Heart, meanwhile, tied up with AIC for 11th place with a chance to reclaim to pull within one point of Bentley for 10th with a win on Saturday.
“I like this Bentley team,” said Marottolo. “We’re going to have our hands full, and they’re going to play us very tough. We’re just going to go back and watch the film, try to build on this for tomorrow.”
Bentley and Sacred Heart finish their season series at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT, at 3:30 PM on Saturday.