WATERTOWN, Mass. — Steve McLeod scored two goals, and Ryan Kerpan stopped 28 shots, as AIC overcame a late first period goal by Bentley’s Erik Peterson, 5-1, to earn a weekend-and-season split.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 7-18-1, 7-15-1 in Atlantic Hockey, while the Falcons fell to 9-15-5, 8-11-4 in Atlantic Hockey.
“I was very happy to earn the weekend split,” said AIC coach Gary Wright. “We battled back and overcame (Friday’s) loss to get the win on the road. This late in the season, every point is so important.”
AIC opened up the scoring at the 13:55 point of the first period when Mike Little beat Brandon Komm from the right point on a two-on-one breakout. That lead held serve until there were 12 seconds left, when Peterson went low on Kerpan to tie things up. At this point, momentum seemingly swung in favor of the Falcons.
The Yellow Jackets however, opened up the second period on fire, scoring their first goal just a minute and a half in. McLeod beat Komm to give AIC a 2-1 lead, helping to open the floodgates when Jon Puskar scored a couple of minutes later. The Yellow Jackets put a stamp on the game at the 8:37 mark when Steve Mele broke in alone, outdeking Komm to give AIC a 4-1 lead, chasing the Bentley freshman from the net. He was replaced by Kyle Rank, who saved 37 AIC shots the night before. Although Rank played admirably the rest of the way, it was too much for Bentley to overcome.
“(Kerpan) was big for us,” said Wright. “I thought he showed great poise, but I also thought our team sat back and played some great team defense. Bentley gave us some great pressure, but we were able to hold them off.”
The AIC win creates a huge logjam in the eastern scheduling pod race. AIC pulled within three points of fourth place Army with the Knights on tap for a two-game tilt next weekend. Although Bentley lost, they did not lose any ground on Connecticut, remaining tied for second place behind a now-pulling away Holy Cross. UConn plays Sacred Heart at Rentschler Field on Sunday.
“Our hats go off to AIC,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “They played well, they earned that win, and they took it to us. They deserved this game.”
The game also highlighted an AIC program that has been on the rise. The Jackets now hold a weekend sweep over Mercyhurst and weekend splits with Air Force and Bentley, among others.
“We’ve been learning to play more competitive hockey,” said Wright. “We’ve been growing as a team, and we have the right infrastructure to our program. We are very optimistic about the rest of the season.”